SOCA, Chutney and calypso

Two weeks ago when we mulled over the comments made by the lady at Bourda Market, while reflecting on the run up to Mashramani, we had an overall look at the local music scene.

We came away with the opinion, though we didn’t say it then, that considering the lack of support, opportunities, financing and legislation, Guyanese musicians – across the board – have acquitted themselves well and continue to do so.

20140118boxWe keep hearing the phrase ‘Guyana music industry’ or ‘Guyanese music industry’ bandied about. In fact, there really is no music industry here. You see a music industry is really a sphere within which music is created, performed, marketed and sold/bought. It’s that simple. And if we’re to be honest, what we have here are the first two. The last two really do not exist at any level for the word ‘industry’ to be used. And for this reason, many of our musicians are really doing it on a part-time basis. They cannot afford to just immerse themselves in music; they have to work at other jobs or they would starve.

Those who continue to make music, who don’t become frustrated with how difficult it is and just give up are true champions. And perhaps the greatest among them are our calypsonians.

With less than a month to go before Republic Day and our Mashramani celebrations, the national song competitions are being run off.

The Junior Calypso Competition was held yesterday (Friday) at the National Cultural Centre.

The National Chutney Final is on tonight (Saturday) at the Anna Regina Community Centre Ground.

The Carib Soca Monarch Final is billed for Saturday, February 14 at the National Park.

The Adult Calypso Monarch Final is billed for Friday, February 20 at Thirst Park.

The information above is gleaned from the Ministry of Culture’s website. It is interesting that the Soca and Chutney competitions are being held on Saturday nights and the Calypso final on a Friday.

The fact is that where these competitions are concerned its SOCA, Chutney and Calypso. Soca is top dog in terms of marketing, prize money and popularity. Chutney is in second place; it has a huge following. Calypso limps in, bringing up the rear.

The Soca competition has the backing of the Caribbean conglomerate ANSA McAL, under its Carib beer brand. It was launched on Thursday with a press conference, as it usually is, where competitors were revealed and prizes announced. The prizes seem to get more lucrative and inventive each year. Kudos to ANSA McAL, which isn’t even a local company.

Unfortunately for the other two genres, there is only one Carib beer and it isn’t about to get watered down; it’s staying strong with the competition it has built over the years almost from the ground.

According to information, the Ministry of Culture is sponsoring the Chutney competition and it seems to have pulled out all the stops with competitors coming from overseas and prizes which are not too shabby either. Residents of the Essequibo Coast will turn out in their numbers for this competition, starved as they are for entertainment.

Banks DIH usually sponsors the calypso competition and it appears to be doing so again this year given that it’s being held at Thirst Park. Banks has never really exerted itself with marketing this competition, it does far more to promote sport events. The entrants can barely get themselves ready to compete and are usually seeking sponsors to assist. That they keep at it is remarkable, but what this competition needs is a big shot in the arm – marketing, fresh music; maybe a seminar for calypsonians would help. If not, it will soon die a natural but embarrassing death.

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