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Let's merge

by Latoya Burnham

The time may have come for some calypso tents to think about merging in the interest of protecting the craft.

Veteran kaiso man Colin Spencer made the statement unapologetically as he said that there was “a lot of crap” coming out of some tents this year, and if calypso in its truest form was to have a future, something had to be done.

Speaking to Barbados TODAY after his rehearsals at Combermere School this morning, Spencer made sure to state that this was his personal view, as he commented on the lack of social commentary being played on the radio. He said his tent, All Stars, had 14 calypsonians in the Pic-O-De-Crop semi-finals on Friday, yet there were only six songs being played on radio – two from Smokey Burke, one from Ian Webster; one from Chrystal Cummins-Beckles and two from himself.

The challenge, he acknowledge was that sponsorship was so hard to come by this year that they could not afford to record.

“So this has been an extremely challenging year and our tent, we had several shows at $20 and they were very well attended. So we had to change with the times. There is not a lot of money around in terms of sponsoring the tents.

Tents ‘offering crap’

“I guess we have to resort to what was done years ago when CBC was able to film the tents and show them. I don’t know if that will help but my personal take on the entire festival as it relates to the tents is, and I am going to be very, very frank, who gets vex, get vex, but I am going to be frank – the tents are offering a lot of crap.

“A lot of tents have gone for what they see as entertainment for laughs rather than substance – poorly written songs and there’s a lot of chanting that has crept into the festival. People are not concentrating on singing anymore, there is a lot of chanting,” he said.

He stressed that he was not crying down the young people, several of whom fell into the line of chanting rather than singing calypso, but he noted it should have its own category and not be judged along with the social commentaries and other competitions now offered.

“I am not opposed to any changes, let’s make that clear, but we have to put this music into different categories before 10/15 years from now we are trying to get it back to where it was. We have a history of that, waiting until things too far … that’s my take on it.”

Spencer said he believed the challenge was that some tents were finding it hard to come up with consistently good music, so they were resorting to whatever they could.

“The way that the tents have gone in terms of their product, for me, for Colin Spencer, it is an admission that we find ourselves incapable of composing consistently good material, so we gine try to get some laughs out of the audience and it is poor. I have gone to some tents where I do not understand what they are producing and these tent managers cannot possibly be comfortable with their product, it is poor.

“My thinking is, and I know some or most of the tent managers will be opposed to it, but my thinking is, look around the world, multi-million dollar businesses have merged. Some of these tents don’t own a single microphone or microphone stand. Why can’t some of them merge? The best will stay in the tent.”

He said merging did not have to mean cutting any of the entertainers who would normally want to offer their product in a tent, but in such cases, the merged tents could open two nights, featuring different types of acts on each night.

“We can no longer be comfortable with a tent being okay or all right. It has to be good.” And, he said, if the young people wanted to chant a calypso that was not ragga soca and did not fit into any of the forms currently out there, then be creative and find a place for it.

“Put it in a category, have it judged. You can have a show specifically for them. You have Party Monarch, Pic-O-De-Crop, Soca Royale, have a category for them because it is not going to go away. It is going to get bigger and bigger because the young people are comfortable with it, therefore you are not trying to push them aside, but give them their slot,” he recommended.

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