There may be no calypso in tomorrow's Dimanche Gras, at the Queen's Park Savannah, if the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation fails to find the money to raise the first prize in the National Calypso Monarch competition from $500,000 to at least $1 million.
The calypsonians yesterday during the draw for positions at the Kaiso House calypso tent, Queen's Park Savannah declared unanimously that to offer a first prize of only $500,000 when other competitions such as the Chutney Soca Monarch and International Power Soca Monarch were giving first prizes of $1 million and $2 million respectively was a gross insult to the art form and the calypsonians.
Leading the charge was finalist Brian London, who said the finalists had formed their own independent union to fight for themselves and their fellow artistes.
He called on Digicel and bmobile to support calypso in the same way they do soca and chutney soca by sponsoring lucrative prizes to those competitions.
"We are calling on Digicel and Bmobile to come on board and give us the kind of money they are giving to the Soca Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch. We have formed our own union to fight for the rights of all calypsonians and are saying that the first prize (in the National Calypso Monarch), other prizes and appearance fees should be increased. This is in no way political. We are calling on the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Winston "Gypsy" Peters, to assist us," London said.
London also said the private sector, including major corporations and small companies, should come together and provide sponsorship for the Calypso Monarch competition now. When asked if there will be no competition tomorrow if the prize money is not raised, London responded that the finalists will decide that by Sunday.
"We will play it by ear and decide, but yes there is the possibility of no show. Understand this. When the tourists come into the country for Carnival they come to hear calypso at Dimanche Gras. So Imagine Dimanche Gras with no calypso," said London.
Singing Sandra said she was speaking on behalf of the elder calypsonians in the final—Cro Cro, Sugar Aloes, Chalkdust and herself.
She said each calypsonian has to perform two songs in the Dimanche Gras, while only one song is required in the Soca Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch, but the Calypso Monarch is receiving the lowest prize money.
"That is a gross insult, so no money, no show," she said.
Reigning Calypso Monarch Karene Asche said she supports the call for more money and the boycott if it is not provided.
"We are taking a stand," said Asche.
TUCO Public Relations Officer, Karega Mandela, said the current prize structure for the National Calypso Monarch is $500,000 for the first prize, $250,000 for the second place winner and $150,000 for the artiste placing third.
He said he really did not know what the calypsonians intended to do if the money was not raised in time for tomorrow and referred the matter to TUCO president Lutalo "Brother Resistance" Masimba, who met with Digicel officials yesterday. There was no answer on Masimba's phone, when he the Express tried to contact him.
Calls to Minister Peters's mobile phone went unanswered and the receptionist at his office said he was unavailable for the remainder of the day.