Government prize money boosts song competition

From left, Minister for Culture Dwayne Seymour, Pirates Week Executive Director Melanie McField, top three competition winners Mitchell ‘Jah Mitch’ Ebanks, Matt Brown and Ben Hudson, and Erica Assai, and CMEA President Jean-eric Smith.

The top three winners of this year’s Pirates Week National Song Competition had some extra spending money for Christmas shopping this year. The trio were presented with a combined $10,000 in cash prizes last week.

Taking the top prize of $5,000 was Matt Brown, with the song “Mutiny,” written by Ben Hudson. Veteran musician Mitchell “Jah Mitch” Ebanks’s calypso number, titled “Pirate’s Time,” won him the second prize of $3,000 and singer Erica Assai took third place with a cash prize of $2,000 for her song “All I Have.”

The event was supported by the Ministry of Culture, the Tourism Attraction Board and the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association, who sponsored the first, second and third prizes, respectively.

At the check presentation, Dwayne Seymour, minister for culture, said, “I believe that for music and musicians to grow in the Cayman Islands we have to support our artists in a very substantial way.”

Patrick Thompson, director of the Tourism Attraction Board, said the agency was pleased that the minister had committed to sponsoring the competition, as that was the boost it needed to revive. “The TAB recognizes the need to invest in our local talent who will one day rise to be ambassadors of the Cayman Islands. This is one way for us to do so,” he added.

The National Song Competition had been a fixture at the Pirates Week Festival in earlier years, but had been absent from its calender for several years.

Festival Manager Melanie McField noted in a press release that with the injection of sponsorship from the three entities, the competition was met with enthusiasm. “We had over a dozen applicants this year and through the competition, we hope to encourage musicians to produce original songs that can be celebrated though our National Festival for years to come,” she said.

CMEA President Jean-eric “Notch” Smith is also hoping the event will become a catalyst for the continued development of local music. “The National Song Competition was one of the biggest highlights of the Pirates Week events of yesteryear; I’m really excited to see us bring this key component of the overall festival back,” he said in the release.

He added, “Through this partnership between the Ministry, the TAB and the CMEA we can better incentivise new and seasoned musicians to continue to create original regional compositions; adding to Cayman’s ever-growing cultural landscape through the creativity of music. I can’t wait for next year.”