Bajan artistes, arise!

fighting goliath

The Clement Payne Movement is extremely concerned about the manner in which the powers that be in Barbados continue to disrespect and stifle the growth of our performing artistes.

Can you imagine that in the year 2014 some hotels in Barbados are still offering Barbadian entertainers the paltry and insulting sum of $150 for a night’s performance? Can you imagine that some entertainers are still being required to make do with a toilet as their changing room?

It is not surprising therefore that a number of Barbados’ leading veteran entertainers, such as Richard Stoute and Anthony Gabby Carter, have long since given up on the Barbadian hotel sector as a source of employment and income.

And what, other than utter disrespect, could be the reason for Barbadian radio stations giving the barest minimum of airplay to the recordings of outstanding, international quality Barbadian artistes? For example, veteran Barbadian songstress Toni Norville released a brilliant gospel album entitled Reign, but, sadly, one does not need more than the fingers of one hand to count the number of times this album has featured on local radio.

And the same thing may be said for Arturo Tappin, Nicholas Brancker, Marissa Lindsay, Paul Thorne, Ricky Brathwaite and many other Barbadian artistes.

Arturo Tappin
Arturo Tappin

Every year in Barbados, there is a lot of talk about what our local performing artistes need to do in order to make it on to the international scene. Every conceivable person, including sundry ministers of Government, take it upon themselves to lecture our entertainers on what they must and must not do if they are to make it. But what is always conveniently overlooked is that the starting place must be the provision of a strong local support base for our artistes.

Our performers must be able to satisfactorily commence their professional careers in Barbados and the Caribbean, before taking the next upward step to the international scene.

In the Caribbean island of Cuba, the biggest tourism attractions are the cabaret shows at the Tropicana and the Hotel Nacional. Indeed, the Hotel Nacional stages no fewer than two sell-out cabaret shows a day, thereby providing employment for literally dozens of singers, musicians, dancers, marketing and administrative personnel, make-up artists, and stage, sound and lighting technicians. In other words, the tourism industry of Cuba provides the basis of a professional career for the artistes of Cuba.

Well, in Barbados, we possess more than 50 three-, four- and five-star hotels that should be providing good-paying, career-starting jobs for hundreds of local singers, dancers, musicians, poets, comedians, writers and technicians. Tragically, this does not happen, and will never happen, if is left solely up to the initiative of the hoteliers.

Indeed, Government must intervene. The state must take the initiative to establish a national union or association of certified professional performers and technicians; to establish minimum wage rates and working conditions for entertainers in the hotel sector; and to use all of the available instruments of Government incentives to persuade or cajole hotels to factor local entertainment into their programmes and budgets
in a significant manner.

And similar Governmental action is required with the radio and television stations of Barbados. How can we reasonably expect Barbadian artistes to continue to invest their time and resources in creating products, when they can’t get airplay even in their home territory? Clearly, the time has come for the state to legislate and regulate.

We also need to turn our attention to the regional scene, and do what is necessary to establish a regional “circuit” for our performing artistes – and not just for our calypsonians and reggae performers! Just like the United States, we too must have a well established Caribbean touring circuit, stretching from Suriname in the south to Bermuda in the north.

Of course, this will call for intergovernmental cooperation, and a mechanism to subsidize transportation expenses for certified artistes.

The Clement Payne Movement is willing to work with the entertainers and artistes of Barbados to bring these ideas to fruition.

(David A. Comissiong, an attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)

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