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TUCO upset over $1m Calypso Monarch prize: soca and chutney get $2m

By Innis Francis and Michelle Loubon

President of Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) Brother Resistance (Lutalo Masimba)  has said it’s an embarrassment to citizens and the People’s Partnership government, for the winner of the National Calypso Monarch crown to expect only $1 million.

He said there should be equity, since Government had pumped a considerable amount of money into the Chutney Soca, and Soca Monarch competitions, where there was a $2 million first prize, sponsored by the State.

Resistance said he had sent a letter to the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Lincoln Douglas and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar requesting that government  increase the prize money, but to no avail. Persad-Bissessar is currently on a State visit to China.

“The government has a responsibility to equity. I wrote a letter to the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism (Lincoln Douglas) about the matter and to the Prime Minister (Kamla Persad-Bissessar) to raise it (prize money) but there has been no reply as yet. It is embarrassing to say the least. It is embarrassing to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the government. There is a disparity in the allocation of the government’s support. We have to run 15 events, and the prizes alone for Chutney/Soca and Soca monarch are $2 million,” he said.

Chairman of TUCO South Central Zones Ras Kommanda (Steve Pascall)said he was in support of the prize money being doubled.

But yesterday Douglas explained Cabinet had approved a subvention overall of $8 million for TUCO; $7.4 million for Soca Monarch prizes and $4.5 million for the chutney prizes. Douglas said the $7.4 million was “completely dedicated”  to Soca Monarch prizes.

Asked about the money, in a telephone interview,  Douglas said: “It is only for prize monies. It is shared among four ministries including Multiculturalism, Trade, Tourism and Community Development. It will be paid to the artistes directly from the various ministries. It is to manage things after the shows. Many artistes complain that they have not gotten their prize monies. Promoters say it is because the ministry has not given them the monies.

Douglas added: “We are putting up the money for the prizes and giving it directly to the winners. It is our effort to support the development of the artform, the artiste and the kind of product that makes into the mainstream market.”

Asked about the $1 million prize paid to the Calypso Monarch, Douglas said: “It is determined by TUCO and they received a sizeable subvention from the ministry. They determine how they construct  the show and how the money goes. We don’t tell them what to do with it.” 

Asked about this in a telephone interview, Resistance said: “It is not true. The prizes are determined by consultation. Then we could take the $8 million and give it to prizes. That is not making sense. There is a consultative approach to developing their prize structure. We can’t determine $2 million. The government has to determine it.

Resistance added: “We wrote to them about the inequitable distribution of prizes. We officially wrote to them on the subject. One hundred years after the first recording, it  is an embarrassment to the people the calypso monarch title should be $1 million as compared to chutney. The calypso monarch title is the most prestigious title. The State also supports these private promotions.”  

Resistance also said he was not in a position to comment on the lyrical content of the songs of calypsonians who performed at the Calypso Fiesta held last Saturday at Skinner Park, San Fernando, and who made it into the finals to be held at Queen’s Park Savannah on March 2. 

However, he said his executive committee had expressed concerns that the judges should enroll in a series of intense workshops to better understand the calypso.

Resistance said: “We are hoping to tighten up the judging system. We want to upgrade personnel, and have workshops for persons, to add to the pool”.

Those making it into the finals are: Cro Cro, Queen Victoria, Myron B, Roderick Gordon, Skatie, Brian London, Kurt Allen, Chalkdust, Bodyguard, Mistah Shak, Alana Sinnette-Khan and in reserve King Luta.

Prize money history

WITHIN months of the People’s Partnership winning the general election in a landslide victory in 2010, then arts and multiculturalism minister Winston Peters announced that the prizes for major Carnival competitions would be substantially increased the following year. In 2010, the first prize for the Chutney Soca Monarch competition was $100,000, for the Soca Monarch competition $600,000 and for Panorama $1 million.

Peters announced before the 2011 Carnival that the prize money for the winners in the National 

Soca Monarch, National Calypso Monarch, National Chutney Monarch and the 

winners of that year’s Panorama competition, would be $2 million each but only for that year. His statement was criticised by Carnival stakeholders who argued that the prize money should be a permanent arrangement.

There was more controversy the following year when there was a threat by finalists to boycott the Calypso Monarch finals, after the State only awarded prize money of $500,000 to the competition, while giving $2 million to the Soca Monarch and $1 million to the Chutney Soca Monarch competitions. The issue was resolved at the 11th hour after a deal was hammered out where the prize money was increased to $1 million for the Calypso Monarch competition.

The prize structure remained the same last year, but this year, the prize money given as the first prize in the Chutney Soca Monarch competition was increased to $2 million. The Power Soca Monarch first prize is also $2 million, the same as last year. The Calypso fraternity is now demanding that the State match this amount.

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