KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The two leading soca artistes here are threatening to boycott this year’s Soca Monarch competition and possibly take the sting out of the event over EC$20,000 top prize and other monies the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) pays artistes.
Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle and reigning monarch Delroy “Fyahman” Hooper on Wednesday called on the CDC to review the appearance fees and prizes paid to Soca Monarch finalists.
Skinny said in a statement that while patronage and ticket prices have increased over the past seven years, monies paid to artistes have not.
But CDC chair Dennis Ambrose also said Wednesday that appearance fees were discussed earlier this year with all components of Carnival and it was understood and agreed that it is not feasible to increase prize monies at this time.
“It would be irresponsible and unfair for the CDC to now undertake to increase Prize monies to a single Component ONLY. It was also agreed that this particular matter can be carried over into discussions for 2013,” Ambrose said in a press statement.
But it seems that Skinny and Fyahman really meant business with their handshake earlier this year that signalled the burying of the hatchet.
The soca monarchy has alternated between the two artistes over the past few years triggering rivalry between the artistes and their fans.
But this time, they are united in their call for the CDC to review the monetary returns to artistes in the show.
Further, Skinny in his statement called on his and Fyahman’s fans to stop being “disrespectful and unnecessarily harsh in their expressions of support for either artiste.
“… to love one is not to automatically hate the other,” he said in the statement, which described as “a serious issue” the size of appearance fees paid to the soca bards even as Skinny said his participation in the event is not about the prize money but “about the pride”.
“It is an outlet through which I have played out my creative visions.”
He said attendance at the show over the past seven years has been increasing and that the CDC has upped ticket prizes several times from EC$25 to EC$45.
At the same time, Skinny said, artistes have been investing in more “sophisticated and costly productions in an effort to improve their own presence on stage and by extension the overall glamour of the event”.
According to him, artistes have been paying more for dancers, costumes, a driver, backstage help, and pyrotechnics effects.
“In this equation, it seems the only thing that hasn’t gone up is the reward we get for doing our part,” he said but added that he was “NOT holding our carnival or Soca Monarch hostage over prize money issues…
“[M]y biggest draw to Soca Monarch will always be the fans who support and encourage me to continue,” Skinny said.
He added that his comments ahead of the release were “more about my personal and internal debate on if the stress and financial strain of preparing [the Soca Monarch competition] alongside my Kids Fair and Black Rave project was worth it”.
According to Skinny, “another discouraging factor is how aggressive” his and Fyahman’s fans have become towards each other.
“I hate the tribalism. I hate the Gully vs Gaza factor,” he said in reference to rivalry between supporters of two entertainment entities in Jamaica.
“To like [Fyahman] in some persons minds is to hate Skinny and vice versa. I do not wish to perpetuate this destructive mind set because in the end we are all one nation and one people fighting to make our mark in the Caribbean and the world where music is concerned,” the artiste further wrote.
Skinny said he and Fyahman “recognize the efforts of the CDC to manage and improve carnival and all its components” and added that he was not “trying to undermine anybody’s work or rally a movement against any organization.
“I see and acknowledge the challenges they face especially with reduced funding. However, we are asking that the same level of acknowledgement be given to the soca acts who spend their time effort and money to pull off the greatest show on earth.
“As for the CDC, we trust that a consolation commensurate with our perpetual efforts will be [arrived at] and that Carnival and Soca Monarch will be sweet as usual.”
Skinny said it was “the MEDIA that used the word ‘BOYCOTT’ to describe our call for discussions with CDC.
“… my initial hint about my uncertainty towards Soca Monarch was Never about ‘boycotting’ anything…
“The objective of the discussion was to air a few concerns in hopes of making the competition beneficial to all the stakeholders,” Skinny’s statement said.
CDC responsible to entire Carnival: Ambrose
But Ambrose further said that the CDC’s is responsible for the management of the entire carnival.
“… and though it is quite obvious that the Soca Monarch Show is much better patronized than a number of our other Shows, we must always consider the VINCY MAS Festival in its entirety – including the development of the infrastructure and innovations,” he said as he emphasised the costs of marketing and promoting Vincy Mas.
“The CDC applauds the efforts of all Soca artistes as well as the other Components. We seek to continue to work harmoniously and constructively with each of them to bring VINCY MAS to the level to which it has risen and aspires to further the growth of the Festival,” Ambrose further said in the statement Wednesday.