By: St. Clair Sazam Hull
The 1996 Culturama Calypso Monarch Contest still lingers fresh in my memory for two prime reasons. One of the reasons was when the MC unfortunately announced the reigning King, ‘Dis n Dat’ as second runner up. The other reason happens to be, the unforgettable moment when King ‘Meeko’ took to the stage and shook hands with ‘Dis n Dat’, his forever rival and calypso adversary.
As I stood at the Southern End of the Cultural Complex, listening attentively to the scores, I was somewhat appalled and bewildered by the results. In my estimation, the defending King ‘Dis n Dat’ did not win the competition by an infinitesimal margin, he was miles ahead of everyone else including King ‘Chaplet’, who walked away with the Crown.
Not even a lengthy explanation rendered to me a few days after by one of the judges diminished my perplexity. Then I was given an immediate reminder, by the history of the competition and the ancient concept, that no one has ever been worthy of repeating, in accordance to the mentality of those responsible for judging.
This year, we are celebrating forty glorious years and I want to congratulate the committee in advance on reaching this milestone. However, I am appealing to them to annihilate the old order, of presenting the reigning King with second runner up or not giving him the Crown regardless of what performance he may have displayed on the night of the contest. It is apparent to me, that the idea is so profoundly embedded in the minds of the judges that irrespective of whatever songs are delivered by the artist, second runner up is normally the rightful position.
I also believe that tendencies such as these can alleviate the artist preparation for the competition, since he firmly believes that his spot is already set in stone. If a person deserves to win they should not be thwarted because they won the previous year. For far too long, the notion has existed that reigning Kings should not enjoy back to back glory of wearing the Crown. This is an opportune time for those in authority to get it right, plus it is expedient for the occasion hence this is the fortieth.
The committee has already revealed the schedule for the upcoming shows and we are quite cognizant, that a few changes have been made. What is of paramount importance now, is for them to sit down and have a discussion with the judges of utmost seriousness in regards to the judging on monarch night. Every other island, at least in the Leeward Islands has had Kings who were repeaters of the Crown. In Antigua, both King Obstinate and King Short Shirt have won the Calypso Monarch on three consecutive occasions. Over in St. Kitts, King Konris exhibited shear dominance by winning four times in succession and even though he left the competition briefly, upon return he won again.
Just a few days ago, one of the past Kings related to me that he would have successfully defended his Crown, had the band not sabotaged. Fortunately for me, I was at the same identical show when his second runner up was meted out to him and personally I found him fortunate to have made it in the top three. Now this former King is an unrelenting person, with a voice range and singing ability few have equaled, but the reason I argued diametrically to his view, was because even though the band sabotaged as he proclaimed he still came second runner up.
I stated vividly to him, that even if he did not sing a solitary line his chances of being second runner up would have still been exorbitant. He made the point that band members at times are favorable towards some artists but I explained to him that his argument does not speak volumes. Reason being, I started following local calypso in 1988 when King Binghi was the reigning monarch and the position he received that year was second runner up. Twenty-five years subsequently to that, only on two occasions the reigning King was placed higher than third once he participated.
If this Cultural Festival is going to be a notch above the others, as promised by the authorities, this illusion of current King being in third spot must depart. Let me also state unequivocally, that if the reigning King is not meritorious for any position he should not even be given consideration. If it’s the judges belief that the reigning King should automatically be given a position, because he is the holder of the Crown that idea should be dismissed forthwith but if he deserves to be King he should be crowned again.