Ras Iley says calypsos are being watered down. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.)
A VETERAN calypsonian is worried that the importance of social commentary in calypso in the island has declined.
Darcy Small, whose stage name is Ras Iley, said in an interview on Wednesday that the other forms of calypso had taken over the summer festival to the point that some artistes do not bother to record their music.
“People do not really realise the value of the Pic-O-De-Crop competition. It is the mother of all competitions because that is what we had when Crop Over started,” he told WEEKEND BUZZ.
Ras Iley said that although many artistes sang party music, social commentary took the forefront of the festival.
“It is all well to say that you want to sing a little party music but a lot of the people that support Crop Over and also the calypso tents depend on us as commentators to deal with the issues that are happening in the country every year.”
“So when it reaches the stage where the artistes are not comfortable in getting their music played they are not going to take $3 000 or more to record no commentary and it is not getting played,” he said.
The veteran entertainer said disc jockeys (DJs) on radio stations had a part to play in the waning of social commentary. He said some artistes, to get and keep their music on the airwaves, contact DJs and ask for their music to be promoted.
“You have a situation whereby you have over 400 songs released but yet still within the space of one day the kind of rotation that certain artistes get out of the 400 tunes you only really hear about 20 bombarding you every day.
“And if you want to create a music industry you have to be able to create a systematic approach where, when the music is being released, the radio stations have a policy that the people’s music is rotating fairly,” he said.
“So you would notice now that when you are not part of the connection, your music is not being played. So I blame management of the radio stations too . . . in the sense that DJs do not work for themselves.”
He also said that in some cases deejays selected which songs were popular for the season.
Ras Iley said he did not believe artistes should “prostitute themselves or look for the shortcut to the finishing line because everybody is going to feel that the road to go is to sing party music”.
He said that in these days, though more music is being produced, there were fewer hits.
“In 2016 we are producing over 400 songs but yet still we producing less hits . . . hits that penetrate the island and dominate other territories.
“ . . . . The hits from the 1980s if you play them now inside any fete in most cases they hold their own and they do not ever seem to die, whereas these songs now when Crop Over finish you cannot remember them.”
From time to time, Small said he would hear some of the other artistes grumble about what was going on in the industry. But he could not understand why they would “quarrel behind the stage at certain fetes and shows instead of speaking up”.
The 33-year industry veteran said he could not bear to see the situation get worse.