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Vincentian historian, music producer and cultural critic, Cleve Scott.
Vincentian historian, music producer and cultural critic, Cleve Scott.

A Vincentian historian who is also a music producer says carnival prizes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are too low and calls for a revamp of the festival, saying carnival planners have been doing the same thing since 1977.

“The prizes in St. Vincent and Grenadines are indeed very, very low and we need some major reform of the prize system,” Cleve Scott, who lectures in history at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, said recently on “Calypso Culture” on NICE Radio.

In 2023, the winner of the Ragga Soca competition received EC$15,000, the Soca Monarch got EC$25,000, Calypso Monarch received EC$25,000 and Band of the Year, EC$26,400, according to the Carnival Development Corporation.

Scott said that last year, the Barbados Association of Creatives and Artistes wrote to the National Cultural Foundation suggesting increases in the prizes.

“And not only did they accept our recommendation, they even went way beyond that. So, that, for example, the winner of the Pic-O-De-Crop (calypso monarch) gets a car that is valued at about $120,000. And they get in cash equivalent to about $40,000 plus order prizes,” Scott said.

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He said there are about 19 people in the finals and the person who places last gets about BB$6,000.

“That allows them to purchase a proper outfit and pay for the recording and compensate those persons who appeared on stage with them.”

Scott, who is also a sound engineer, music producer and cultural critic, said that in Barbados, the National Cultural Foundation owns a recording studio where calypsonians can record their music there for free.

“Then they have prizes that would compensate you not just for coming first, second, third or last. You’ve got, for example, best songwriter, most patriotic song, best arrangement, all kinds of different prizes.” 

Scott spoke of his involvement in Carnival, including working 10 years as a sound engineer at Victoria Park during Vincy Mas.

“But at this moment, we really need a rethink and revamping of the entire system. We have been going on with what we inherited for the longest while,” Scott said.

He said he found during recent research a carnival programme from SVG’s 1975 carnival.

On that programme, the Friday was for steel band competition and Individuals of the Year.

Saturday afternoon was Kiddies Carnival, followed by the Calypso King semi-finals and Carnival Queen show that night.

Sunday was the “Night of Finals” — Calypso King Finals, King and Queen of the Bands, and Steel Band Panorama. 

Scott noted that this was in the pre-independence period. 

“And now, we talk about Dimanche Gras. … So, who came up with the bright idea to call it Dimanche Gras?

“We had the night of the finals and we ha’ no Dimanche Gras,” Scott said, adding, “… in 2024, we should be rethinking what are the appropriate names to go and the kind of programme”

He said that the Monday was Old Mass Competition and Parade of Advertising Band. Tuesday was the Parade of the Bands.

“We, basically, have been doing what we’ve been doing since 1977.”

Scott said that as regards junior calypso, the competition is, basically, a preliminary at the Carnival Development Corporation’s office and then a finals on stage.

“In 2001, I facilitated a visit by the (Barbados) National Cultural Foundation to see what we were doing in junior calypso. 

“Now they have a junior calypso tent preliminaries, semi-finals and finals. And we still only have a final. We need to do something to facilitate junior calypsonians building their skills, mastering the art and giving them chances to perform,” Scott said. 

He said that when he taught at the Lowmans Leeward Anglican Primary School, he organised a school carnival that included junior calypso and took the students who placed first, second and third to the preliminaries.

“And we had a queen show and so on. We need the schools to do more, we need the Ministry of Education to take it seriously,” Scott said.

He said that as regards the senior calypso competition, in Grenada, there is a quarterfinals and zonal finals. 

“St. Vincent, we still at semis and finals,” he said, adding that in Antigua, a tent is judged over three nights and the bards are selected based on their best score.

“I’m not saying we must do that. But we have been doing the same thing, the same way for 50 years and we expect the product to get bigger and better.

“In other words, if we don’t fix it at the grassroots, the lower level, the economic impact that we want to have at the end would not happen. Calypsonians need more opportunities to perform.”

Scott noted that the more artistes perform they better they get.

“I say to people, I would have never become a good engineer if I had to wait till carnival to engineer,” Scott said, adding that he works with artistes across the Caribbean and in Africa. 

Scott, who has also judged calypso, said a good calypso should have a good melody, “meaning it should hold the listeners’ interests, where the listeners should be willing to, at least, hum along.

“Then your topic should be very focused. Some people like to take all kinds of things and piece them together — cut and paste.”

He said a calypsonian might start singing about bananas and in the last verse is “on the beach”.

“If your topic is developed well and especially in the last line of the verse or in the exit or the chorus, you have what we call a punch line, then, for me, that is what makes up a good calypso… 

“…  good melody, good storyline, with hooks or punch lines at the appropriate place. You don’t want to have a punch line at line one or two because when the audience cheers, we won’t hear the rest of the lines,” he said.

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3 Comments

  1. Adrian Fraser says:

    Very appropriate comment on Vincy Mas. There is need for a Shake Up. We don’t have to agree with everything said but let this be a starting point for a discussion that should involve all components of carnival. Regardless of the form this discussion takes it is important to find suitable facilitators to take this forward. Let ideas contend. Hopefully by 2025 we will begin to see evidence of a new approach. It is not enough to send persons to Trinidad and Miami and elsewhere to see how they do their thing. We have been in the carnival business for a long time and have a base on which to build but new ideas are needed.
    One area that needs some attention is the better organizing of calypso tents which can provide a platform for a revival of that art form.
    More needs to be done in schools although unfortunately the current dates for carnival conflict with end of year school exams, but with creative thinking a way could be found around this that will facilitate greater involvement of young people.

    We have to find ways of attracting more people to shows at the Park.

    At the moment the hottest carnival in the Caribbean has more to do with heat than quality.

    Reply

  2. Dear Mr. I ask your permission to respond to your Article
    I say while I support Many of your suggestions especially the immediate increase in Artiste pay I’m aware that many of our Artistians are still paying monthly rents for where they live and only a few are interested in driving so maybe a home instead of the car secondly I ask if instead of a Queen show A healthy public speaking and oral Maths because to me Subject areas would boost childrens Egos and cause them to see beyond the jump and wind 🍃

    Reply

  3. aubrey edward burgin says:

    Good Article Cleve Scott. Those are many of the suggestions which we have spoken of over the years and there is urgent need for serious changes. One of my comments for several years is that the CDC has too many advisors whose advice is not relative to development of the festival. Regarding Calypso Tents and their Modus operandi the Leaders and Calypsonians are stuck in a particular mode which must be changed. Finally I still dont know why we had to change from two songs to one in the semi-finals and finals.

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