Calypso tents have been losing audiences over the years, but the state of the economy is taking a further toll on this Carnival tradition.
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Chutney Soca promoter on champ’s withdrawal: Show will go on
The Lotto Plus Chutney Soca Monarch will go ahead on February 15 at Skinner Park, San Fernando, with or without defending champion Raymond Ramnarine. Reacting to Ramnarine’s withdrawal over the non-payment of part of his 2013 prize money at a press conference at Southex, San Fernando, on Tuesday, the show’s promoter, George Singh Jr, said it will have no impact on the competition. Singh said there was nothing in Ramnarine’s contract which compelled him to defend his title.
“We have been communicating with him on a constant basis,” he said. “He was here at the last news conference. We sent messages to him last week and gave him a deadline indicating whether or not he was going to defend his title.” Singh said when the 4 pm deadline on Saturday passed and there was no response, he sent another message to Ramnarine, saying, “Based on your non-response, we take it that you are not defending.”
“He did not even respond to that message,” Singh said. He said what happened in 2013, with all of the prize money promised by the Government not being allocated in order to meet financial commitments, “was unfortunate, but we need to move on.” “We are not the only Carnival interest group which suffered a cut in funding in 2013,” he said. He said while he was still in discussions with Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Dr Lincoln Douglas to honour the 2013 commitments, Cabinet has agreed to the proposed prize structure for 2014.
Singh said the minister will make the announcement shortly and it is expected that the 2014 prizes will be paid directly to the artistes. He said he had no problem with this arrangement, pointing out that all the money the organisation gets from the Government goes directly to the artistes. “What people need to understand is that every dollar government puts into the show goes to the artistes and the artistic community. It does not go into my pocket. That is a misconception,” he said.
“Government adds value to the show. As the show gets bigger, government’s role in the show becomes more important. “At the end of the day, if they pull funding, we will have to look at a different way to fund the show and it may be impossible, as private entrepreneurs, to do so.” Ramnarine’s name was noticeably absent from the list of 20 finalists announced by Singh at the news conference.
Among the finalists are three former monarch’s, Rikki Jai, Ravi B and KI Persad, as well as soca artistes Blaxx and Olatunji and veteran calypsonian Crazy. They were chosen from among 43 artistes who participated in the semifinals of the competition at Rienzi Complex, Couva, last Saturday. Singh said he was very impressed that the show, now in its 19th year, had attracted so many soca artistes who had embraced the chutney culture.
“In the 19 years I have been doing this show, I wouldn’t say it was the first time it happened, but it happened in such a big way, it was such a crossover of music that took the stage on Saturday night,” he said. “There were so many soca artistes that interacted with chutney artistes, there was true love and real unity backstage. When we started this show, it was meant to bring T&T together as one nation, and Saturday night really represented that in a real way.”
He said soca artiste Bunji Garlin will also make a guest appearance at the show, which will be dedicated in part to chutney soca singer Rajin Dhanraj, who died last December.
CHUTNEY SOCA FINALISTS
Snakey (Heaven Charles)
Crazy (Edwin Ayoung)