July 9, 2010
Hats off to the soca artistes

Fri, Jul 09, 2010

Our Carnival is evolving, and whether the changes taking place are for the better or the worse, will be a topic which is debated for as long as we have Carnival.{{more}}

One of the changes which has attracted much debate is the decline in attendance and interest in the calypso shows, which is taking place just when the excitement generated by our soca music is at an all time high.

The two major calypso shows of the season, the calypso semi finals and the Dimanche Gras show, both failed to muster a decent crowd, while for the Ragga Soca and Soca Monarch shows, there was waving room only.

Some callers to the radio stations over the week leading up to Dimanche Gras blamed the lack of interest in the calypso shows on poor promotion both on the part of the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) and the radio stations. But is this really so?

The reason for the decline in interest in calypso and the rise in appeal of soca more likely has to do with phenomenal job being done by our young soca artistes, both in terms of the entertainment value they provide patrons attending their shows and good job they do at marketing themselves.

Every generation takes the calypso art form one step further. In years gone by, most calypsonians contending for the crown sang one slow social commentary; their second song was usually a jumpy one which put them in contention for the road march. This mix made for an interesting show and exposed the artistes’ versatility.

These days, the road march is the preserve of the soca artistes. Calypso fans attending the Dimanche Gras show are now treated to 22 serious calypsos, and although each year, one or two solid commentaries which are destined to be classics emerge, the show lacks appeal. There is little humour, and none of the calypsonians seem interested in making the audience get up and dance.

On the other hand, many of the young soca and ragga soca artistes have been producing music of a very high quality. They are also more aggressive at marketing themselves. They do not leave it up to the CDC to promote their shows, they turn up at the newspapers and radio stations for interviews and make sure that they build awareness of their songs prior to competition night. When was the last time that a calypsonian in the finals did any marketing of his or her song?

In addition to that, the intense rivalry among the soca artistes is good for the industry. Every year, the bar gets raised a little higher. More than likely, Skinny Fabulous, only a few years ago, would have looked at Fireman in admiration and wondered if he ever would be able to better his performance. After all, Fireman was the self proclaimed “Triple X, Mega Dog, Heavy Metal, Pound For Pound, Undefeated, Undisputed, Unstoppable, Silent, Violent, Weapon of Mass destruction, Victim of the Tsunami, The Chosen One, Concrete with Steel Reinforcement, and Specially Certified Aggregate, To Be Continued” champion. Skinny was able to do it, in fine style, for three consecutive years, breaking Fireman’s run of five or six years.

No doubt, youngsters looking on at Skinny will soon come, perhaps in less time than it took Skinny to better Fireman, and take the showmanship to another level. After watching Skinny and Fireman on stage, it is no wonder the young people say they find calypso performances boring. Today’s young people are growing up in a world of hyper-stimulation. They multi task and the multimedia which is part of their everyday life makes them require a high level of stimulation when they are being entertained.

Our soca artistes are creating music that appeals to their generation, music that has international appeal. They must be given credit. Their music is export ready and it is good to see at least one aspect of our creative industry bringing in foreign exchange to our country.

Hats off to our soca artistes.

On a general note, most would agree that Carnival was good this year, with acts of crime and violence being kept at a minimum. The magistrates’ courts were unusually quiet this past Wednesday. This sends a good signal to our visitors and augurs well for the future. Commissioner Keith Miller, his officers and men should be commended for their work leading up to and during the festival, which the evidence shows had paid dividends.