The Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes (OCPA) is a non-profit organization, which was founded in 1981 by a group of community-based individuals who saw the need for an umbrella group to guide the growth and development of the calypso art form in Toronto and Canada. Its mandate, as set out in its Constitution and By?Laws is to promote the art form of story telling, social and political commentary, and comedy in song; to promote calypso in Toronto and beyond; to facilitate the growth, development and the sharing of the calypso art form with all cultures and to administer competitions which embraces the calypso art form. The organization is open to all that are interested in calypso for any reason.
A ten-member Board of Directors, which in turn, assigns individuals to specific functions (offices), manages the business of OCPA. Elections are held yearly, at which five members are elected for two-year terms. The members of the Board may, or may not be active performing artistes, but must be members of the organization. What they all share is the ability to function effectively in their administrative roles, and more importantly, their direct interest in contributing to the growth of the calypso movement.
Until 1996, OCPA not only staged the Calypso Monarch competition, but also managed the calypso tents . In 1997, due to the rapid growth in members expressing a desire to perform, the organization advocated for, and sought entrepreneurial partners to take over the administration and management of tents. Three such groups were founded and resulted in the extension of the season for many more practitioners . The increase in the number of tents offered variety, which peaked the interests of lovers of the art form. As a consequence, the attendance of the Calypso Monarch finals that year exceeded the capacity of the venue where the event had been held for many years, and in 1998, the final was moved to a larger venue.
That entrepreneurial spirit lasted just two years, when it became quite evident that there were no monies to be made from Calypso tents in Canada. Calypsonians quickly realized, that if the tents are to survive they themselves would not only have to continue making the financial sacrifices, but also be charged with the administration of the tents.
The appeal of Calypso music in Toronto and Canada has increased during the past five years. Indications of the rising popularity among the wider multicultural community are evident in the requests to participate in other cultural events, such as the Mariposa festival, the Hot and Spicy festival at Harbour Front, and the Ralph Thornton Community festival to name a few.
The music has a haunting beat and incorporates many different rhythms. At the centre of this is the artiste who uses this backdrop to paint his or her story. Whether it is commentary on local issues, philosophical views on international topics or plain comedy, the artiste delivers information and entertainment in song.
?Hot, Hot, Hot? has been a staple for many years at most social events in Canada, and for a few months in 2001, ?Who Let The Dogs Out?, a Grammy Award winner of Best Dance recording, was a world-wide phenomena.
OCPA has produced performers comparable to those anywhere in the world, like Jayson the 1991 Juno Award winner; Beginner, Victorio, Lady Pearl, Guney, Macomere Fifi, Connector and many more. In addition to performing in Canada, many of the OCPA members participate, and compete favourably in tents and competitions in their original lands of birth, as well as in The United States of America. OCPA can count among its ranks, several winners of the Miami International Calypso Monarch competition and The New York Calypso Monarch competition.
OCPA is mindful of the importance of youth involvement, not only for sustaining growth, but also for keeping the music alive, without which, a festival such a Caribana loses one of the three essential organs crucial to its existence. , Mas , Pan , and Calypso are equally the essential components of any Carnival.
Even though OCPA struggles under a financial burden, it is steadfast in its commitment of developing the art form by focusing on youth participation and development, and creating opportunities for learning and growth through demonstrations, lectures and forums.
Caribana, Mas and Pan, as well as the wider community are the beneficiaries of this work, but does not share the responsibility or cost. On the contrary, the financial benefits which are available to Calypso is more often than not, awarded to foreign artistes who bear no responsibility to the City, Province or Country.
OCPA has been guided and shaped by its commitment to be an active and supportive leader in the development and promotion of Calypso music in our community and beyond. As a consequence, OCPA has been successful in attracting a diversity in its membership, which is reflected in its overall-performing cast. Performers as young as six years old along side veterans of many years. In 2001, twenty percent of performers were female, and fifteen percent of performers were 21 years of age or younger.
OCPA has evolved from a trusteeship position, to an administrative operating body which drives the development of calypso in Toronto. Its many functions have made OCPA a vibrant institution which continues to breathe new life into the Calypso art form, not only in Canada, but also provide quality practitioners to other countries such as USA, UK, and the Caribbean.
Throughout this growth and development, there are the ongoing struggles which not only leave the Calypsonians under-compensated, but also under a severe financial strain, just to pursue their craft. Without this sacrifice, there would be no Calypso season in Toronto. The average singer has to invests $3,000 - $4,000 per season just to perform. A recording more than doubles that.
The performer is constantly at an impasse, a recording maybe too expensive to contemplate, but it may be the only source of support, as well as being an excellent way of showcasing their talents.
The tents have not fared much better. While attendance have increased, each tent continues to record deficits due to necessary expenditures such as; Bands, Sound Engineers, Advertising, Venues etc., in order to present a professional image, and OCPA as the parent body, does not have the financial means to help. The result is an added burden on the Calypsonians.
Without the ability to contribute significantly to research and development, OCPA can not hope to maintain the interest of the youth, which is paramount for sustaining growth. On the contrary, it can expect a rapid depletion due to spiralling cost, and unfortunately, the reduction will be greatest amongst the youth who are less able to absorb the exorbitant costs associated with performing.
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Subject: Calypso in Canada
Dear Friends: Here are the latest developments in Toronto's Calypso community. Since October 29th a newly-installed Board, which I am privileged to serve as President, has been working hard to develop plans for 2007, to deal with unfinished business from the last Board, and to put in place a few things that arts organizations need to grow and prosper. Our overall goal will be to develop new opportunities for calypsonians and all those involved in the creation, production, presentation, promotion and enjoyment of Calypso. In doing this we will build on the hard work of the many who have contributed to OCPA before and we will create a community asset that will serve all those, young and old, who wish to advance their involvement in this wonderful art form. First, we will address the long-standing need for a central office to house OCPA and give us the professional tools to conduct our business and deal with others. Needless time is wasted in transition from one group of volunteers to another because of the lack of a central place to keep important records and to conduct the organization‚s affairs. Contact information for OCPA changes as the members of the Board change and this instability and lack on continuity keeps OCPA from realizing its potential and meeting the challenges of a growing arts organization. It time to put down some roots. Second, we will appoint an Advisory Board of senior members - persons with knowledge and experience from whom we can benefit. We will consult with this group from time to time on our plans and seek their advice, guidance and support. Third, we are undertaking a membership drive to regain OCPA‚s level of community support we have lost. To be successful an arts organization must have the involvement of not only performing artists, but also the wider Calypso-loving community of composers, arrangers, producers, technicians, promoters, retailers, event patrons, volunteers, and so on. Their membership in OCPA, is critical to forming a dynamic community that can bring ideas and opportunities to the table. Performing artists will still have the spotlight but their ultimate success rest on the efforts of all who are encouraged to contribute to putting them there. Our organization must be open and inclusive. Forth, we will forge partnerships with other arts and cultural organizations in order to make the best use of OCPA‚s resources. Investing wisely the monies granted to us by hard-working taxpayers is a very big responsibility and we intend to be fiscally prudent, accountable, and innovative as we examine at how we can best obtain the greatest return for this investment. Our 2007 programme will build on the successes in the past and seek to expand Calypso‚s reach and influence in Canada and abroad. I wish you all blessing for the Holidays and good health and prosperity for the New Year. We look forward to your support and seeing you at our exciting 2007 events. Roger Gibbs, President, OCPA (Organization of Calypso Performing Artists)
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