Rais­ing The Flag Of Ca­lypso In Ber­lin

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Toni Ni­cholas

Soca star Bunji Gar­lin per­formed his song “Cos­mic Shift” at a packed club in Ber­lin in early 2012. In May of that same year he was on the road, per­form­ing on a truck dur­ing one of the big­gest car­ni­vals in the world-Ber­lin Car­ni­val. He later said in an in­ter­view that the Ber­lin ex­pe­ri­ence had been an eye­opener; that there was noth­ing like it. He vowed to keep com­ing back. A few months later “Dif­fer­en­tol­ogy” was born and Bunji has signed an in­ter­na­tional record deal.

Ber­lin’s Karneval der Kul­turen (KdK) is not your or­di­nary car­ni­val. It is an in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­val that em­braces ca­lypso and soca at its core. Among the 3.4 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants of the Ger­man cap­i­tal, about 450, 000 do not have Ger­man cit­i­zen­ship. And so KdK seeks to rep­re­sent all the dif­fer­ent cul­tures living in Ber­lin. And although most par­tic­i­pants in the band are Ger­man, there are also many peo­ple from the Caribbean, Africa or other cul­tural back­grounds. Yet, most grav­i­tate to the pul­sat­ing rhythms of ca­lypso and soca and its ap­pendage cul­ture.

It’s been a cos­mic shift for the genre of ca­lypso and soca, one that two copy­right or­ga­ni­za­tions in the re­gion are tak­ing no­tice of. And now thanks to the as­sis­tance of fund­ing agen­cies, they are pre­pared, through their mem­bers to em­bark on a ca­lypso and soca in­va­sion of Ber­lin.

Jan­uary 17, 2015. The Caribbean Ca­lypso Club- Han­gar 49, Holz­mark­t­strasse 15-18, Ber­lin: A num­ber of im­pres­sive ca­lypso and soca stars and mu­si­cians from Bar­ba­dos and Saint Lu­cia gather for the first time to­gether on stage. They are Ni­cholas Brancker, An­der­son “Blood” Arm­strong, St­ed­son “Red Plas­tic Bag” Wilt­shire, Charles D. Lewis and Wayne “Poonka” Wil­lock (Bar­ba­dos), Len­non “Blaze” Pros­pere and Sher­winn “Dupes” Brice (Saint Lu­cia). On this night, the Ber­lin based ca­lypso band “Lord Mouse and the Ka­lypso Katz”, who have been wav­ing the ca­lypso flag for close to a decade, joins them. The house is shaken up - not stirred - on this night, a mix­ture of sweat and eth­nic­i­ties, with hands wav­ing and clap­ping, both feet off the ground, of­ten. The cur­tain goes down and the artistes re­turn home to pon­der what has been dubbed a suc­cess­ful event for many rea­sons.

One of them, Len­non Pros­pere has been do­ing ca­lypso and soca in Saint Lu­cia for a num­ber of years and has in fact per­formed in Europe pre­vi­ously with the band Rea­sons. “This event, I must say there was noth­ing quite like it. There are no words to de­scribe that sense you get when the artistes put on a united front on stage and the re­sponse you get from the au­di­ence,” he says of what oc­curred in Ber­lin.

The Ber­lin show­case as well as a ca­pac­ity build­ing work­shop, formed part of an in­ter­na­tional cul­tural ex­change project in Ger­many called “Ca­lypso in Ber­lin” held Jan­uary 13-19, 2015. It was ini­ti­ated through the col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts of The Copy­right So­ci­ety of Com­posers, Au­thors and Pub­lish­ers In­cor­po­rated (COSCAP) (Bar­ba­dos), the Eastern Caribbean Col­lec­tive Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mu­sic Rights (ECCO) Inc., Lord Mouse & The Ka­lypso Katz and Pi­ranha Kul­tur.

This was done through fund­ing from the Caribbean Ex­port Devel­op­ment Agency un­der the 10th EDF pro­gramme, the OECS and with ad­di­tional sup­port from the Bar­ba­dos In­vest­ment and Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (BIDC). The project sought to take ad­van­tage of the EU-Cariforum Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (EPA) and Cul­tural Pro­to­col to en­ter new mar­kets and build col­lab­o­ra­tive ties.

Ac­cord­ing to Steve Eti­enne, the Caribbean are net ex­porters of roy­al­ties, which cre­ates a huge drain on limited re­sources. “What CMO’s such as COSCAP and ECCO are do­ing is fa­cil­i­tat­ing the cre­ation of ex­portable con­tent by cre­at­ing part­ner­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties where our Caribbean cre­ators can col­lab­o­rate with their Euro­pean coun­ter­parts, thus cre­at­ing con­tent palat­able to both con­sumers in this re­gion and Euro­pean con­sumers,” Eti­enne says. This he says can as­sist in shift­ing the bal­ance of trade in roy­al­ties in favour of the Caribbean.

This ini­tia­tive, the first of its kind has gen­er­ated tremen­dous ex­cite­ment for the op­por­tu­ni­ties it fa­cil­i­tated. The ac­tiv­ity ad­dressed such key ar­eas as cul­tural di­ver­sity, her­itage as well as devel­op­ment of the cul­tural econ­omy, some­thing that is now key to the Caribbean, as the is­lands seek to cre­ate new streams of rev­enue.

De­scribed as “Phase 1”, this el­e­ment of Ca­lypso in Ber­lin, among its sev­eral ob­jec­tives sought to en­hance the pro­mo­tion of artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween Caribbean and Ger­man artistes and de­velop new mar­kets for Caribbean gen­res, specif­i­cally ca­lypso and soca in Ger­many.

The se­lec­tion of artistes from Bar­ba­dos and Saint Lu­cia were based on mu­sic skills, abil­ity to play in­stru­ments, song­writ­ing skills, per­for­mance ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge of ca­lypso and soca. Artistes were also re­quired to ap­ply for fund­ing in ad­vance and to se­cure the nec­es­sary visas to travel.

Dur­ing the event, par­tic­i­pants en­gaged with each other as well as pre­sen­ters to dis­cuss such top­ics as how to en­ter the Euro­pean mar­ket, in­ter­na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion, pub­lish­ing and copy­right, pro­mo­tion and self mar­ket­ing. Lively dis­cus­sions also en­sued on is­sues such as rais­ing the scope of ca­lypso on a cul­tural and com­mer­cial level in and out of the Caribbean, the chal­lenge of win­ning part­ner­ships with fans and busi­nesses to im­ple­ment this tar­get, en­hanc­ing cul­tural di­ver­sity and ex­changes in favour of ca­lypso as a cul­tural her­itage and how to brand a Euro­pean ca­lypso fes­ti­val. They also had the op­por­tu­nity to visit the Ger­man col­lec­tive man­age­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion, GEMA.

Pros­pere says that the ac­tiv­ity was very ed­u­ca­tional and well worth it. “There are now new op­por­tu­ni­ties, not just for me, but other artistes in the OECS to pack­age our mu­sic for Europe and in­deed the world,” Pros­pere says. “Be­ing sur­rounded by ac­com­plished mu­si­cians, song­writ­ers, pro­duc­ers in Ber­lin gave one fresh per­spec­tives as to how the mu­sic should be ap­proached and mar­keted for an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence,” he adds.

Adding his voice to the suc­cess of Ca­lypso in Ber­lin is Bar­ba­dian ca­lyp­so­nian Red Plas­tic Bag. He be­lieves that in or­der for ca­lypso and soca to move to the next level - be­yond the Caribbean its di­as­pora - it is very im­por­tant to look at mar­kets like Europe. “This whole link to Ber­lin and the fact that there is a Ger­man band play­ing au­then­tic Ca­lypso for me, the fact that they were keen on link­ing ca­lyp­so­ni­ans and soca artistes from the Caribbean to per­form with them and to have work­shops with them and to dis­cuss hav­ing a fes­ti­val of ca­lypso and soca mu­sic in Ber­lin is a won­der­ful thing,” RPB says. “This band has the back­ing of a group called Pi­ranha an or­ga­ni­za­tion with a link to WOMEX, the big­gest mu­sic expo in Europe, and so I think the mere fact that we can do col­lab­o­ra­tions and even do record­ings with this band, even­tu­ally I think the op­por­tu­ni­ties are there for our artistes in the Caribbean to per­form at places like WOMEX and it also augers well for op­por­tu­ni­ties into the Euro­pean mar­ket in gen­eral,” he adds.

Fol­low­ing the work­shops in Ber­lin, the gen­eral con­sen­sus was that any ex­port strat­egy needed to re­spect the orig­i­nal and con­tem­po­rary roots of the ca­lypso cul­ture and th­ese need to be an in­te­gral part of any cam­paign. The con­clu­sion of th­ese dis­cus­sions also pointed out that ca­lypso still has the rich po­ten­tial to be a vi­tal part of mu­sic con­sump­tion in so­ci­ety dur­ing the en­tire year and should not just be sea­sonal. The sea­sonal ap­proach to ca­lypso it was agreed, leads to less copy­right in­come since the mu­sic is played only for one pe­riod dur­ing the year as well as less pos­si­bil­i­ties for live per­for­mances. This, it was noted, can also lead to the genre ap­pear­ing to be less in­ter­est­ing and lu­cra­tive to a younger gen­er­a­tion of artiste who may have been oth­er­wise been at­tracted to ca­lypso and soca.

Phase II of the Ca­lypso in Ber­lin project will seek to em­bark on a Euro­pean Ca­lypso Fes­ti­val as well as the stag­ing of live events this sum­mer fea­tur­ing a va­ri­ety of ca­lypso and soca styles as well as work­shops for both fans and artistes and ex­ploit­ing the cul­ture fur­ther through fash­ion, food and over­all life­style and ex­pres­sions. This is ex­pected to set a new plat­form for Soca and in­deed re­vi­tal­ize the roots of the art-form ca­lypso.

Red Platic Bag, Len­non “Blaze” Pros­pere and oth­ers per­form­ing with Lord Mouse and the Ka­lypso Katz in


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