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OFF THE CHEST: Lament for the lost songs

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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THE 2010 VERSION of the Crop-Over Festival is very much upon us.And when it ends in the first week of August one will feel that familiar sense of futility stemming from the offerings coming out of the tents.But it has nothing to do with the excellent songs that make it out of the tents and into the semi-finals or finals of the various calypso competitions.It is all about those quality songs that do not make it out of the tents and are lost forever.That feeling of futility also extends to the blind eye that is seemingly turned to these tent songs annually by the Barbados Association Towards Making Absolutely Nothing (BATMAN) and the National Could-care-less Forum [NCF].Those of you who have been visiting tents over the past 30 years can attest to the fact that hundreds of songs have been lost forever because they never made it past the judging stages, and were never recorded. There have been selections such as The Teacher by Jah Stone, Save It, Kaisonians by Longfellow and Home, Sweet Home by Termite, to mention a few, that we will possibly never hear again.Performers such as Black Pawn, Cliff Williams, the late Fowl Foot, Malik, Ishiaka, Kathy Lewis, On Target, Bumba, Romeo, and many others have delivered some wonderful calypsos over the years that never made it past the doors of their tents for reasons best known to those who judged them. Sadly, some of Structure’s superb selections will accompany him to his grave. This has been a weakness of the festival for decades. No organization – private or public – has come to the fore and invested in an annual recording of the best songs of the festival that do not make it to the “big stage”. There have been efforts by some tents to do their own recordings, but financial constraints have generally made this an unsustainable venture.Many of the lesser known calypsonians do not have the wherewithal to produce CDs annually. So what can be done? Perhaps rather than sit in the House of Assembly and pontificate ad nauseam about bestowing land to a millionairess who already owns a $12 million home overseas, that our politicians and cultural bosses come up with a plan – and the financing – to assist in increasing the reservoir of recorded music coming out of the tents each year. If they so desire, and depending on the commercial success of the music, the parties involved could make arrangements for future profit sharing. But, alas, that is not our culture. Unlike places like Jamaica, everyone involved in the process of getting CDs out to the Barbadian public want money for their input in advance. So nothing happens and the quantity of recorded music in Barbados continues to be negligible. Arguably what makes Red Plastic Bag greater than the Mighty Gabby (we can hear knives sharpening, and some people sucking their teeth) is that the St Philip lad produces recorded music every year. There is so much more by which he can be judged.  But whom am I kidding? This is Barbados; not a damn thing will change.• Off The Chest was written by a WE insider.