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Judging judges

Fellow Bajans, Crop-Over done and I’m sure many of you had nuff fun. Congratulations to Mikey on his coronation as soca king of the 2012 Crop-Over Festival.

Since my last writing, Mikey captured the crowns of the People’s Monarch and Tune-of-the-Crop to end the season with four crowns save one — the Pic-O-De-Crop title, which was taken last Friday night by none other than Red Plastic Bag.

Congratulations also to RPB for capturing an unprecedented tenth crown on his 30th anniversary of singing, writing and producing calypso.

The calypsonians did not disappoint; the competition was as keenly contested as I expected. In my estimation the final results ought to have been very, very close. Regrettably, my disappointment came at the end of the show — you guessed it, it was occasioned by the results of the judges. Yes, it is true, the results hit me for six, since on the night; I had Bag, Gabby and Blood tied for fifth. Those of you who read this column last week may have noted that the judges’ top five were identical to my predicted top five, though not it the same order.

So why was I so disillusioned after the announcement of Friday’s results, some of you may ask. The answer is simple; I assessed the competition based on the night’s performances rather than reputation or aura. In other words, last Friday I placed my preferences from the semi-finals behind me and started with a clean slate.

No disrespect to RPB, I thought that both his songs and performances were good, particularly the first one, but they were not great. His tribute to calypso song was neither impactful nor biting, and its melody sounded quite familiar.

The legitimate question that emerged was: “What did Bag deliver that his competitors did not?”

Popsicle brought the house down with his second performance after a strong first half rendition of Bailout. Adrian Clarke was equal to the task and Ian Webster, I though was sublime. Consequently, I had Ian Webster first, and AC and Popsicle tied for second.

My initial emotional reaction to the judge’s results was to decide that I will not bother to attend, watch or listen to the Pic-O-De-Crop finals next year, but I have since returned to earth. I simply could not understand how I got it so wrong.

Maybe I am biased toward the evolution of the art form and the judges are calypso purists. Or perhaps I am too much of a musical novice to comprehend the superior training and experience of the panel of judges. Whatever the rationale, I was dumbfounded in the wee hours of last Saturday morning. Nevertheless, congratulations to Red Plastic Bag. The judges’ decision is final.

However, it would be beneficial if we the public could be educated about the Pic-O-De-Crop competition’s criteria and judging process. At the least, the National Cultural Foundation should accord us the courtesy of publicly releasing all of the finals results, inclusive of the breakdown of points, so that we may educate ourselves.

It is important to both the development of the festival and the participation of competitors and patrons for the NCF to bridge the persistent disconnect which exists between the Pic-O-De-Crop monarch of the judges and the Pic-O-De-Crop monarch of the people. We cannot afford to alienate the people from our premier Crop-Over competition.

Despite the foregoing, I am sure that we can all agree that the ten finalists gave patrons a show of the highest quality. I value their contribution immensely and would like to laud all of them for enriching our culture and providing us with a memorable Crop-Over 2012.

* Carlos R. Forte is a Commonwealth Scholar and Barbadian economist with local and international experience.

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