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After Mistah Shak raises concerns Tuco agrees to rules review

Friday, March 7, 2014

Stinging criticism from calypso bard Selvon “Mistah Shak” Noel and his call for an overhaul of the judging system have received support. Yesterday, both the Trinbago Unified Calypso Organisation (TUCO) and the National Carnival Commission (NCC) spoke of decisions to review the rules and procedures of the adjudication of competitions under their respective portfolios, in time for Carnival 2015. While denying any kind of impropriety in the judging at last Sunday’s National Calypso Monarch competition, Tuco president Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba said he is ready to begin the discussion on Shak’s call for transparency. In an interview on CNC3’s Morning Brew yesterday, NCC chairman Allison Demas, who also denied any kind of transgression had taken place, said she understood the need for judges to have more in-depth training, not just in the judging of calypso, but across the board.


Demas said she would work alongside Tuco, under whose portfolio the Calypso Monarch competition falls. Contending that the judging process is shrouded in secrecy, Shak proposed that the calypsonians’ scores should be publicly displayed  immediately after their performance, as with athletes at the Olympics and other sporting events. That would make it impossible to tamper with the scores, he said. Shak’s comments were based on information, he said, came to him from an NCC official, who said the original score placed him as the National Calypso Monarch, but the results were altered because the eventual winner, Roderick “Chucky” Gordon, had a relative on the judging panel. Shak ended up in third place and Kurt Allen second. Resistance produced the final judges’ list which did not identify the relative, Norma Clarke, as being on the panel.


He said he had no problem with the suggestion, but invited Shak to attend the next membership meeting where he could put forward his idea and be a part of the discussion to remove that shroud of secrecy. He said Tuco held between five and six extensive membership sessions before Carnival, where they entertained healthy discussion on everything, including the whole adjudication process, the system of judging, the award of points, the criteria for judging, the selection of judges, and the composition of the management committee for adjudication. He could not recall if Shak attended any of these sessions. “The thing is, we have a process which is open and accessible to all members and people should come to these sessions and make their contribution.” Saying he would welcome any suggestion dealing with adjudication, Resistance said the public display of scores now being put forward had been tried and rejected before.


“That system Shak spoke about, we had that once, and the same members kicked up against it. That was some time before 1998, when we just began to use computers as part of the judging process. “If they want to go back to it, that would not be a problem. Once the suggestion is put forward in the forum, which is provided for that kind of suggestion to be made, we can entertain it. Speaking about the results, which saw Roderick “Chucky” Gordon emerging the winner with his Weh Yuh Think and Wedding of De Century, Resistance said he understood there would always be disappointment where the judging was concerned. “It is virtually impossible to judge an artform in the way we do, more so the calypso artform. It is organic, it is so emotional, in every aspect. The fact that we have a competition is madness—but it is also part of the landscape, so therefore, however, the results come down, we have to take it as it is. “We can’t please everybody.”


...No sour grapes
Mistah Shak asserted that while anyone will go into a competition to win, he has absolutely no grouse with his placing third in the competition. “I have no query, in so far as my positioning is concerned, even though there are questions in the air. I am not concerned about that. “My biggest concern is for the reformatting of the judging process and that is not even from a personal perspective, because I have no intention of competing or being in competition for the expanse of duration of however long my career would go. At some point in time,  I would step away from competing. “My concern is making sure that they bring greater transparency to the judging, for the sake of the artform itself and for the sake of the people who would be more invested in the outcome of competitions than I am, who are using these competitions as a yardstick to validate their progress. “If it is not above board and it is not as smooth as possible, it could create the effect of detering people or destroying people’s potential to really progress.”
Dissenting voices have been raised about Chucky’s Wedding selection, with some saying it is not a true calypso.
While commenting that it was the height of disrespect for somebody to come and sing about the marriage of chutney and soca, where the chutney aspect was more pronounced than the soca, at a competition celebrating 100 years of recorded calypso, Mistah Shak said he did not say Chucky’s song was not a calypso.
“I did not have any view as to whether Chucky’s song was a true calypso. I have no personal issue with Chucky.” 


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