(Trinidad Guardian) There is no denying the direct connect between chutney music and “rum.” Over the years, the blend has dominated the Chutney Soca Monarch competition, to the extent that many of the compositions have been dubbed “rum songs.” Recall, if you must, some of the more memorable hook lines, Hunter’s ,“I want meh rum in the morning,” Rikki Jai’s “Give me a Guinness and puncheon,” and Ravi B’s haunting, “Girl you always know I was ah drinker,” and the list goes on. Chutney Soca Monarch promoter George Singh Jr, said he had listened to the complaints over the years, about this and other elements surrounding his multi-million-dollar show, including the wholesale use of melodies of Indian film songs.
To maintain standards, and re-brand the product, which has become an intrinsic part of Carnival, Singh Jr is moving to lift the bar (no pun intended), especially in light of the big bucks winners are now earning.
Last year’s winner Rikki Jai walked away with a first prize of $2 million. Scheduled to cost $15 million in 2012, Singh is also aiming to make the show more national in scope. To achieve this he has shifted it from its base at Skinner Park, San Fernando, to Port-of -Spain, with the intention to woo new East/West Corridor support. “It is not an Indian show. We are going after the national public. We want an all inclusiveness,” he said, even though the show is being promoted as the biggest Indo-Caribbean event in Carnival.
For 2012, he has asserted, the lyrical content of all compositions in the competition will come under heavy scrutiny. However, he has denied that for 2012, rum songs will be banned from the competition.
“Last year, and over the last few years, there have been several complaints about several elements of the show. We have been listening to the people. We did not make any statements in 2011, because the songs were already produced.” Following discussions with producers, artistes and other stakeholders in the industry, the show, which will now be held on February 11, will be governed by a new set of rules.
Key among the rules would be the question of originality, suitability of content, as well as conduct of the artiste.
“If you want to win big money, be creative. Your songs must be 100 per cent original,” Singh challenged the contestants. Over the years there have been complaints about the lyrical content of the compositions and the wholesale use of melodies of Indian film songs. “All songs must be original and that film melody used in the past will no longer be allowed.” In terms of the screening, he advanced , “I know a lot of people will be coming and asking if we are banning rum songs. No we are not banning rum songs. However, we will be looking at your material to see if it is acceptable for Chutney Soca Monarch. “Songs that are found to be degrading will not be allowed.”
Singh disclosed that the new behavioural code of conduct has been implemented following an incident at the end of the 2011 show involving artiste Ravi B and the throwing of missiles on the stage. He said they cannot use the new rules to penalise Ravi B, but moving forward, action will be taken by the promoters against the artiste who would have attached their signatures to the new contract. Singh said Ravi B had apologised and although he could not condone the behaviour, he had accepted his apology.
He said it was up to Ravi B to decide whether or not he enters next year’s competition. At a news conference, in San Fernando last Tuesday, Singh also announced that the first annual Junior Chutney Soca Monarch will be staged. He said this competition will be open to contestants 18 years and under.
He intends to do it through schools, and in this context, is hoping to speak with Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh to facilitate the process.