Thursday, September 21, 2017
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Dwyer-AstaphanBlessed New Year.

For my Dear Readers who are not aware, “hoop” is a word which we in St.Kitts & Nevis use to describe the game of ‘Hide and Seek’.

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james_mccall-commentaryThe dust has settled; the finals of the 2010-2011 senior Calypso Monarch competition have been staged. From all reports, it was a great show with all participants demonstrating significantly high levels of performance.

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Dwyer-AstaphanEvery calypso fan in our Federation knows ‘Big Lice’.

His real name is Duncan Wattley, he hails from Cayon, and he’s a lecturer at the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College.

Big Lice sings hard-hitting lyrics, especially when it comes to politics and even more so when it comes to the Prime Minister. And whether people agree or disagree with him, there’s no doubt that his songs do catch their attention.

And this year is no different, with his popular song entitled ‘I Can’t Believe’ in which he throws heavy shots, not only at the Prime Minister, but also at Mr. Lindsey Grant, the leader of the People’s Action Movement, and at others.

At the end of the Calypso Monarch Semifinals Competition held earlier this month, Big Lice wasn’t included among the seven Calypsonians selected to challenge reigning Monarch, Socrates, in the Finals to be held on Wednesday, 29th December, 2010.

However, he was made the Alternate, which means that if one of the seven is unable to compete on Finals’ night, Big Lice would be allowed in to take his or her place.

Sounds pretty straightforward up to that point. But that’s where the issue developed.

Now, mind you, I’m calling it an issue. It seems that as far as the Carnival Calypso Development Committee is concerned, there may be no issue. Or maybe not much of an issue. But after reading this article, you can decide whether it’s an issue for you. And if so, how big an issue.

It turns out that one of the persons who made it to the Finals ahead of Big Lice did so with a song which he had sung some years before in another competition.

And Big Lice cited this fact as sufficient ground under the Rules to disqualify the other Calypsonian.

Now, in previous years, the Performance Contract contained, inter alia, a provision under which each Calypsonian agreed “ to abide by the Rules of the Competition attached hereto as Schedule 1…”.

And Rule 4 of the said Schedule 1 stated that, ” the songs to be performed by a Calypsonian in the Senior Monarch Competition must be original and not in violation of any Intellectual Property Law, and shall not have been published or sung in competition prior to the 1st day of  February( in the year of that specific competition)…”.

It’s on this particular Rule that Big Lice relied to make his case.

And the reasoning behind the Rule is as simple and obvious as it is correct: Calypsonians must bring fresh material each year.

Pause for a second and ask yourself how much sense it would make if Calypsonians were allowed to compete with songs going back a year, two years, three years, or more.

Wouldn’t that make a mess and a mockery of creativity and social commentary, and of the whole philosophical and cultural foundation of Calypso?

Suppose Socrates stood on stage on Finals’ night and sang,  ‘Real Health Scare’ from last year, or even his “Drunken Driver’ song of 20 or so years ago.

Suppose Singing Jackie were to sing, ‘Scars to Stars’ or ‘Not in The Criteria’. What if Astro sang a song three years old, and Pungwa, Anastasia and I-Soursop were to bring back a couple of their past hits.

What if Stitch-in-Time were to belt out one of the Masud Sadiki songs, ‘Love For Me Momma’, in Calypso format.

And wouldn’t it be a hell of a thing if Kinta won or placed with a two-year-old song, the very one on which Big Lice relied to make his case?

Would the judges and the audience be happy and would the art form have been properly served? Indeed, would the competition have been fair?

After all, isn’t it supposed to be this year’s competition?

Yet, the Calypso Development Committee has decided that Big Lice will not compete on Finals’ night. Unless, of course, he steps in as the Alternate.

And the reason it gives is in the Performance Contract for this year.

At Clause 3(page 2) of the present Contract, like in the 2007 Contract, “the Calypsonian agrees to abide by the Rules of the Competition attached hereto as Schedule 1…”

And in Schedule 1, Clause 3( at page 5) of the present Contract, it is stated that “the songs to be performed by a Calypsonian in the National Senior Calypso Monarch Competition must be original and not in violation of any Intellectual Property Law and shall not have been published or sung in competition prior to the………………”

The only difference between the present Contract and that of previous years is that whereas in the former, the date was typed in and given to the Calypsonians to sign,  in the present Contract the date has been left blank, yet the Calypsonians have signed the Contract ,acting under the presumption and understanding that, as per custom, 1st February,2010, would be the cut-off date.

Indeed, in a letter to Big Lice dated 23rd December,2010, the Calypso Development Committee Chairman admitted that the absence of a date in the Contract was an “oversight and inadvertent omission” on the part of his Committee.

Let’s, for discussion sake, agree that it was “an oversight and inadvertent omission”. Had there been no oversight or inadvertent omission, and had a date been inserted, what date would it have been? What date could it have been? Could it have been a date in 2009 or 2008, or even before?

No way. It would’ve been 1st February, 2010, so that the songs that did well in local competitions and Culturama in 2010( not in 2009 or 2008 or before) would get be eligible to compete in the Big Show alongside other fresh material brought to the public by our Calypsonians.

And while it’s unfortunate that Calypsonians trustingly signed the Contract without insisting that the date be first entered, their failure to so insist cannot, in my opinion, constitute sound argument, or fair grounds, to keep Big Lice out of the Finals.

In that letter, the Chairman went on to say that he would not seek to insert a date, now that the Contract had been signed, to disqualify a competitor. But while that may give comfort to that other competitor, is Big Lice not being unfairly deprived of a place in the Finals?

I can’t believe this.






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