Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 29th 2013 Contents A8
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 29, 2013
The drop of a pin could have been heard
around the Caribbean as people waited
with bated breath for the winner of the
2013 US edition of the Voice of which
Jamaica s songbird Tessanne Chin was a
part. She, after months of gruelling com-
petition on The Voice, had landed among
the top three. Comments flooded Facebook
walls, there was general jubilation around
the Caribbean when she was announced
Hot on the heels of Chin s win was T&T s
own Ian "Bunji Garlin" Alvarez climbing to
acclaim as he was nominated for an MTV
Iggy award for his 2012 hit Differentology.
Alvarez s Differentology eventually tied with
Korean rapper G-Dragon s Crooked for the
2013 Iggy song of the year.
But before them both, Barbadian songbird
Rihanna topped charts with hits such as
Umbrella, Diamond, We Found Love, among
Has the world finally sat up and taken
notice of the talent pouring from the
Caribbean? Many questions arise about
what does such wins mean for Caribbean
talent and the sale of its cultural product
on the world s stage. To be successful, does
it mean that a Caribbean entertainer should
look and sound like what is in the main-
stream, or can all that is uniquely Caribbean
be a major contender and earner on the
world s stage?
Spencer: The world is
interested in a difference
For actor, director, storyteller and broad-
cast journalist Rhoma Spencer the world is
getting a different view of music outside of
American standards. In e-mailed responses
to the T&T Guardian as to what the global
success of such Caribbean artistes meant,
and asked if it was a resurgence of global
Caribbean talent, Spencer said, "I think the
world is now getting caught on to another
world view of music outside of the canon
of American standards. It s fashionable to
call it world music now, and so our
Caribbean entertainers are getting their pie
in the sky now.
"I would not say it is a resurgence at all
because Caribbean entertainers, certainly
those from Jamaica, are out there. Who
doesn t know Bob Marley or Jimmy Cliff."
Asked if to be successful Caribbean artistes
have to assimilate, Spencer said that is was
only in T&T that there is a notion that to
be noticed one must sound a particular way.
She highlighted that many Jamaicans were
successful, sang in their mother tongue and
language, "and still had the world moving
to its music."
"There is a movement it seems to now
sound Jamaican among some soca singers,
and now to break into the world there is an
American/Jamaican schizophrenia going
on. All I am saying is stay true to your point
of local and the world will accept you. The
world doesn t want another one of its kind.
It is interested in difference; a kind of dif-
ferentology," she said.
Chin's win a testament
to the region's talent
Chin s win, she said, was a testament to
the talent the region possesses. There were
many, she added, waiting to be successful
but who were impeded by the right oppor-
tunity. "Barbados Rihanna has been the
flagship for artistes from the region hitting
mainstream big, and the world is taking
notice and looking for another to rival her
so who knows it might just be Tessanne,"
Asked if enough had been done by region-
al governments for the development of the
creative industries as an economic earner,
Spencer said there has been too much lip
service and no action.
"(Governments need to) start with creating
an arts council where our artistes can access
funds for their work, be it professional devel-
opment, apprenticeship or for the emerging
artiste. Tessanne showed us that you cannot
be a one eye king in blind man country. She
was popular in the region, a star even, but
for world recognition she had to turn to
"Our Government and our corporate sec-
tor must invest in this industry as culture
the world over is just as good a Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) as oil and gas. It
is culture that defines the nation and its
citizenry is better served by it.
"Therefore our cultural practitioners must
be exposed to the world and not be settled
to fulfill the miniscule in blind man country.
Some progress has been made via corporate
tax breaks for sponsoring cultural products
and that s great, but more needs to be done.
Let s get on with a cultural policy for
starters," she said.
Raymond: Provide funding for artistes
For Martin "Mice" Raymond, music pro-
ducer, the marketability of the Caribbean
cultural product has grown and it started
with Rihanna. Raymond said the Caribbean
product was marketable and that the
Caribbean artiste was capable of performing
any kind of genre.
Raymond said the success of Chin and
Alvarez was opening doors for other
Caribbean talent. His own company, he
said, was seeking its own Chin and devel-
oping these artistes for the international
Asked about calypso/soca as a genre and
its marketability on the world s stage, he
said that was "highly unlikely" that original
music make a breakthrough on the world s
stage. However, referencing Alvarez s success
with Differentology, Raymond said remixes
using the indigenous song were making
strides on the world s stage.
However, he said government/s needed
to provide finance, tax breaks and other
support for the artistes to be successful.
"Artistes need access to funding," he said.
Raymond said he was aware of some inter-
esting initiatives but that the responsible
agencies needed to "get moving faster."
Musical cross-pollination taking place
For popular music analyst Meagan
Sylvester, while the music which landed
Alvarez and Chin in the mainstream was
not indigenous to their homelands, she saw
it as an opportunity for a fusion of the
indigenous with the mainstream to occur.
This, she said, would introduce foreign mar-
kets to the local sound. Sylvester, in her
phone interview with the T&T Guardian,
noted that throughout the region there was
a sort of musical cross pollination occurring.
Alvarez s blended sound, she said, in Differentology
propelled him into the mainstream and it was dif-
ferent from the ragga soca for which he had become
Asked if a Caribbean artiste had to assimilate or
fuse its sound to be successful, Sylvester said, "I
think it is a combination of factors. The world took
notice because they could identify with it. This is
an opportunity for us to bring the blend. The next
track can now bring elements of soca," she said
speaking to Alvarez s success with Differentology.
"We do not need to be concerned about the
watering down of our music. We can get the thing
to them incrementally. The international space is
excited by the new," she said of whether or not the
fusion could lead to the loss of the indigenous form
of the music.
"Our Government and
our corporate sector
must invest in this
industry as culture the
world over is just as
good a Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) as oil and
Eyes on Caribbean talent
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