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15 to tackle Rikki Jai

...Chutney Soca Semis on Saturday
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Reining Chutney Soca Monarch Rikki Jai.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Southex Promotions George Singh is hoping a slew of chutney songs will crossover into mainstream media. Interviewed on Thursday, Singh also said preparations are on stream for the semifinals of the International Chutney Soca Monarch contest at Rienzi Complex, Couva, on February 21. Chutney soca artist Rikki Jai (Samraj Jaimungal) became the first $2 million winner at Carnival 2011 in the NLCB Chutney Soca Monarch at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on February 19, 2011. To date, 43 semi-finalists including KI Persad, bMobile’s newest poster boy, have been selected. The theme of the programme is One People, One Music, One Caribbean.

He said: “We are selecting 15 artistes for the finals. Three are coming from Guyana. It is included in the 15. Judges will have to select them. One person is chosen as a “wild card. So it is going to be a keen competition.” He noted artistes strove for a high standard at the semis by pulling out all the stops with their vocals, backup musicians, actors and props. “We find the semis are so well produced. There is a high standard. Many people come out and support their favourite artistes.”

While he was not letting the cat out of the bag completely, chutney lovers can expect a number of guest performers and Melobugz putting in a surprise performance. However, prize monies have not yet been finalised. “I was hoping I would have it worked out before the start of the semis. I don’t think it would be $2 million.”  

Room for crossover
Quizzed on his sentiments on songs to crossover into mainstream media—especially radio—Singh said: “Definitely. I would like to see more songs crossover into maintstream. KI has a single... Forever.” Before, he said the chutney renditions were too slow. But the pace has quickened. Singh said: “They took it to135 bpm. A lot of the songs are at that speed. The season is still pretty early.”   

He also noted there was a trend where certain chutney artistes were dominating the airwaves to the chagrin of their peers. Singh said: “It does not only happen in soca. It happens in chutney areas, too. Certain artistes will dominate the airwaves because they have a good tune. But a lot of artistes with good material are not getting air play.” Singh noted artistes have to spend huge sums on garish outfits and jewelry. He said: “From start to finish an artiste can spend about $20,000 and maximum as much as $150,000. Sometimes they get sponsors involved to pay part of their costs. On the  soca side, they can spend  about $50,000. Minimum it might be $10,000.”

Gives artistes exposure
Singh said one short term intervention was ensuring each artiste’s work was played. He said: “Once competition gets going, we give each artiste as much air play as possible. “I take the CDs to the radio stations. That way the radio stations can’t say they don’t have the songs.” Singh added: “The radio stations 106, 105 and 103 are trying to play the music. They have to get into urban stations like Slam and 96.1 FM. I am hoping to see more crossover.”

Singh shed any misconceptions chutney should be looked upon as “an Indo-art form.” “Chutney is part of T&T’s culture and part of T&T. It belongs to everybody.” Asked what he felt should be done to stimulate local airplay, he said: “I know there was a certain stipulation for playing a certain amount of local music. I don’t know if that is being monitored and policed. Right after Carnival, they go right back to playing the urban, R&B and other types of music.” He noted it was “sad but true,” that it was “only around Carnival you got “a predominance of local (soca/calypso) and chutney music.”

Among the popular themes are rum like Rikki Jai’s Give Me a Guinness and Puncheon, and Ravi B’s Girl, You Always Know I Was Ah Drinker.” “For 2012, we have restricted the alcohol theme. It is about love, fun and sex. It’s all along the line of positive vibrations.” Among the spicy songs are Hunter’s 1.30 (Drupatee coming for 1.30), Artie Buktoon’s Mousey Get Away and Rikki Jai’s Destra Pania.