Preserve the hits
The tents are alive with the sound of music,
With calypsos they have sung
For many, many years.
The tents fill our hearts
With the sound of music
Our hearts want to sing every song they hear.
If they could, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II would no doubt
forgive us for borrowing from their 1959 masterpiece. But we can borrow simply because it has been recorded and has stood the test
of time. And this brings us to a most vexatious aspect of our Crop-Over Festival
— lost music. With the exception of Red Plastic Bag who has annually recorded an album
since the early 1980s, not enough of the music coming out of the festival has been recorded and preserved.
Yes, artistes do record during the festival but when one looks at the fact that an average of ten calypsonians are in each tent, which number 12 this year, and most sing a minimum of two songs, the volume of recorded music is completely inadequate.
Over the years there have been some excellent music performed by our calypsonians who never made it out of the calypso tents, was never recorded and more than likely, is lost forever.
We are sure that avid supporters of the tents can probably reminisce and come up with at least five songs they have heard over the past 30 to 40 years that impressed them greatly but which did not meet with the favour of our sometimes less-than-discerning judges.
One can think back to the 1990s when peter Longfellow Bryan performed a selection called Save it Kaisoman that gave goosebumps to several in the Tornadoes Tent. And what about McMalone Termite Nicholls’ My Country in the early 2000s?
Through the years quality music from the likes of the late Fowl Foot, Playboy, Jah Stone, and many others, has thrilled patrons in the tents but is now lost forever because they were never recorded.
We estimate that annually more than 250 songs are performed during Crop- Over and we are fairly sure that only a minority of this number is preserved in some recorded form.
If we really are serious about our culture and the arts in general we cannot afford for the leak in this reservoir of music to remain open.
There was a time when our sole television station, the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, recorded all the tents as a matter of routine and in doing so at least preserved the music of the tents.
Then there was contention between CBC and the tents over rights, royalties and recordings hurting gate receipts. The result was that the arrangement came to an end.
Those with the financial wherewithal recorded their music, those who made it to the semi-finals and finals found greater options and avenues to record their music, while those left behind in the tents simply prepared for another year, their songs consigned to memory.
But something needs to be done. There is a need for the National Cultural Foundation, the representative tent associations, the broadcasting and recording agencies to devise a plan whereby more of the music emanating from the tents is preserved for posterity.
It does not take a rocket scientist to be aware that the months of May, June and July are the most active periods annually for our calypsonians. We need to ask ourselves if what we preserve is commensurate with the effort which our writers, arrangers and producers put into making a musical work a reality for performance on stage.
We look at our neighbours in where it is not unheard of to find an artiste with 10 CDs and not yet out of his20s. It is true that theirs is a thriving market where their musical genre is widely supported by their consumers and generally throughout the region.
We may not yet be at the stage where musical recordings are a monthly exercise but we can surely make better use of what our calypsonians and other artistes produce during the Crop-Over season.
Volumes of music have been irretrievably lost. It is time to buck that trend.
We go to the tents when our hearts are lonely,
We know we will hear,
What we’ve heard before,
Our hearts will be blessed with the sound of music,
And we will sing once more!
Our apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.