Antigua Carnival Stories
And...the Calypso conversation begins!
Today’s workshop organised by the Cultural Development Division drew basically the same crowd. One person commented on Facebook that it was more or less ‘preaching to the converted’ and recommended that the workshops be taken to the schools or wherever the youngsters are.
Although the observer did not give a reason for the suggestion, the rationale can be easily extrapolated based on the topics discussed in today’s session---The History of Calypso and The WORD (Lyrics).
As usual, Richard Apparicio gave his glowing, animated exposition on the history of calypso from his point of view and Dorbrene O’Marde masterfully--and with great scholarship--presented on the lyrics, rhyme schemes and approaches to composing lyrics. In addition to giving insightful information regarding the penning of lyrics, O’Marde did give a chronology of the evolution of the art form, showing how the offerings of calypso over the years were a direct result of the historical/political happenings. In other words, he showed how prevailing socio-economic conditions, influenced by over-arching historical/political events determined the type of calypso that would be trending at a certain point in time---resistance, entertainment or social commentary.
He asserted emphatically that calypso is not merely a literary or musical artform but an important source of history for students and researchers. That was corroborated by Apparicio who declared that from 1957, on Antigua only, 0ver 5000 calypsos have been produced and covering a multiplicity of topics!
Having attended and participated in such workshops for the past seventeen years, I left again today feeling that the sensitive issue of the judging of calypso had been left yet again unresolved. One participant--a musician--bemoaned the point that the overly competitive nature of the calypso events does inhibit creativity on the part of the arranger/musician who, instead of being his creative best, is constrained by the requirements of the criteria.
Interestingly, Mr O’Marde refuted that notion by insisting that the challenge presented by the competitions demands that the musician/lyricist/artiste is forced to create new material that is relevant and refreshingly original. He validated his assertion with the fact that it would take an individual of great insight/imagination to present fresh, new material yearly in a society where things do not change rapidly! That ability to create, he posited, brings out the best in the creative practitioners of the artform.
My concern is, however, if (according to O’Marde) Caribbean/African people come to ‘watch’ calypso as opposed to Europeans who go to ‘Listen’ to their music, why does the criteria still not reflect that aspect of our Caribbean artform. Strangely, only 5 marks out of the overall 100 marks are allocated to performance. This means that lyrics (40), Music (35), Diction & Clarity (10/10) can be scored with your back turned...WITHOUT looking at the artiste!! Hence the disparity between the crowd’s expectations and that of the judging panel.
Written by Vellie Nicholas-Benta
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/vellienicholasbenta/