COMMENTARY: THROWING TENT-RUMS: FEELING ‘SHAME’ FOR CALYPSO!

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By Vellie Nicholas-Benta (Calypso Adjudicator and creator of CALYPSO MEDICS Facebook page)

The liberty is yours to misconstrue my display of ‘tent-rums’ as infantile. I don’t care. I’ve been seething mad for a couple of years.  So, what are the ‘pet’ peeves I’ve been stroking? Prepare for the rumblings!

Let me first justify my ‘tent-rums’ by underscoring a few points we can all agree on. The Calypso tent is expected to be a highly creative cultural product (an unmistakably artistic construct) that showcases the ingenuity, resilience and psyche of a proud people. And since culture is dynamic, the Calypso tent should, of necessity, reflect the changing of guards, the emergence of new culture, and the injection of young blood. So it’s therefore not unreasonable to picture the Calypso tent as being inclusive—appealing to even the youngest member.  Doubtless, the Calypso tent provides an outlet, platform or stage for the delightful fusion of the basic creative elements: Calypso and the performing arts. Of course, the general ambiance should be complementary.

Reasonably, I imagine the Calypso tent as being pitched in time and space—a portal that facilitates the passage/parade of actors through the ages. I expect to see changes that coincide with the changing times. As social commentary, Calypso should present slices of life as actors travel through times and diverse places! Therefore, this year’s edition, coming on the heels of the relegation of the Calypso Monarch Competition from Sunday to Friday night should have been a wakeup call—the signal to rethink, revamp, rebrand. The justification that Calypso Monarch show was initially a Friday night fixture is laughable! Guess what? Over the years, it gained so much prominence that it was pushed to the Eve of Emancipation— the Sunday night—the highest point of interest for the festival!

That affront on the art form is an indication that the Calypso tent experience cannot and should not be business as usual.

Well, to my chagrin, on my last two outings, I was not wowed by any novel idea or injection of creativity. Regrettably, the Calypso tent experience has remained firmly grounded in and inspired by 50s/70s sensibilities. Coupled with that, there was no air of festiveness. The ambiance was unappealing…same bar, same patrons. Yes, a tent name change but with Calypsonians and emcees wearing the same old khaki pants! Possibly, the number of seats laid out on both occasions was in anticipation of the same old handful of diehard Calypso lovers. Where’s the growth? This does not augur well for the development of the art form. Calypso practitioners/stakeholders cannot continue to exist in a time warp and expect spectacular progress. This disturbing state of affairs is the genesis of my ‘tent-rums’. I dare say that the recently formed Calypso collaborative is an ambitious initiative that will only reap benefits with the cooperation of all stakeholders.

Hear this ‘tent-rum’:  This ‘Tent City’ concept is a spectacular exploration in absurdity! Well, it could also be a stroke of genius –the result of some sort of structural adjustment with dividends yet to be reaped. To me, the Tent City dispensation reflects a ‘cultural austerity’ of sorts that has critically affected the natural competitiveness of the separate, distinctly-flavoured tents. What unpalatable pepperpot!

Is it that persons have refused to invest? Is it that Calypso practitioners are uncommitted? Is it that the Ministry of Culture is itself side-lining the art form because it lacks the will power to spearhead meaningful change? The Ministry has the mandate to conduct research, lead the charge to preserve our cultural heritage, rally the ‘troupes’, demarcate boundaries, and facilitate consensual change in established norms. The Calypso bodies should not be left to flail and flounder in the turbulent ocean of creative fetes. The Ministry MUST intervene to give some respite! The neglect is unconscionable.

Whether it’s the lack of foresight from the Ministry or the lack of direction by the Calypso practitioners, according to Black Mahdi, Calypso is here to stay. As long as society exists, it will have a mirror in Calypso. And the sharpness Calypso’s mirror shall always be guided by the Calypsonian’s craftiness. In 2018, Calypso is definitely seen through blurred vision caused by intoxication from De Garjo’s ‘one pint ah rum’.

Yes, this gross infidelity to the art form spells trouble in the cultural camp locally. Ungratefulness to an art form that once brought us fame, national pride and economic advancement is worse than witchcraft. I feel ‘shame for Calypso!

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