Monday, April 22, 2024

Whither Crop Over music?


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ARE THERE TOO MANY tents, has the party music taken over, or are there too many distractions keeping Crop Over from feeling “sweet”?
The “sweetest summer festival” seems to be struggling from a musical point of view even though music has always traditionally been its driving force and centrepiece.
But where is this music? one may ask. It certainly is not drawing Barbadians or visitors to the calypso tents, which have fallen from a high of more than ten performances per season to being open fewer than four nights each for 2013.
In fact, the representative of one sponsor noted this week that participants in the Junior Monarch contests would be appearing on stage more than their adult counterparts this year, since some tents have offered three nights while the juniors have appeared at two preliminaries, semi-finals and a lunchtime concert, and will perform in the finals next Saturday.
If the tents – unlike 30 years ago when Untouchables, for instance, could stage 20 shows in a season – are a dying breed, we must ask why so many of them continue to operate as fledgling entities instead of banding together and treating calypso lovers to four or five solid shows.
Surely, in a time when businesses have merged out of pure necessity, calypso tents could take a cue.
Then there is that growing audience which prefers outdoor fetes where the music is high-energy and uptempo, where drinks are flowing and the ambience is far more casual than the sedate nature of a tent.
Certainly the crowds that flock to Soca Royale are testament to a wide cross section of society’s preference for party music, and out of that came the country’s most popular artistes, as has occurred in carnivals across the region.
The Dimanche Gras show, for instance, can no longer compare crowd-wise to Fantastic Friday in Port of Spain, which features the likes of Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin, Shurwayne Winchester, Destra and Fay-Ann Lyons.
By the same token, our Sweet Soca as well as a plethora of themed fetes naturally feature the island’s biggest artistes, including Mikey, Edwin, Lil Rick and Gorg, some of whose songs will carry them into New York’s Labour Day, Miami Carnival and the following year’s Trinbago carnival.
If party fare, therefore, is the only music that drives Crop Over, we envision a generation gap in the festival that once brought out participants across age groups, classes and creeds.
As a result, those gradually beginning to believe this festival no longer caters to them may opt to remain at home and enjoy other forms of entertainment, spend summers in other climes, or exchange their erstwhile nightlife for interaction on social media.
Should we see all this as a sign of the festival’s “evolving” or is there another solution to reviving traditional musical aspects of Crop Over?
We see room for some astute promoter to stage a “kaiso gold” show featuring the cream of the local social commentary crop in a relaxed environment where the love of music, not fierce competition, would be the order of the day and a number of the “losing” calypsos would no longer have to die when each season is over.
What Crop Over needs now is administrative creativity.


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