– local artistes clear air on performing at political events
By Tamica Garnett
In light of discrimination faced by Chutney Monarch, Steven Ramphal for performing at a political event, local performing artistes are making it clear that their performance is about business and not politics.
With Guyana’s General and Regional set for March 2, many of the political parties are using the entertainment factor to package underlying political messages, creating a peak time for singers, actors and comedians.
Unfortunately, not many performers see this as an opportunity to exploit as there is fear of their performances being misinterpreted as an endorsement of the political party they are performing for.
Some politically neutral performers; however, do not consider it good business to throw away opportunities to make an honest dollar. Former Chutney Monarch, Bunty Singh is taking bookings all around and welcomes more.
Bunty performed last Friday at the APNU+AFC campaign launch and shares that he was also approached by the PPPC and will be performing for them as well, once the booking is confirmed. He has also been approached by the smaller Change Guyana party, and once everything is confirmed, he will be performing for them too.
“At the end of the day, whichever party wins, I still have to sing. I have a family, I have bills to pay. If I look at people condemning my performance at any event then I would be the loser because somebody else is going to get the job and take it. I am not really part of any of the parties, I am doing my job as a singer and a musician, that’s it,” Singh said.
With Guyana needing updated copyrights laws, most artistes depend on appearances and events to make their money, which often are not many. Like Ramphal, Singh faced some amount of backlash for his performance at the APNU+AFC event last Friday, but he cared less.
“It’s a low mentality of some people because not everyone is condemning the act. Me and Steven, we are performers, along with other artistes, and once the people are being paid to perform, that’s ok,” Bunty expressed.
He added: “I support all the parties once they try to do prosperity to Guyana and do good. I will support all the party, whichever party run the country, they must do something good, that’s my opinion.”
Also emphasising that he is politically neutral, Ramphal said he has not yet been approached by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) to do any work for them, however, should they approach him, he sees no problem in gracing the PPPC campaign stage. He does, however, have some rules.
“I won’t be endorsing any political party. I won’t wear any colour for the party, won’t be doing no songs or jingles, no video influencing anybody to vote for the party. I would only work under those circumstances and only focus on my message, which is love unity, harmony and peace,” Ramphal conveyed.
Performing at the APNU+AFC event last Friday, Ramphal wore a neutral all-black outfit. Ramphal used the opportunity to spread messages of unity and love and made no political reference during his performance. Nonetheless in the subsequent days he was attacked on social media site, Facebook, with pictures referring to him as a “sell out” and calling for a boycott of his events. .
In Guyana, politics is considered highly divided along racial lines, with the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) considered the party aligned with the Indian population and the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the largest constituent of the APNU+AFC government considered to be preferred by the African population.
Both parties officially launched their campaigns over the weekend. The APNU+AFC on Friday at Durban Park and the PPP/C at the Kitty Market Square.
However, while the APNU+AFC launch included a packed concert of performances by singers and dancing groups, the PPP launch mainly focused on speeches by the party members, and a calypso performance by party member, Harry Gill.
Some commenters on social media have speculated that artistes have been refusing to perform for the PPP/C. Many artistes; however, maintain that they are open to performing for either side, and if the PPP reaches out them, they are not averse to accepting the offer.
“I would sing for any political party because at the end of the day it is a business, that doesn’t reflect my preference, you understand,” said local soca singer, Blaze Anthonio, real name Marlon Simon, whose popularity on the local scene skyrocketed in early 2017 when he sang “Blow”. Blaze said he has not yet been approached by either party.
Soca singer and comedian, Kwasi “Ace” Edmonson said party supporters need to refrain from seeing an appearance as allegiance, unless performers explicitly endorses a political party. “People need to understand that at the end of the day everybody has a job description, which would entail us performing, regardless of who you may like or who you don’t like,” commented Edmondson, who also performed at APNU+AFC event last Friday, and has done a campaign jingle for the party.
“It’s ridiculous. People shouldn’t jump to an assumption of affiliation or endorsement simply by the person appearing on that platform. If somebody performs for a particular political party that person more or less was contracted to do so. It does not mean that person is affiliated with or has endorsed that party unless that person came forward and say I fully endorse this political party.”
Some singers have openly endorsed political parties. Reigning Soca Monarch, Brandon Harding and reigning Calypso Monarch, Kenroy “Mighty Believer” Fraser have thrown their support behind the APNU+AFC.
Notwithstanding sharing a number of social media posts supporting acts of the governing APNU+AFC party, Edmondson said he has not endorsed any political party, nor would he turn down an offer from the PPPC to perform at an event for them. He does, however, noted that performers are also citizens and are entitled to the support or criticisms of differing aspects of any political party.
During elections time staunch party supporters for either major parties are not very representative of Guyana’s usual atmosphere of unity and love. Former national Soca Monarch Jumo “Rubberwaist” Primo said he sympathises with Ramphal and Singh’s situation after performing for APNU+AFC last Friday.
He was once a victim of a similar situation.
“Politics in this country is very nasty and I try to stay away from it. I made a mistake and did a political ad about eight or nine years ago and it wasn’t a good reception. People would call you names, traitor, sell out, all of these kind of things so I tend to refrain from endorsing a political party,” Jumo shared.
He noted that he has not yet been approached by either of the major political parties. He is guarded in saying whether he would perform for either of the major political party but noted he would deliberate and make a decision if any offer is made.
Jumo calls for upgrading of Guyana’s outdated copyright laws, which would prevent any political party to use work by performers without legal requirement of remuneration for the artiste. The PPPC has utilised two of Farmer Nappy’s songs, including his 2019 soca hit “Hookin Meh”, in their current campaign promotion. However, that was done without Nappy’s approval and the singer’s management team is said to be taking the party to court over the theft of his intellectual property.