Paying for the extras
There’s one more thing I’d like the National Cultural Foundation to consider.
One of the biggest differences between the semis and finals in the calypso competition is the matter of presentation. It only carries five points but those can spell a real difference in placing. The public comes to the finals expecting a big show (no pun intended) in terms of how the songs will be presented.
And they are seldom disappointed. Fireworks and other pyrotechnics, video presentations, lookalikes on stage – the kaisonians go all out to get that extra edge.
But you know what? It’s an expensive enterprise, people, believe me. In an attempt to give the people the best show possible, the kaisonians often put themselves in the red. In 2010, for example. Li’l Rick cut a road at Bushy Park so that equipment necessary for his presentation could have access. That cost him way over $20,000, which he could not have recovered unless he won the car, which he didn’t. So Hit Rick took a hit in his pocket.
At least one calypsonian in Pic-O-De-Crop this year spent $7,000 on his presentation and ended up placing in the lower five, which carried a prize of $5,000. So that is $2,000 in the red already and that doesn’t even include any helpers and back-up singers; we’re looking at over $4,000 in debt. You see what we calypsonians mean when we say we really do it because we know the contribution we make to the country, even if others don’t appreciate it?
Of course things can be done more cheaply but who wants to see a cheap show? Then one must also consider that when things are done on the cheap there are often many last-minute hitches, which is the last thing anyone wants on a night of competition. This is why contestants go for the more expensive people who can be trusted to deliver a high-quality product on time, with no hitches.
I believe the time is right for the NCF to introduce provision for presentations in the fees paid to competitors. The current prize money of $5,000 for places 6-10 is woefully inadequate anyway so it should be increased to at least $10,000, inclusive of $5,000 which will allow for good presentations, with the kaisonian still able to take home something.
Putting on a show
I don’t see this as another instance of “the calypsonians always want something from the NCF”. In this case, the calypsonians are the ones putting on the show and they should not have to do this to their financial detriment. The people have come to expect a good show, including arresting presentations, and this is one way to ensure this.
There is one calypsonian I know, no longer competing, who used to spend the absolute minimum on props and presentation, intent on taking home as much as he could. If everyone adopted this approach, the public would not get what it expects.
Assistance from the NCF, as outlined, would do a lot to guarantee a high level of presentations and give the people that extra that they expect at a finals show. We haven’t gone as far yet as people zooming around wearing jetpacks as in the case of Machel Montano at this year’s Carnival but we aren’t far off.
As Brook Benton sang, it’s just a matter of time.