Controversy Over Inclusion of National Anthem in Soca Song by Neil ‘Iwer’ George

Iwer George
Trinidad and Tobago soca artiste Neil ‘Iwer’ George

Neil “Iwer” George, a renowned soca artiste, has ignited controversy with his latest Carnival 2024 release, “Happy People,” which incorporates the National Anthem of Trinidad and Tobago. Co-written with Ken Marlon Charles (KMC), the song has sparked a debate over the use of national symbols in artistic expressions. The song, which begins with a rendition of the National Anthem, has been met with mixed reactions, including outrage on social media. Despite its growing views and likes online, the inclusion of the anthem has raised questions about respect and legality.

Retired Brigadier General and former national security minister Carl Alfonso described the usage of the anthem’s lyrics as disrespectful, though not necessarily illegal. He speculated that the incorporation of the anthem might be a strategy to generate buzz around the song. The Culture Minister, Randall Mitchell, also weighed in, stating that while there’s no specific law governing the anthem’s use, its long-established protocol should be regarded as sacrosanct. He emphasized that creative license is no excuse for breaking with this protocol, considering it in poor taste.

The Copyright Music Organisation of T&T (COTT) clarified that the anthem, being a state-owned work, falls outside its purview. Any copyright infringements or related issues would be addressed by the state. This incident is not the first time the National Anthem’s rendition has been a subject of controversy in Trinidad and Tobago. In 2019, then-President Paula Mae Weekes criticized an altered performance of the anthem, emphasizing that it must be sung in its original form and accorded the utmost respect.

The official page of the Office of the President outlines the protocol for the anthem, highlighting the respect and attention it should command when played. As discussions continue, “Happy People” by Neil “Iwer” George remains a topic of debate, reflecting the delicate balance between artistic freedom and the reverence for national symbols.

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