Geoffrey Dunn

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‘Historic moment’ for Caribbean music

iTunes recognises calypso and soca as formal genres

 In what is a major breakthrough towards the recognition of both calypso and soca as genres in the international music market, US-based iTunes Music Store, a division of Apple Inc, has announced that both art forms have been designated as official musical categories on its Internet marketplace.

Previously, music tracks from these two Trinidad-rooted genres were listed without formal categorisation under a variety of rubrics, including “reggae,” “Latin” or “Caribbean.”

“This is a major step forward for calypso and soca,” said award-winning filmmaker and bestselling author Dr Geoffrey Dunn, who has advanced an initiative in the United States to facilitate such designations. “iTunes was very responsive to the request and sensitive to the cultural implications of such recognition. I am very grateful for this decision.”

Trinidad-based music publisher and promoter Alvin Daniell, who is coordinating a broader initiative with Dunn, called the recognition an “historic moment” for music rooted in the Caribbean. “This breakthrough will ensure that, first and foremost, our music will now be properly categorised,” said Daniell. “When a particular T&T artist had a hit song prior to this, our country and our region were never given due credit. Now, that has changed.”

Prior efforts over the past decade—including an Internet petition—to generate such recognition met with no success. “Sometimes a personal approach is more effective,” said Dunn, who lives in Northern California, close to Apple headquarters. “iTunes fully grasped the cultural significance of such a designation. They did the right thing.”

Daniell said that the iTunes recognition—calypso and soca now appear with approximately three-dozen other genres under the heading of “World” music—will help usher in a new era of opportunity for calypso and soca artistes throughout the Caribbean and the diaspora. “It impacts all aspects of the income generated by our artistes,” he noted. “We firmly believe that with the new listings it will be easier to source our works and that will lead to increased income and recognition for our artistes.”

Dunn and Daniell, who worked together on the award-winning film Calypso Dreams, are currently involved in the production of a new documentary feature entitled The Glamour Boyz Again: The Mighty Sparrow and Lord Superior on the Hilton Rooftop. Dunn said he is anticipating to premiere the film this fall at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.

“Obviously I am inspired in this initiative by the likes of Sparrow, Supie, Rose, Sandra, Relator and other calypso stalwarts to pursue this effort on their behalf,” Dunn said. “They have dedicated their entire lives to the culture. I wanted to make sure that their enduring commitment to the art form was respected and acknowledged globally.”

Daniell said that he is hoping to continue these efforts for recognition of calypso and soca in coordination with the Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism, Dr Lincoln Douglas. “I am very pleased that the ministry is supportive of this initiative,” said Daniell. “This is an effort with far-reaching implications for Trinidad and Tobago.”

“Recognition of calypso and soca by iTunes is a major first step,” said Dunn. “It breaks the ice. But there is still a long ways to go.” 

Dunn said that he and Daniell will now focus their energies on generating similar recognition from several other internet music outlets, including All Music, Zune Marketplace, eMusic, Yahoo!, and Amazon and, eventually the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in the US —producers of The Grammys. 

“Designating musical genres is an imprecise cultural enterprise and inherently ethnocentric in its construction,” Dunn said. “But calypso, in particular, has had a world-wide presence and influence for more than a century. Given its global popularity, its exclusion from several critical internet markets has been troubling. With a concentrated effort, however, I believe that we can have an impact.”

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