There is a National Cultural Foundation (NCF) rule, as we understand it, that instructs calypsonians entering the Pic-O-De-Crop monarch competition to submit the lyrics of their songs for vetting –– naturally to have them shorn of any form of expression that might be trespassing upon defamation, extremely poor taste, and/or unreasonable and unjustifiable vitriol.
There may be no iron-clad case for slander by De Announcer on Saturday night when he presented himself in the Pic-O-De-Crop Final at Kensington Oval via a video presentation that expressed his contempt for any “nasty, stinking AC”. But his ranting and spouting afterwards in an entire calypso dedicated to his disesteem of fellow calypsonian Adrian Clarke was surely nothing more itself than “filthy” hot air.
In a most cynically ironical way, Ronnie Clarke may have established good reason for being the Man They Love To Hate. After all, in a song punctuated by the acknowledgement “Yes, Jesus loves me . . .”, the self-confessed Christian Ronnie showed no compassion for and offered no mercy to fellow man Adrian –– a Clarke just like him; at least in title.
Every story, we used to be told, had two sides. Then we came to learn there were three: our story, your story, and the truth. More recently, it appears, a story has multiple sides. We wonder what is the NCF’s?
What indeed did the National Cultural Foundation purveyors think of De Announcer’s lyrics? That they were tasteful, never bordering on the indecent? Did the NCF see the humour in them, which the rest of us have missed?
The NCF needs to protect itself, much like other producers publishers, from such reckless innuendoes by the people whose talents and services it employs –– even if freely, for it has no special protection under the law, if perceived victims should seek redress.
Now, we are not unmindful of the tradition of the calypsonian –– when he or she chooses to –– being the bearer of the uncomfortable truth about the politician or other wielder of power. But such discomfort caused is oft-times to the benefit of those people calculated to be down-trodden or otherwise disadvantaged.
So we are not advocating censorship or curtailment of the freedom of expression of the calypso artist; just appropriateness from the performer and a good measure of tastefulness. We figured De Announcer would have been most familiar with these attributes. Regrettably, we were disappointed.
And for all the flattery Ronnie’s tent manager Eleanor Rice received in his Second Song, she too ought to have been disenchanted with her kaiso knight’s bloody battle onstage.
In its Crop Over review with calypso tent managers later, NCF officers might wish to explain why De Announcer was given such free rein for clear abuse of a fellow calypsonian at a national showcase like the Pic-O-De-Crop Final. And, Ms Rice might want to explain why she did not have Ronnie put his commendable 2014 melodies to better word use.
That she herself may have seen nothing wrong with De Announcer’s lyrics offers little comfort to those of us who crave after some form of decency in public places, and have a passion for maintaining the integrity of calypso –– which is not without its genre challenges.