VIDEO: Is this television?
Video courtesy TriniTrent TV
Mighty Shadow – Doh hold meh back
Video courtesy ENTBREAKINGNEWS via CNC3 Television
The International Soca Monarch semi-final competition happened on last Sunday. Seventy soca artistes, some untested in a live milieu, performed for judges, for the first time in the competition, to seek a place in the final on Fantastic Friday. It also happened to be televised on CNC3 television, and live streamed on the internet for a local market that chose not to or could not go to the Savannah, and for an overseas market in need of soca satisfaction.
With this large cast performing for over eight hours, this was not your average television show. This was a television experience that had social media abuzz, complaining about the quality of performance, the quality of broadcast and the nature of our soca industry. If the International Soca Monarch is the acme of this music, this genre, the performances showed a rift between the few soca artistes with experience in live performance and the others, who are guaranteed appearance fees, but failed to deliver on the promise of a performance that subliminally exceeds our expectations. Soca deserves better. We deserve better.
Local audiences of television have seen and have become accustomed to televised live performances that accent the standard parameters of good musicianship, voice control, stage presence, and the intangibles like the “it factor.” Soca in 2016 is more than a fete, but to hear and see the performances, one is left wondering if any rehearsal towards excellence was part of the mindset of many artists. The few standout performers observed like Third Bass, Chucky Gordon, Blaxx, certainly set a bar that could have been easily topped, but was not.
There is a difference between a recording and a live performance. There is also a difference in performance between a fete and a concert. ISM is presenting a concert—a stage, an audience in a prescribed area looking at the stage—but the idea of a fete—a stage, an audience in flux—has become so common for soca artistes that the shouting to inspire audience attention and participation supersedes any notion that performance standards differ between the two. The social media buzz about sub-standard performance and the growing indifference of audiences for this show and a number of Carnival staples—statistics have shown a decline in Carnival tourist arrivals, and audiences at calypso tents and in the stands at Panorama—point to both an awareness by the public of what sells and what does not, and a failure of industry stakeholders in the production and promotion sector to keep ahead of the curve of global trends. Long concerts without variation is not a festival, it is a tedious event.
One is also left wondering at the decision of televising a marathon show, as entertainment. Caribbean Prestige Foundation (CPF) chairman, Peter Scoon, at the launch of the ISM a few weeks ago noted that “the familiar seven plus hour final show was not deemed television-ready by media broadcasters—the shorter, the better.” Television production standards, again, were apparently below those of what is now served up as basic for live concerts. A bad performance can be well televised, a bad television production can obliterate any idea that performance was the selling point of this marathon.
Our music industry needs new ideas beyond simply putting a camera on unprepared performers for hours. The work behind a performance of Machel Montano at his Machel Monday concert, for example, is long, it is repetitive towards excellence, it is expensive. The low standards that were on display at the ISM semi-finals, are not what this industry needs as a benchmark for moving toward any diversified industry. We don’t have the numbers, so we better have the superior standard of production and performance, to make an economic difference for television and live audiences.
- A version of this article appears in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian newspapers published as, “Moving beyond fete performance”
© 2016, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.
On Tuesday, 9 January, CNC3 Television issued an apology for the quality of their broadcast: