Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, says that her ministry is considering rotating the three best songs submitted to the Festival Song Competition 2022, to replace the normal 10-song showpiece.
Grange says this could result from the fact she has always respected the decisions taken by the professional committee which annually selects the 10 finalists.
The committee, which includes veteran singer Freddie McGregor, producer/label boss, Gussie Clarke, and popular female singer, Alaine Laughton, has confirmed that they could only recommend three entries from the total of 123 that were received, while the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) has admitted that it is already too late to extend the application period any longer.
“I am disappointed. The country is disappointed. But, it does not mean that that we will not have songs that can rally the nation for Jamaica 60. It just means that we will not have a song competition,” Grange explained at a virtual media press briefing on Saturday.
She said that at this stage, the team has to make a determination on the three songs that were selected by the committee, as to whether there should be a competition between them, or whether they should be released (jointly) as would have been the case if the 10 finalists were selected.
Grange also rejected suggestions that the failure to produce 10 finalists for the 2022 Festival Sing contest was due to structural problems within the JCDC. The Minister also denied any political interference in the competition by her ministry, as suggested by veteran Fab Five Inc., drummer Grub Cooper.
“There is no political interference, and he knows better than that. I know maybe he is a little disappointed why he said that, but he knows there is no political interference,” she insisted.
“I think the industry recognise how I work. The JCDC understands the way I work, and I do not interfere. I provide guidelines and I provide policy directives and I allow everyone to do as they have to do. I am a little disappointed that Grub would say that, but I understand his disappointment,” Grange told the media.
Relating to the privatisation of the competition, the Minister said that there is nothing to prevent any private individual or organisation from establishing a private song competition.
She said neither the JCDC nor the Government needs to approve a private song competition that it feels it has a responsibility to help promote, because the mandate of the Commission is to “unearth talent, groom talent, showcase talent and promote Jamaican culture to fulfill its mandate.
“Therefore everyone is free to put on a song competition if they want to,” she told the meeting.
However, Grange said that one of the setbacks that led to this year’s postponement was the growing lack of interest in the competitive nature of the contest from the local music industry’s standpoint.
“I don’t think our singers, songwriters or artistes like the idea of a competition where you only have one winner. Maybe they would prefer if there are categories and there are awards for various categories. But, if it is one winner, they don’t want to appear to be a loser. And that stands in the way of the industry coming fully on board,” she explained.
She said that these problems have arisen over the years as the festival song competition moved from the ambit of a contest involving professionals, who would have their songs professionally written and recorded for entry into contests, unlike current submissions which are made by untrained writers.
Referring to the early days of the contest, which was envisaged by the late Prime Minister Edward Seaga in 1966 when it was won by Toots and the Maytals, she said that previously the local radio stations felt obligated, and were eager to sample and rotate the songs on their playlists.
“It is not so at this time. We literally have to beseech them to play the songs. We have to pay for time and we have to put that much more into getting the songs we choose, exposed,” Grange said.