IN ACTION: Raymond Ramnarine

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Text-to-vote system killing quality

As a young person who is of East Indian descent I do not respect chutney music as an art form. While I do admit that I would fall in love with a selected track from time to time, the majority of the compositions lack substance. The quality of performances at the Chutney Soca Monarch 2013 was very poor. The structure of the show is now commercially oriented. There is little care as to how the show is organised, endorsed and judged.

Ever since the text-to-vote system was introduced, there has been no authentic judging criterion for the chutney competition. It is now a popularity contest where the most celebrated artiste takes away $1 million. There is no real judgement on performance, vocals, presentation and musical arrangement.

While I do understand and accept that there is some judging done during the preliminary parts of the competition, it is not done for the finals. This year they limited the number of text messages that could be sent per phone. However this did not stop the random results that followed.

It is mindboggling that Raymond Ramnarine is now the Chutney Soca Monarch 2013. Rick Ramoutar and Sally Sagram who tied independently for the positions of seventh and ninth place respectively, could have been easily declared as best vocalists, but due to the text-to-vote system, how can they be rewarded for their efforts?

The organisation of the event was horrible. How can anyone declare a show a success that starts late, finishes even later and does not cater to what the paying public expected? Kes The band never graced the stage as was widely advertised. The televised version of the show provided inadequate commentary by a particular celebrity guest who was underdressed for a national event. To make matters worse, the competition now secures final places for Guyanese nationals. In my opinion their compositions are a step lower than ours. I remembered a line from one song in a previous monarch competition: "Jiggle he belly, he fat and fluffy". This inclusiveness highlights a huge gap in the already poor quality performances.

I browsed my social media feeds during the commercial breaks and the insults to this so-called musical artform kept pouring in, declaring it a comedy fest and a waste of time. Some wondered why an artiste would bring out the loving couple of "Tan Tan" and "Saga Boy" for a composition that preached about never marrying ever again. It seemed as if no thought went into these performances and it was aggravating my creative colleagues.

The solution is quite simple. There needs to be a systematic judging scheme for the finals of the Chutney Soca Monarch competition. While telecommunications companies can capitalise on text-to-vote systems, this should be a people's choice award. This is not American Idol, the X Factor or America's next Top Model. This is our culture and years gone by we had a judging criteria that was not influenced by commercialism. This will raise the standard of chutney music.

I had my hopes on Drupatee with her selection "Indian Gyal". Drupatee is one of the very few pioneers of chutney soca music in T&T. While I have already admitted that Rick and Sally were the best vocalists for the night, Drupatee offered a composition that was fun, energetic, and which did not focus on social ills.

If the Chutney Soca Monarch show was judged fairly, the results would have been different. I plead with those responsible for handling the logistics and planning of this competition to re think the text-to-vote system, and bring back a fair judging scheme.

Shahad Ali

via e-mail

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