Who gives a twosh about the music?

Say the word censorship and calypsonians and journalists usually cringe as though you have just read them their death sentence. Sometimes one does not even have to actually say the word, just begin any discussion on what is fit for airplay or “decent” where the music is concerned or what is okay to be said or written where the media is concerned and red flags pop up. And while years ago calypso, was the target practice subject, today Soca music too, which some have deemed a stray child is the one raising eyebrows and causing some furor.
While in Jamaica censorship of music is a topical issue year round, in Saint Lucia, Barbados and Trinidad the fire burns around the topic during those islands Carnival celebrations. A debate as old as the art-form of music itself, the discussions usually ebbs and flows for a short season, hardly ever reaching a crescendo—unlike good music. In the end, these open ended debates are hardly resolved. Here in Saint Lucia in particular, where we are notorious for not putting any serious measures in place
to deal with issues;
domestic violence, delays in justice system, homelessness, child protection, purchasing of alcohol by minors and on and on, it is hardly likely that beyond the debate about carnival and the music this year anything will be done anytime soon.
Remember the RCI saga more than a decade ago where Lord Help Me’s “Wedding” was pulled off after a threat by floor crosser Neville Cenac. And just last year there was much brouhaha about those “Mash Up” songs.  Countless other stories exist inbetween. Has anything changed? Not really in my view. And so the calypsonians and now Soca artistes continue to push the envelope, daring to be banned, controlled or censored each year acting for the most part with impunity, since after all the talk is done the music goes on.
This year the debate is on the Soca music and the quality of some of the lyrics. Some have charged that some of the songs are in poor tastes with direct sexual references in some cases. There also seem to be a new found obsession with the female derriere, or “boda” and “twosh.” I would be the first to agree that the creative aspect where lyrics are concerned seemed to be at an all time low. The art of double entendre which was once a hallmark of a good calypso also seems lost with very little use of metaphors and storylines in many of the songs. And so, if this is supposed to be “art” how do we deal with it, which often is supposed to be subjective, riding against the grain, appealing to the senses sometimes, offensive at other times?
My take on the whole issue is that if Calypso and Soca is supposed to be a part of the bigger picture of Carnival with various stakeholders involved; the media, the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, The Government, Ministry of Tourism, Cultural Development Foundation, Calypso Association and Sponsors, then, some things must be taken into consideration.
The whole question of whether certain songs should be banned or not, to me is simply a case of what systems and frameworks are in place by the various agencies to deal with such issues.
During Carnival the music depends on radio and television, public performances, competitions and sponsors to thrive.  Where the broadcasting of music is concerned I have often said we have operated as loose cannons in Saint Lucia with Government simply handing out licenses like red envelopes in return for favours or air-time. Where’s the national broadcast commission to guide what is is is acceptable or unacceptable for airplay? If one purchases an aircraft, NSC and FAA rules and guidelines must be followed. The same for boat owners who must follow maritime laws. So why is it than in Saint Lucia the broadcast media is made to feel that once a license is paid
for (the former Prime Minister said there are a number of unpaid licenses) that they can do as they please? There is this fallacy that as part of their freedom of expression it is their right to trample on the freedom of others and say and write as they please.  Even in the land of the free, the great USA, broadcasters like Howard Stern have learnt that as much of a shock jock he is, he cannot say as he pleases. He has in the past been fined and suspended several times by the FCC. So until we put such measures in place, I am afraid we will continue to be exposed to hard and soft porn any time of day on local TV and the music that makes some of us cringe.
The second area these songs depend on for their publicity are public performances. Once again, in Saint Lucia there are no clear cut rules, guidelines or laws where public performances are concerned. And whilst soca performer Nicole David was made a scapegoat for blurting out an expletive at line jam in 2011, year round the same exists and even worse at public events, even with the police present.  On school buses, beach picnics, on the boulevard, music with expletive lyrics can be heard daily. Where are the police then, and whose charge is it to deal with such issues?                 Do we have guidelines and laws as to deal with such? As far as I know there is an archaic “right to decency” act and the only issue dealt with under this act is seizing sex toys by customs and nothing more. And so maybe this is one area which needs urgent review and which would address the music scenario.
I can recall in 2003 when Antiguan Soca artiste Wanski made it big in Trinidad with his song “More Gyul” the controversy it created. The song which had the line “we do want no chi-chi (or gay person) in this year’s carnival” was pulled by some radio stations and edited by others. In the end a number of promoters under pressure form the controversy pulled Wanski off from their shows, citing that the song was discriminating against gays.
Then we have the question of the Calypso and Soca competitions. My take is that if these events are privately run then they follow their own rules and guidelines. However if taxpayers money is being pumped into things like creative industries and personal CDs and Soca Monarch and the likes,
then these activities must in no way be offensive to any group or sector and must go along with whatever guidelines are instituted. I have gone on record several times before to note that Saint Lucia is the only place where we would callously reward a song which celebrated the burning of a national hospital (hospital burning) or sodomy as in “Speaker pee pee in my poo poo.”
If these performers want to record these songs on their own that is their choice, but I see no reason why taxpayers’ monies have to fund or reward such. You can’t be a catholic and refuse to pay homage to the pope!
During the 2003 Crop-Over in Barbados the Calypso competition had its share of controversy where censorship is concerned. In Barbados there is now a strict requirement for all calypso lyrics to be vetted by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) before they can be performed in the national semi-finals and the finals. That year Colin Spencer, one of the contenders at the semis was late in handing in his lyrics. Then, when they were received, they were deemed unsuitable because of libelous and politically offensive material. There was not enough time for him to submit a substitute entry and he was debarred from the competition. So not only are we to guard against lyrics deemed offensive but also what may be libelous.
I believe that sponsors also have a role to play as in the case of Red Stripe in Jamaica which a few years ago stopped sponsoring dancehall events after it was felt that the music was fuelling violence and was derogatory to women and homosexuals.
Here in Saint Lucia we have not reached that state of sensitivity and maturity. The mighty dollar and what is deemed popular, is what we follow like sheep. What is necessary and sometimes sustainable is not what is often given credence and I believe that politicians are hardly ever the best judges of what is right, often giving way to what is popular and could account for votes. I am afraid we will all be losers if we do not own up to our own spiralling decline to decadence, as we continue to bend over and cover our eyes with both twosh.

Share your feedback with us.

Comments are closed.

← Go Back | Commentary Back to Top ↑
THE STAR Newspaper
Magazines available in THE STAR Newspaper
2nite Magazine
Sports & Health Inc

Lifestyle & Archives