Local musicians were snubbed

2008 Batabano has now come and gone and by all accounts the general public would consider it a roaring success, but at what cost would we attribute this success?

Successful because the Batabano committee brought not only one International Soca band but two, the ever popular Byron Lee, and the king of Soca himself Mr Machel Montano. I must applaud Donna Myrie-Stephens and her committee for making the bold step of retaining the services of such respected entertainers, but my question to her and her committee is why were there no local entertainers?

I have sat and watched for many years as a local entertainer/song writer and now as the president of the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association and I am appalled at the lack of respect for our local entertainers from the very establishment and associations that should be putting our entertainers first.

I would like the public to understand that neither I nor the members of our association are opposed to foreign entertainers performing here; in fact we are glad for the opportunity to analyse the international entertainers as it creates a yard stick for us to measure ourselves and gives us the opportunity to play on the same stage as these performers.

With that said I would now like to enlighten the public of our constant frustration. First we have three events that we can call our national festivals – Cayfest, Pirates Week and Batabano.

No one can question Cayfest’s involvement with its culture and local entertainers because Cayfest is all about promoting things Caymanian.

Secondly; Pirates Week, the main committee is responsible for hosting three events that has a line up of one foreign band and 11 or more local bands. Well done Dave and crew!

Finally Batabano, which is also responsible for hosting three events and this year the line up was two foreign bands and one local band that was not even able to perform because of the circumstances surrounding their employment.

The questions I wish to ask the public, Batabano committee and the sponsors of this event are: does anyone see anything wrong with this picture? Is Batabano not about promoting the Cayman Culture? Or is Batabano about transplanting Carnival from one country to ours?

About six weeks leading up to Batabano I took it upon myself to contact the chairperson of the committee and to ask her what were her intentions regarding the involvement of local entertainers and I was informed at that time that because of the engagement of the two foreign bands and the astronomical cost of both bands that she was not sure how many local bands she would be able to hire and to add salt to the wound, asked if she could have three local bands to perform during the parade, but they would need to perform for publicity!

I then informed her that it was not in her best interest to secure the services of foreign artistes at an estimated cost of about US$50,000 then have nothing for local bands and it would be a disgrace to have our local bands perform for free.

As we all now know my conversation was all in vain because the two foreign bands did perform and one local band was contracted at CI$700.

Please don’t get me wrong I am not saying that our local bands are on par with the two said foreign bands, but are we only worth CI$700 in comparison to US$50,000? In addition, the Batabano committee was also responsible for paying airfares to and from Cayman, accommodations, transport and per diem (food money) for an estimated total cost of USD$80,000… wow!

So today my Caymanian people Batabano has come and gone but at it’s conclusion approximately US$50,000 has left the shores of these Islands to foreign entertainers, and not one dime to the local entertainers as the local band was unable to perform after their services were only booked the day before the Friday night event, and their contract was signed a mere five hours before start time. They were then forced to amend their song selection because one of their band members was restricted from performing by the Batabano committee.

Please let it be known that our members constantly strive to be as professional as possible, but to restrict a member of the band just hours before show time requires them to change song selections, which can take hours to arrange when the Batabano committee has had a whole year to book local bands.

To make matters even worse, the Thursday night ball at Pedro Castle and Saturday night’s only entertainer was Byron Lee and the sound equipment was provided by none other than Byron Lee himself even though we have two local sound companies (which are both members of our association, Hopscotch Studios and AI Rentals) that are quite capable of providing top quality professional sound equipment. Once again no local company got to share in the pie for those nights.

This letter is being written because it has been too long that our local entertainers have been pushed aside, and we will no longer sit and let local promoters and associations take us for granted.

We are not asking to have the whole pie, we are asking for respect, equality and opportunity. I have assured my members that as long as I am president of the Cayman Islands Music and Entertainment Association I will continue to fight this injustice. I represent all voices of our membership and we stand together as a united force to stop this disrespect of our local talents.

Brent Mclean
Cayman Music and Entertainment Association