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Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (Tuco) President Lutalo Masimba (Bro Resistance)

BOBIE-LEE DIXON

([email protected])

President of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO), Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba is calling on the Government to appoint an inter-ministerial team to focus specifically on the entertainment and creative sectors in T&T.

Masimba made the statement, during an interview with Guardian Media, after it was asked what were his recommendations following a lengthy press release his organisation issued on Thursday, depicting the multiple challenges the industry was currently facing.

He believes the team should comprise the Ministries of Culture, Trade and Industry, Tourism, Social Development, and Finance.

He said if this inter-ministerial body existed, then it could look at the various aspects that are connected to this sector and find ways to address the issues at fore.

Masimba said no sector contributing to the GDP of T&T was to be left behind in this time.

He reckoned now was also the time to show true patriotism and support for the nation’s people who make up the entertainment and creative sectors by showcasing their work via the airwaves—radio and television. This he said could garner some financial relief through royalties, to those in the sectors greatly affected by the current economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masimba noted 80 per cent of foreign music by foreign composers and entertainers was what our local radio stations play and when it comes to distribution that 80 per cent of the collection that is made, it has to be converted to $US to be able to distribute to the foreign market.

He contested, at a time like this where the spirits of the people of this nation and that of artistes needed lifting, why hasn’t this been done.

He also contended, for the sector, it was not as easy as turning a key and opening a business place.

“That is our concern because even after the Government has rolled out phase six, the sector would still be impacted by the need for physical distancing—gatherings cannot be more than five persons. So after the crisis, we will still have a crisis,” he lamented.

He reiterated the rippling effect the situation had on the sector where many within the industry have and would continue to be greatly affected.

TUCO’s release on Thursday said, “The people who are actively engaged in the entertainment sector and creative arts are people too and saving their livelihood is deeply and directly connected to saving their lives. They have rent to pay, mortgages, bank loans, children to mind and send to school and food to put on their table. Desperation and distress looms on the horizon as to the prospect of our nation’s creatives and entertainment practitioners being directed to a place where they have to put on their mask to hide their face and fall in line for a hamper or set up themselves for a relief grant from the government just to get through.”

Asked if TUCO had in fact encountered artistes reaching out to the organisation for any financial help at this time, Masimba said through the organisation’s welfare committee, TUCO went to artistes who were in need and provided hampers as well as financial support where needed.

He explained, TUCO had a database of its members and has always supported and met the needs of those members who were economically and socially distressed. So they would have had an idea of those who may have been in greater need during this time.

“We don’t want to see these artistes in a line round by Living Waters, waiting… we don’t want to see that. That would have an impact upon those who even have, so we want to maintain the dignity of these artistes from being disgraced,” said Masimba.

He said it should be clearly understood that even prior to the pandemic, the entertainment sector and the creative industries, have been in a somewhat under-facilitated space. And the pandemic just magnified this ugly truth.

“Now that we are talking recovery and we are supposed to all be in this together. There should be a specific type of framework that should encourage the rekindling of the entertainment sector as a valid industry, which makes a continuous contribution to this country’s GDP,” Masimba rehashed.

Some in the sector weigh in

Film makers Collaborative of T&T (FILMCO)

Speaking on behalf of FILMCO, film, and screenwriter Danielle Dieffenthaller said it has been pointing its members to the government grants and incentives because most of them who were already suffering from a lack of work we in even more dire straits now.

“We are currently working out guidelines to assist crews with going back to work but the perennial problem is a lack of funding will still persist. The government could funnel some funds toward the creation of content as they did in the past when the TTFC (T&T Film Company) existed. This could stimulate the sector. (Film and television specifically) They could also continue to license local and regional programmes for TTL (Tourism Trinidad Limited), which was another stimulant. As we’ve seen content is at a premium now and we need to be in the game of content creation and distribution. We are also working on a hardship fund for our members.”

Soca artiste Sherwin “Menace” Jeremiah

“This COVID-19 situation affected me in a serious way like many in the music industry who depend on entertainment for most of their income. All shows cancelled foreign and locally. Only time will tell when, or once things get better gradually artistes could get back on the road. Right now it has no ‘big man in the business or big man in the ting,’ because everybody home nobody is special in this crisis…nobody bigger than nobody. I would say though, it might be harder for some because of not every artiste in the same situation financially. If people can’t gather, we can’t perform live, deejays can’t play to an empty hall.”