by Curlan Campbell
- Calypso must be given its proper recognition
- Grenada day celebration in Dubai did not include a calypsonian
- Unique cultural traditions of Carriacou and Petite Martinique visibly absent from cultural display in Dubai
Veteran calypsonian Sean “Sour Serpent” Niles frowns upon what he perceived as continued disregard for calypsonians year after year, citing the lack of support and exposure as a contributing factor in the crippling of the artform.
Niles was referring to the most recent example of disregard shown to calypsonians after a 12-member delegation that participated in the Grenada day celebration in Dubai on 15 January 2022, did not include a calypsonian. Among the delegation led by Senior Cultural Officer Adrian Mark, was the reigning Groovy King Shondell “Dash” Amada and singing sensation Thamara Songbird St Bernard, coupled with professional dancers and musicians.
Niles said although he was quite happy to see Grenada’s cultural expressions being showcased on the world stage, there was a glaring lack of representation from calypsonians, although the reigning Groovy King Shondell “Dash” Amada did perform calypso selections at the Al Wasl Plaza in Dubai.
While the event was largely considered a success, with Spice Island of the Caribbean showcasing its cultural dance, music and cultural expressions at the Al Wasl Plaza in Dubai, Niles is of the view that the absence of a calypsonian performance again has proven that the art form continues to not get the recognition and exposure it deserves. “There is a general disregard for calypso on the whole. I mean, look at our contingency in Dubai, where calypso was not represented because I only saw soca and some dances and so on, so calypso I guess as much is not very important. Since I won the monarch in 2019, no one has contacted me, so I guess the crown is just another card with no real value.”
Niles is of the view that if calypso is part of the fabric of what makes Grenada’s culture unique, then it must be given its proper recognition. “It has to be a policy decision by the government through the Ministry of Culture to push calypso and to teach the children so that they can love calypso and their parents can appreciate it more and then there will be more visibility and acceptance… put it how you want but calypso is the mecca and foundational music in the Caribbean, soca just born so I think more focus and emphasis has to be placed on calypso.”
Concerns were also raised why the unique cultural traditions of the sister isles of Carriacou and Petite Martinique were also visibly absent from the cultural display in Dubai.
Senior Cultural Officer Adrian Mark was contacted for a comment on the concerns expressed and while he declined to comment on the matter, he clarified that the delegation to represent Grenada was selected and approved by the cabinet.
Meanwhile, Sour Serpent who is also preparing to defend his virtual Independence calypso Monarch on 4 February 2022, has also lamented over the meagre prize money of $8,000 and the appearance fee of $1,000 which does not cover the transaction costs associated with producing a song.
Niles is among countless other artistes that have raised this issue over the years. “Already I would have spent $1,500 to record and score the song, now by the time you add the outfit to that and videographer for presentation then you are upwards of $3,000 already. So, if you don’t fall in the top 3 you are in trouble and even if you place third, then you in more trouble because the appearance fee is still not enough. So I believe the prize money should be better, at least for the appearance fee.”
Sour Serpent said calypsonians are already in the red for covering the transaction costs to properly record their music and if they are fortunate to win, will still be left with expenses that sometimes exceed the reward. “The appearance fee I believe is $1,500 and when you do the math, to do a demo is about $300 and by the time you finish it upwards of $1,200 and if you don’t place in the top 3, then you are at a loss. Now remember, some people would have paid to do a demo, submitted their songs to the committee, was judged and did not make it so they too at a loss, so I mean the prize money must go up because everything is going up,” Niles continued.
He said even the artiste who wasn’t successful in qualifying for the final should also receive a small payment since they too would have invested in having their songs recorded.
“I suggested last year to the organisers that to please try to give back to the people who submitted demos, maybe a small fee of $200 because times are tough and they would have spent money to record the demo so they would be at a loss maybe even upwards of $400 and $500.”
The 5-time titleholder is focused on defending his title. He will be challenged by 9 other finalists, namely Filandi Jeffrey (Booster); Sheldon Douglas (Soldiers for Grenada); Edison “Teacher Eddy” Francis (Sing Ah Song); Samantha “Royalty” Dickson (We Can’t Give Up); Nevion Cox (Anything); Teddy “Top Cat” Christopher (All Garbage Outside); Oneal “Gunn” Findley (Struggle Together in Unity); Anthony “Grenada Michael Jackson” Ettienne (Overcoming Adversities) and Monique Cummings (Happy Birthday). Ken Richard Joseph will be on this year’s standby.