This year's edition of the Calypso Fiesta in Skinner Park in San Fernando put paid to any notion that the contest was supposed to be reflective of the mood of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and instead unmasked it for all the world to see it for what it truly is.
No one in the business anywhere seems to be able to find rhyme, reason or rationale for some of those selected among the finalists ahead of so many other well crafted and well delivered renditions, yet they not only made it through I am told that some of them amassed the highest points over all, meaning quite clearly that the judges were using criteria other than composition, delivery or talent.
Inexplicable in the extreme, some of the decisions left internationally acclaimed calypso icon Singing Sandra to spit that it appeared the only way to get to the finals was to sing an anti-government song. All Rounder, another stalwart of the art-form was speechless as he plumbed for words to describe his bewilderment at some of the positions taken by the judges, and many others who performed on Saturday who preferred not to go on record out of fear of victimization from the same TUCO ran the gamut from flabbergasted to cursing mad and every shade of astonishment in between. The Mighty Chalkdust hinted at the lack of writing talent that did not seem to know how to craft even an insult with tact, leaving calypso king of the world the Mighty Sparrow to lament that he has only heard one good calypso among the lot.
Clearly we are in a bad place, and the next time some bard moans at where calypso gone, ask them to lift their shoe and see if they do not find it squashed to death beneath the divisive, denigrating, disrespect for the very audience that used to pay to hear them sing.
Many are now asking what could be the point of a Dimanche Gras show that has no audience. Where does it go after it becomes a one note show, singing for one sector of society exclusively? The truth of the matter is that in their rush to deliver more than usual to their handlers the TUCO judges threw the baby out with the bathwater because, had they mixed some other ditties in with the vitriol and anti-Partnership poison they might have been able to attract others not yet converted to take in the spectacle and who knows, brainwash their open minds to music. Now even that opportunity is lost, and those who take to stage on Sunday need not bother with presence nor props as their audience would be primarily those already drunk on the party line.
No, I would like to suggest to the powers that be that the Dimanche Gras be quashed and the decisions of the judges vacated out of fairness to all who performed. Like all international song competitions around the civilized and developed world it is time that the Calypso Monarch be crowned out of the popular vote, and a text to vote model should be adopted so that the public could determine not only who goes through to the finals, but who is crowned Monarch overall. Done this way we would remove all corruption and behind the scenes shenanigans and really be crowning the people's Monarch, and at between three and ten dollars a text, could end up earning the show's promoters a significant windfall in the tens of millions of dollars.
In response to my position that this year's Calypso Fiesta was actually a Calypso Fiasco, former PNM Senator Fitzgerald Hinds commented on my page that “the fiesta was an potent expression of widespread public sentiment,” but I ask, what would have happened if ten PNM bashing songs had qualified for the Dimanche Gras? Would he or they have been as equally open minded? Or better, yet if ten East indians went forward to the finals?
For all his talk, Mr Hinds would have ripped his dreadlocks out of his head with his own hands and set them on fire, and many who are claiming this to be free speech would have been howling. The fact of the matter is you ought not to use state funds for musical terrorism or to exaggerate social divides, and an alternate Calypso Competition needs to be created immediately if the art-form is to survive the heavy hand of TUCO, complete with text to vote to see who the real voices of the people are.
What would be instructive to see if we adopt this model is if any of these 'usual suspects' famous for preaching hate and hissing venom over the years ever make it to the big yard ever again.
Phillip Edward Alexander