The National Cultural Foundation (NCF) boss has defended the controversial decision to have a junior bashment soca monarch this year, suggesting that the way youngsters will be exposed to the sub-genre could change its image.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Carol Roberts-Reifer has therefore urged the public to wait and see what the young artistes produce.
“I just ask for a little indulgence. Give us a couple of weeks and see what we come up with lyrically, layered on top of what is a basic bashment rhythm,” she told Barbados TODAY.
The NCF announced on Wednesday that for the first time, soca and bashment soca monarchs would be crowned in the Junior Monarch Competition. The decision sparked public debate over whether it was appropriate to have children perform bashment soca songs which are often accused of being lewd.
Roberts-Reifer told Barbados TODAY that while the NCF is also concerned that the lyrics and themes in bashment soca “are not as wholesome, or not as inclusive, or as tolerant as we would like”, it has some merit.
“We could regulate it, we could ban it. But, again, if you are a student of history, you would know that anytime popular culture is suppressed or banned, it goes underground, it festers, and it fosters even more expressions in that genre or sub-genre,” she said.
“Or you can decide that this is a popular expression that comes from the people and you can decide that you are going to change the focus and you are going to tackle it at the root, which is with young people.”
The NCF CEO added: “If there is any entity supremely capable of getting our young people and harnessing their creativity in a positive way, it is the National Cultural Foundation. I can’t think of any other entity that can manage this process well. So, I encourage everyone to give us a couple of weeks and let us see what these young people will throw up.”
Outlining in a press release on Wednesday that there would be a junior soca and bashment soca monarch along with the traditional calypso monarch this year, the NCF said the three-tier Junior Monarch Competition which was previously categorised by age, will now be done according to genre, resulting in three separate competitions with three different genre monarchs.
The preliminaries will be conducted by video submission after which those selected will progress to a rehearsal and mentorship phase, which will conclude with a straight final on July 16 at the Garfield Sobers Complex, the release stated.
The addition of the bashment soca component triggered debate on call-in programmes radio on Thursday.
Several callers contended that young people should not be singing bashment soca, due to the negative connotations associated with the term ‘bashment’. Others, however, argued that bashment was simply a genre of music and said they did not believe the NCF would encourage children to produce songs with lewd lyrics.
Roberts-Reifer contended that in order to engage the attention and participation of all demographics and age groups, NCF must meet people where they are.
However, she said, this did not mean accepting whatever was produced and presented.
“It is not that they are going to create the song that they want and submit it when they want, and they are just allowed to compete with it. There is a mentorship process, there is a social skills and development process. All of those components are built into the Junior Monarch programme this year,” she said.
“The fact of the matter is that bashment is a sub-genre of calypso. You cannot protect your children from it. You cannot even claim that they are not exposed to it, not with the way our world currently runs.
“Certainly, when my son was young, I did not allow bashment soca in my car. However, he was at school, he was on the street, he was playing cricket, just like other children you have activities and you are exposed to it,” Roberts-Reifer added.
Musician and music lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus and Barbados Community College (BCC) Dr Stefan Walcott said he had no issue with bashment soca in the Junior Monarch Competition, based on the fact that it is a form of how young people communicate.
He said it was important that the NCF give the youth the option to sing their style of music.
Walcott gave the assurance that the contestants would not be allowed to sing lewd content, but would primarily use bashment soca rhythms to get positive messages across.
“The NCF has taken on the responsibility of making sure that none of that comes through while they get a chance to perform in a voice that’s natural to them, in their Bajan dialect. They are using the rhythm but speaking to the consciousness of what they want to see in society. People thinking bashment soca has one way of dealing with things, music is music,” he said.
Musical icon, Dr The Most Honourable Anthony Gabby Carter also agreed that the inclusion of the sub-genre in the Junior Monarch Competition was fitting, due to its popularity among the youth.
However, he expressed concern about how a bashment soca song, which he said lacks melody and lyrics, would be judged.
“So, there must be room for melody, and melody must be one of the main components in any singing competition. [In] bashment, a lot of times, people are out of key, out of everything except out of time. The timing is beautiful most of the time,” the veteran calypsonian said.