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Rows over Chutney Soca

Wednesday, February 19 2014

Chutney Soca has a new monarch yet controversies linger over the competition.

Calls for accountability of the judging system, prizes, use of Bollywood rhythms in songs from artistes are being made on Southex Promotions and its CEO George Singh.

KI Persad was crowned the new monarch at Skinner Park, San Fernando last Saturday winning $2 million, after Raymond Ramnarine, the 2013 Chutney Soca Monarch who chose not to defend his crown this year over an outstanding payment of $200,000 from his $1 million prize owed to him by Southex.

Ramnarine wants better accounting of prizes telling Newsday on Monday that 14 competitors from last year also did not receive their full prizes. The consolation prize was listed at $60,000 each but finalists collected $40,000 each, he disclosed.

He is somewhat hopeful about receiving the balance of his prize after Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas assured him that he, as well as other contestants from last year’s competition who were owed money, will be paid.

“It was on a radio interview while speaking about this issue that the Minister of Multiculturalism, Dr Lincoln Douglas was contacted and he made a promise then that the monies owed to artistes in 2013 will be paid in due course,” Ramnarine said.

He denied claims by Southex CEO George Singh that the money had been paid. Controversy over prizes and funding almost scuttled the staging of the competition this year, when last month Singh too complained Government owed Southex money for last year, and, at the time had given no commitment that it would grant any money this year.

However, a week before last Saturday’s finals, Douglas disclosed $4.5 million would be given to the show, prompting Singh to announce an increase in the first prize to $2 million.

Even with the money dispute seemingly settled, Ramnarine, commenting on the songs performed, said there was so much use of Bollywood rhythms that the Chutney flavour, indigenous to this country was lacking.

“It is riddled with Bollywood tunes and while it is an art to take these rhythms and sing English wordings, one must consider the fact that Chutney music must contain Hindi and must also contain the rhyme of the dholak and the dhantal,” Ramnarine said.

He urged artistes to think hard about this genre and produce music that is pure Chutney Soca.

Veteran of the art of Chutney Soca, Rikki Jai (Samraj Jaimungal), said the rules of the Chutney Soca Monarch competition did not state that songs have to be original Chutney Soca music and some artistes did dabble in Bollywood melodies.

Like Ramnarine, he too urged singers to compose original songs to reflect the Trinidadian style.

“I believe that this sampling of Bollywood melodies to make music is not Chutney Soca at all. While it’s okay for people to do it and no one can be stopped from doing it the competition should not allow this to continue,” he said.

Rikki Jai, who has won the competition six times, tied for second place with former monarch Ravi Bissambhar.

Another competitor Rick Ramoutar, who sang on the Bollywood rhythm, is however calling for transparency from Southex regarding the results of the competition.

“I cannot see how two artistes can tie for second place when it is 50 percent judging and 50 percent votes.

“Did the judges tally and votes counted amount to the same amount for both Rikki Jai and Ravi B?” he asked. Ramoutar is calling on Singh to make the score sheets available to the finalists as they are entitled to know how many points they scored.

Ramoutar also said artistes should unite to demand better management of the competition.

“I would like to see all the Chutney Soca artistes unite as one and call for change where the promoters are concerned,” he said.

Yet another contestant Reshma Ramlal said she was given a raw deal by the sound engineer as her microphone mal-functioned while she was delivering the second verse.

“I would like to know what is Southex’s take on this matter?” Ramlal asked, noting she felt embarrassed on stage and could not concentrate on singing the entire song.

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