Friday, March 1, 2024

WE SAY SO: Money talks


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WHAT A DIFFERENCE $2 million makes?
Record numbers at the bMobile International Soca Monarch competition held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last Friday, a large turnout at the refurbished Queen’s Park Savannah for Panorama finals the following night, and a massive showing at Dimanche Gras last Sunday.
My Trini associate Peter Ray Blood tells me the Grand Stand has a capacity of 12 000 and that the North Stand can accommodate another 8 000. Almost every chair in the Grand Stand was taken on Sunday and the numbers in the North Stand were impressive.
The reason from this massive turnout and enthusiasm was the subject of many discussions with my Trinidadian counterparts. Change in Government was a factor, but the overwhelming response was the $2 million. Yes, the music for this year has been great overall, but the whopping prize money for all the major competitions was determined to be the pull factor.
My grandmother, wise woman that she was, always used to tell us that a promise is a debt. Whatever else came into play since, the Trinidadian government is making good on an election promise and, fortunately, from all reports the country is not in danger of landing in debt as a result of this huge cash injection into the national festival.
I want to believe that the promise was based on the confidence the party, which at the time was seeking the reins of power, had in the cultural industries and the potential to generate income. It also says to me that they understand that oftentimes you have to make big investments to get the results that you want.
What the big prize money also did was bring back out the likes of Machel and Destra. And who could blame them, the artistes of the Caribbean have been working for love for far too long.
I share Blood’s sentiments about the bad qualities that surfaced as a result.
One can argue that picong is a tradition with calypso/kaiso, but as evidenced with Machel last Friday night, he meant to injure. His facial expression changed completely when fans had the temerity to shout for Bunji during his performance, and it was as if war had been declared. The more they chanted for his opponent, the more he dug until he got the desired response.
A tragedy, especially since one of the people he attacked was Destra, who took a turn in him during her performance. One remembers when they sang together at Beyoncé’s post-Carnival concert last year. Fans enjoyed it because neither of them had participated in Carnival in the usual way. But such is the nature of the beast, I suppose.
That notwithstanding, I respect the value the Trinidadian government is placing on culture. I’m sure that having a Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism in Winston Gypsy Peters, himself an exponent, is an asset.
Barbados has to get just as serious about culture and the arts; we have been talking around it long enough.
It would be fantastic, but I am not advocating that winners of the major competitions be rewarded with $2 million, but like the artistes, I feel they need to be better compensated. We have said in NATION publications on more than one occasion that the assignment of culture needs to examined and be taken more seriously by Government, and WE will continue to agitate at every opportunity.
Ministers, and other officials, when they are so inclined and when it suits their purpose, like to speak of the excess of $40 million the country generates during Crop Over.
Additionally, tourism and people involved in culture speak excitedly about additional flights that are put on to bring Barbadians from the diaspora and other tourists home for the season. It is obvious to me that these people come here primarily for mas and music of the artistes. There would be nothing to market were it not for them. Should they not benefit from some of the millions?
I have heard nine-time calypso monarch Red Plastic Bag (RPB) say on several occasions that artistes don’t really benefit if they don’t win. And I always find it interesting that a lot of calypso monarchs opt to sell the car when the keys are handed over. RPB could not afford to keep his last car. Was that a sign?
It is apparent that the upwards of $50 000, depending on the model of the car, helps to pay some Crop Over bills. I’m all for taking care of debts, but they have been operating on that programme for too long.  
Kes, Machel, Karene Asche nor any other winners of the major competitions in Trinidad this year will not be in that position anytime soon. And that’s the way it should be.
Now I’ve heard people say TT$2 million “ain’t nutten”, which might be true, depending on your perspective. But what cannot be denied is that it is way more than any calypso/soca artiste from ’bout hey makes!
If my maths is correct, they are looking at more than half a million dollars, which is several times more than what they would have made even if they had previously won all the competitions in one season.
Nuff respect to William Munro and the staff at Prestige for not only opening the Soca Monarch competition to artistes from the region, but for making the soca monarchs automatic finalists, but I think it is time for the islands to say “No, thank you”. Stay tuned to this space in the coming weeks and I will say why.
Blood, you did us proud. I can see why you guys would want to participate. All those who did not place in the first four tied for fifth, and if my information is correct it was a good payday. I have it on good authority that Blood won more cash than his winnings for the Party Monarch and Tune-Of-The-Crop combined. Did I say he placed fifth?
Blood got assistance, but he assures me that even with the back and forth to Trinidad to promote Foot On Fire and the presentation for the Soca Monarch he did not lose. Thankfully, it made cents!
We in Barbados cannot argue for increased prize money on the premise of an election promise. Prime Minister David Thompson has passed on, but what he and others on both sides of the political divide had envisaged for culture need not die. It will take some major investment and restructuring in the sector to go to the next level.
He did not start the game, but my alumnus inherited the ball. I have heard lots of people try to call your deliveries, but I would not be so bold, Prime Minister Stuart. I wonder, though, what your mentor Mr Skeete would lead you to do in this situation. I look to the gleam from the lighthouse for a timely reaction, sir.


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