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Mistah Shak on Calypso Monarch judging: Lift shroud of secrecy

Thursday, March 6, 2014
Selvon “Mistah Shak” Noel performing Bois on Sunday night.

Selvon “Mistah Shak” Noel, who placed third in this year’s National Calypso Monarch competition, is now calling for an overhaul of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO) judging system. He made the call yesterday after saying he was told a National Carnival Commission (NCC) official indicated he was in front following Sunday’s Dimanche Gras show at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, but eventually ended up third, behind Roderick “Chucky” Gordon and Kurt Allen, after the results were doctored.



In an e-mail sent to undisclosed recipients yesterday, the Siparia bard said the NCC official told one of his friends: “D judges original scores really had yuh pardner Mistah Shak winning de monarch & Kurt 2nd!” The e-mail went on to claim that the NCC official said the fact that Gordon’s “stepmother” was on the judging panel swayed the results in his favour. 



Noel sang Bois, one of the more popular songs in the semifinal and final, and Crime Round D Clock, while Gordon sang Weh Yuh Think and Wedding of De Century before an appreciative crowd on Sunday. However, the result was still being debated on the radio airwaves and across social networks yesterday, although there was still a division on whether the results were just.  


In an interview with the T&T Guardian, Noel said he was not going to demand to see the scoresheets as others in the past have done, but said he was standing by his claims. “As far as I am concerned, myself and all calypsonians and anybody concerned about calypso and culture, we need to do something about the transparency of calypso judging,” an upset Noel said. “They have done nothing to me personally, but everybody with a conscience, a brain and an understanding could see what really went on Sunday.”



Time for transparency
However, he called for major changes to bring about transparency in the judging process. In the first instance, he wants the judges to produce the scores immediately after calypsonians perform, as they do for athletes in the major events like the Olympics. “As soon as one singer sings and moves on, all the scores from all the judges should go up on a huge screen so everybody can see it,” he said.


“In this way, there can be no tampering with the scores after the fact. For people who want to do their own judging at home, they can be more certain of the transparency and keep better tabs on what is happening.” The second proposal is for calypsonians no longer competing to be part of the process. Saying he gave the claims validity because he had heard of manipulation of results in competitions before, Noel said, “There is no reason why you should take upwards of 45 minutes to an hour and a half to tabulate results. 


“If the calypsonian is given a score as soon as they perform, it is a simple case of calculating numbers. I don’t see what should take so long, unless you leave right thinking people to think you cooking the books.” He said until such time as major changes are made to the judging process there would be no integrity in the judging of calypso. “Calypso has to have the belly and the fortitude to take such a courageous step and stop keeping the judging of calypso in this cloud of secrecy.”



TUCO/NCC deny claim

In an immediate response yesterday, TUCO president Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba described the comments as unfortunate. Saying he knew Noel and had utmost respect for him, Masimba said, “It is unfortunate a competitor could make such allegations and I am a little embarrassed by the statements.” He also denied that the NCC had any involvement in the judging of the competition. “It is a TUCO run competition,” he said


NCC chairman Allison Demas also denied any involvement of her organisation in the process. “As chairman of NCC, I have no involvement in the judging process. I don’t know who is the official being referred to. I suggest you speak to TUCO, who is responsible for the selection of the judges and the judging of the Calypso Monarch Competition.”


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