All tied up at Music Festival Championships

I may be a bit harsh, but as we say in Trinidad – you cyah play sailor mas and fraid powder. And competitions, theoretically, should be spirited contests to be the “best”, however subjective and controversial the end results may be.

But I’ve been a little dissatisfied with this year’s Music Festival progress in Port of Spain, because it seems the Canadian adjudicator – as he did last time – is unable to award a first, second, or third place without tying up to four of the participants. What’s been happening is, for example, three tied for first place; two tied for second place; and three tied for third place. Virtually no-one (though I exaggerate a bit) is not so placed.

Competition is always controversial but, both at home and abroad, has become a testing ground that – in the best of times – promotes discipline, challenges participants to work toward their best, and in the face of disappointment, to be gracious and learn to deal with life’s inevitable disappointments and rise again. At its worst, we all know it can be mired in allegations of bias, “bad-mind”, “tiefin”, heartbreak, humiliation, and all manner of things. And it’s often fair to say that, yes, there are two or three in each category who are each so uniquely talented that it’s difficult to place one “above” another (the annual Panorama dramas where, out of some 500 points, first and second place bands sometimes are separated by just one point are a classic example…but I digress) – and that’s what I mean when I say you cyah play mas and fraid powder.

It seems to defeat the purpose of competition when it seems no matter how hard you try (or don’t try!) you could still end up tied with fellow competitors in the top three. I’m not demeaning the accomplishments of any of the certificate bearers, but wither, then, the prestige and the incentive?

On a practical note, with multiple first place winners in each class – how long are the Championships going to run, when North Trinidad winners (in twos and threes) combine with winners from Tobago and South Trinidad? And will he then – as he did last time he was a Championship judge – tie people for the Championships as well?

I wonder as well why it is the adjudictor feels compelled to be so, well, soft. Is it because he is genuinely so blown away by the diversity of talent that he truly finds it impossible to separate contestants? Is it that he sort of feels bad not to give someone a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place certificate? Is he not quite sure what he’s looking for, so errs on the side of rewarding everyone?

Placings aside, though, what is for sure is that the Festival can be relied upon to showcase some of the most thrilling established and emerging talent, alongside episodes resembling some of the early round contestants of American Idol or X Factor. And once we reach the Championship stage, it should be a treat to see some of the nation’s best, across every genre of music, competing for supremacy. And to all – break a leg!

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