THE EDITOR: As children, many of us would have read (or been read to) the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s about two weavers (con men, actually) who promise the emperor they could make a suit of clothes “that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent.” Hired, they merely pretend to sew clothes, making the subjects believe the clothes are invisible only to themselves.
When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes,” no one dares to say that they do not see any clothes on him, for fear they will be considered stupid or ill-suited to their jobs. Finally, a child blurts out, “But he doesn’t have on any clothes!” and the chorus is then taken up by others.
I recall the tale given the reaction in some quarters to Mr Killa’s tuneless monologue Run Wid It. Let me state up front that when it comes to subjective topics like music, poetry, creative writing and painting (among others), my general philosophy is “to each his own,” acknowledging that people will have different reactions, all legitimate, to the same work of art. And when it comes to soca music, it appears that beauty really does lie in the eye of the beholder.
In that vein, I have no problem with those who think Run Wid It is great but one should note that many of us do not feel that way (online comments are indicative). Watching Mr Killa on Dimanche Gras, I felt mortified the world might think this is the best that soca has to offer – after all, he is the Soca Monarch. (That it’s yet another rum-glorifying song adds insult to injury. Irony of ironies – as I write, I hear on the news about a man killed with a rum bottle.)
But then I am comforted when I hear songs like Nadia Batson’s So Long, Farmer Nappy’s Hookin Meh, Patrice Roberts’ Like It Hot/Old and Grey, and Nailah Blackman’s Iron Love/Games. Soca can indeed be an enriching musical experience.
That the silent majority prefer “singable” soca can be gleaned from the number of YouTube views for the “Official Music Video” of these songs. For instance, in millions of views, Hookin Meh has 5.7, So Long has 5.3 with Run Wid It way behind on 1.9.
My fellow villager, Garfield Blackman (Lord Shorty, Ras Shorty I) from Lengua Village, the man most consider the father of soca, must be turning in his grave to hear what can win Soca Monarch. On the other hand, he would be pleased that his granddaughter Nailah, among others, is upholding the musical tradition of soca.
Don’t get me wrong – I quite like Mr Killa and certainly do not begrudge him the accolades he has received. He is a pleasant young man with a nice speaking voice. Singing voice? Not sure – it’s difficult to judge from Run Wid It.
I merely question the nature of our standards, and the judging criteria, that someone could win the Soca Monarch competition with an offering like Run Wid It. The word “soca” comes from “soul” and “calypso.” I leave the reader to judge whether Run Wid It even qualifies as soca. As one person commented online, “You mean rap can win Soca Monarch?”
Perhaps I’m old school but, for me, a good song, let alone a winning one, should have a pleasing/catchy melody, among other attributes. As the child from the fairy tale might exclaim on hearing Run Wid It, “But it doesn’t have any tune!” Will the silent majority join the chorus?
NOEL KALICHARAN via e-mail