Song Competition The September Celebrations schedule has been all but finalized – except for that major scheduling conflict we told you about on September 14th – when the Chamber Expo and the Carnival Road March are competing events.
But, before we get all the way there, the celebration season starts out on Saturday night with the national song competition.
That's become known as a hype event, with high production values, and Monica Bodden found out what's planned for this year:
Monica Bodden reporting
September Celebrations are right around the corner and what better way to kick off the festivities than with the annual National Song Competition.
Joseph Stamp Romero - Creative Arts Development Officer, ICA
"We are about two days from one of the biggest events, part of our Celebrations Calendar - the National Song Competition - that takes place on August 10th at the memorial park. You will see 18 contestants really throw it down, Belizean style, and they will walk away with titles. One in junior category for Belize song, one senior category for Belize song, the other one will be the Carnival song which of course will be one of those songs you hear playing a lot through the carnival road march and probably on that."
"Tell us, is there anything different this year?"
Joseph Stamp Romero
"Definitely, what we did with the juniors this year - we had our vocal trainer come in and she was a part of some of our arts program but she also worked with our contestants. They were allowed to have access to this vocal trainer and they were able to get tips on stage performance as well, so it was the juniors and the seniors - they were able to spend some time with Kelly and really find out how to really improve their performance in this competition."
She is known as the Soca Queen of Belize and today Ernestine is back in the country to defend her title.
Ernestine Carballo - Artist
"Hello Belize - I am back and I'm so happy to be home even though it's so hot, oh my goodness, I'm trying to readjust. In Los Angeles I was the headliner for the Belize Caye Fest that was on the July 7th that was at the Hollywood Park Casino with 501 band, Lady D, Sharifa - it was a wonderful experience. It is my second time back in LA so I had a lot of promotions, Carib Press, I ended up in the Hollywood Carnival meeting Marshall Montana - a lot of excitement and wonderful promotions. I did a performance in Long Beach and the list goes on, it was so many festivities and Belize Mix Radio and the interviews and all the autographs. When the people heard my name they rushed the stage and it was awesome, so I can't complain."
"Now, what brought you back home?"
"Well, of course Carnival because last year I was on the European tour and I had to tell Chicago and the committee at the Belize/Chicago day that I have to come back to Belize because I'm already obligated to this year's National Soca Competition - once again. You know everybody says 'Ernestine without you in Belize for Carnival, it's not the same'. I just want to big-up Chicago because I got nothing but love from Chicago."
Ernestine’s song is listed in the Carnival category. The name of her song is, 'Every Day For Me Is Carnival'
"Well you all already know the queen, you all gave me that name. Expect nothing but pure fire, pure excitement, straight up Belizean, hard/wicked/rough dancing, new steps - everything new, turn up."
"So how can people vote for your song?"
"Alright well you can go to www.mynationalsong.bz and click on Listen and vote and as you open the page you will see Ernestine Carballo at the top and my new song is 'Everyday for me is Carnival' - I changed the pace a little because you don't have to be jumping up fast every time for Carnival - slow it down a little bit. As you hear Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and Europe and all those countries - I have to reach out to the Caribbean and to the world and let them know that Belize is also Soca and we are a people of rhythm and we love everything that they love."
And then there are those first time competitors who can surely carry a note and are no strangers to Belize’s music industry.
Deborah Pitts - Artist
"It's our first time and you know there's a first for everything. I see it as something very prestigious to do something that represents Belize so I think it will be a good try for us and see how it goes."
"What category are you in?"
"We're in the senior Belize song competition"
Lisa Alvarez - Artist
"How about you? How did you decided to take part?"
"For the record, the song was written by Miss Deborah Pitts and I believe it's an excellent song that depicts Belize's culture, historically and even geographically. She asked me if I could be a part and I agreed and I'm very excited to ally with her on this."
The 18 artists are asking for your support in an online voting feature that will give them just a tiny boost in the competition.
Joseph Stamp Romero
"You can go to www.mynationalsong.bz and you can see your favorite artist on there and vote for your favorite song. We're looking for the most popular song on the site and we want to see which song played the most, which song had the most attention. We always try to encourage to tell them to go and vote for my song - the day of the competition, that's when everything goes down."
"What are some of the criteria’s that some of the judges will be looking for on Saturday night?"
Joseph Stamp Romero
"Definitely audience appeal - how the audience reacts to the song, what your bring to the stage as a performer, also the content- it's a Belize song - you have to be able to have a song that inspires the audience to feel that nationalism. The Belize song has a really difficult task because we will be looking keenly for those lyrics. The carnival competition is pretty much, bring the hype but of course the musicality of it, audience appeal is a big thing but it's really how you show case that song to the judges to the best of your ability."
And prizes include thousands of dollars and an opportunity to musically represent Belize abroad.
Joseph Stamp Romero
"This year we upped the anti, $6,000 is the first place but in the Belize song and the carnival (senior categories) $3,000 second place, and in the senior and carnival - they also get a video of their song and they are going to get a ticket to a festival that NICH identifies. So we’re really trying to get our artist more exposed to this particular competition. The juniors walk away with $1,500 for first place and $1000 for second place and they get a chance to work on some tracks, courtesy of NICH."
The National Song Competition will be held at the Memorial Park on Saturday– and admission is free. The show starts at 7:00.