The calypso competition criteria need to be reviewed and the judges’ panel extended

Dear Editor,

I was involved in the planning and execution of Mash for the period 2000 to 2003 and I have a very good idea of what it entails, but what I saw over the last two days left a very bad taste in my mouth.

The Ministry of Culture, during my time there, embarked on a programme to develop the calypso art form. At that time the only persons entering the competitions were the ‘usual suspects’ – sorry to be this blunt but most of them lacked the intellectual capacity to take calypso to greater heights. The schools’ competition was producing a better quality calypso than the adult competition.

Efforts were made to source resource persons from Trinidad who came and worked with the calypsoians; the junior competition was started to bring new blood into the art form; and later the winner of the junior competition was allowed to participate in the senior competition.

After 2000 the judging criteria and system that were used in 2012 were introduced, and I am proud to say that I was integral in having that system implemented. But this is 2012; the criteria need to be re evaluated. The present criteria were developed after an evaluation was done to determine where we were and where we needed to go, and it is time for a change again.

From my observations at the calypso competition we have returned to the pre-2000 years. Eleven of the 14 calypsos were strictly political campaigning songs; they lacked creativity and poetry. How could these songs make it so far? Where and when could the winning song be played after the competition?

It was no wonder that the 2011 champion felt compelled to defend his crown with a song with words like “I love the APNU you love the APNU we all love the APNU“?  Is this calypso? Where is the marketability of that song? The competition seemed to have been an occasion to ‘cuss out’ government officials rather than critique social ills which is what true calypso does.

The Ministry of Culture and by extension the people of Guyana spend millions of dollars each year on these competitions, so please let us get something out of it at the end. I am hereby appealing to the Minister, the Mash Coordinator and Calypso Coordinator Ms Chase-Greene, to please review the criteria ensuring that they include the marketability of the song, and that it must be suitable for playing after the competition and in any crowd and in any venue. In addition, it must be entertaining.

Also the panel of judges needs to be expanded. I know that music is an art form, but all the persons who listen to music are not musicians.
I must, however, complement the soca artistes who are really lifting the bar with better performances each year. And I would like to single out Vanilla, whose creativity seems to be improving daily, although I am afraid that the same way that Big Red was pushed out she also will be if the unfairness in these competitions doesn’t stop.

Both of the females who were in the finals sang better songs than both Jumo and Adrian.
How creative does someone have to be to put our national motto to music, or a known fact that has been repeated year after year by that same singer that we are Guyanese? As a matter of fact I did not even recognise it as a new song until I heard it being promoted – and of course the judges were the ‘usual suspects’.

Please let us be serious. If we want people to respect us as a people we need to respect ourselves and reject mediocrity in our everyday lives. It is sad when people are willing to accept anything because someone is their friend. This mediocrity seems to be seeping into the children’s competition also.

I deliberately did not comment on the chutney competition since it is still young and emerging, but it needs some attention before the same fate that has befallen the calypso is visited on that too.

I hope that we will see a better standard of judging come February 23.

Yours faithfully,
Raymon Cummings

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