Gail Alexander and Joel Julien
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World Chutney Soca Monarch Festival attracts big field
Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism Dr Lincoln Douglas has applauded the National Chutney Foundation of T&T for going the extra mile to take chutney music — a part of the country's culture — to the wider world. He commended the foundation and its president, Dr Vijay Ramlal-Rai, at Wednesday’s launch of the annual World Chutney Soca Monarch Festival at the Hyatt Trinidad, Port-of-Spain. In delivering the feature address, Douglas said culture has to be meaningful to T&T and its citizens. “It has to be more than just about having a good time. And though we need the good times to keep us away from the stresses of this life, culture must be ennobling, uplifting and an inspiring experience for us all,” he said. He added that chutney music, when presented well, provides the opportunity to bring together many cultures that make up T&T. He said he was happy the foundation ensured that offensive lyrics would not be tolerated in the competition. Last year, Ramlal-Rai banned rum songs and songs against someone’s religion, gender or race from the competition.
Douglas said the onus was on every artiste, whether in the chutney, calypso or soca arenas, to make good music. He called on all artistes to reject the enticement of easy music and easy money, and to concentrate on making music that transcends time. “We can no longer make music for the day or art that is disposable. But we must produce that which can be accepted worldwide,” he said. Earlier, Ramlal-Rai stated that the event would feature competitors from 19 countries for the first time. He said this was a huge accomplishment for the chutney fraternity.
Pointing to a copy of the show’s programme showcasing various national flags, he said: “What you are seeing here is not a hoax...it’s not fictitious. All of these countries have entered the competition and each has a representative competing at the event,” said Ramlal-Rai. He said participants from over 62 countries actually entered, but they were not able to facilitate that many.
Some of the countries being represented in the competition include the US, UK, Japan, Suriname, Syria, Switzerland, Jamaica, Holland and Haiti.
Competitors will vie for the coveted title and a cash prize of $1 million on March 1 at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Ramlal-Rai said he is hoping that the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (Tuco) and Pan Trinbago will do the same in showcasing calypso and steelpan to the world. “I think it will do them well to have a calypso and steelpan world festival. I say this because if we really want to underscore that T&T is the Mecca of carnival, steelpan and calypso, then it is our business to put these kinds of competitions and festivals out there,” he said.
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