The Original DeFosto Himself Speaks
Global - He is one of the most influential musical orators of our time. His compositions have been adapted by no less than five eventual panorama champions. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, this calypso artist and prolific steelband panorama music composer standout, speaks about the art form - its highs, its lows and its future...
“- “...That is a beautiful question that you ask. Well - I am not a ‘Praying Mantis’ but I pray a lot. I thank The Father and I reach out to him in the best way I possibly can. I an’ all asking ‘Father, how am I surviving?’ I don’t know what is happening, but I am somehow able to survive, because it is not sustainable. You have to find money - sometimes I go to the bank and borrow money - just because I am a culture person, and I [am] singing - and writing songs is my life. I thank the Father for that; I don’t know if it is a punishment or if it is a blessing; and I believe it is more blessing than a punishment. But nevertheless, I somehow, does try to survive; because of my name, because of the... I came from as a child, because of who I am - I think that might have been able to help to some extent. But sometimes you feel, you know, you’re fighting a battle that is very difficult to win, but to win - you have to win...at some point in time.” - DeFosto
If I get what Defosto is saying accurately in this interview, he believes that he is the reason why not only the Panorama top prize became $2 million, but he is also somewhat responsible for the other culture-carnival competitions benefiting, when the Prime minister agreed with him that a raise in prize money was in order, and she decided the 'financial' love should not only be shown to Panorama, but for the other activities.
Defosto’s point about the cost of putting out the bands, some of the large bands running up to half a million, is an interesting figure. Looking at the kind of show and presentation the large bands and medium bands (but focusing here on the large bands), Silver Stars, Despers, Trinidad All Stars and the others put on, some serious money as always was in play for final night presentation, payment of arranger, tuners, uniforms, transportation, expenses during the entire season with players, etc. and on and on. We all know the story even with sponsors helping. And I remember reading that pan trinbago takes ten percent out of all the prize monies across the board from all the steelbands to help with their administrative costs.
For sake of argument and using All Stars as the champions, take out that ten percent ($200,000), along with say, that $500,000? (I personally don’t know if this figure Defosto has thrown out is a workable one, but just for now). So All Stars took home $1.8 million, not $2 mil, and then taking out all their expenses ($500,000 or whatever) - look how that so-called $2 million shrinks real fast. And are the prize monies taxed - does anyone know?
I can see why Defosto says he called for $3.5 million. But PM Kamla played politics as usual under the guise of fairness, in going for "$2 million for everybody." She must be doing some creative math to justify $2 million for INDIVIDUAL winners of Soca Monarch, kaiso monarch, chutney and whatever, and give the steel orchestra top prize the same amount, given all their damned expenses! I wonder if the Prime Minister kept in mind that the Individuals don't have anywhere near that type of expense and investment in time, instruments and numbers of people, to justify them receiving the exact same initial sum of money for their first prize?
I note that Defosto says he was lobbying for the panorama first prize to increase, understanding as he did the months of time and financial investment it takes for the bands to make it through the season and then to the final rounds. He did not say in the interview he was asking for calypsonians, or any other competition (and he himself is a calypsonian).
This was a discussion before, but it is a goddamed shame that this extremely unfair "proportion" for prizes for the top panorama band, and Individuals, went down as it did. If the winners of the Individual calypso competitions received $2 million, the minimum the panorama champs in the large category should receive is Ten million, with proportionate winnings in the medium and small categories, etc. Or if this sounds like madness (10 million), then keep the $2 million for panorama, and exercise some sense of proper proportion when it comes to the individual calypso competitions.
And let's not forget that disgraceful little worm who is the culture Minister, Gypsy, who even inferred that the pan people were known to be “trouble” – he used that same $2 million panorama first prize as the argument in regard to cutting down the pan players $1,000 to $800 (what became of that anyway - any pan people got paid yet - was it $1,000 or $800?).
For 2012, pan people in Trinidad and Tobago should be lobbying from now, to rectify all this stuff, and everything else, that poses problems when it comes to Pan!