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Iwer tops COTT awards nominees

By Terry Joseph
November 14, 2003

Neil "Iwer" George is up for four awards and could well be receiving the top trophy from President George Maxwell Richards, when the Copyright Organisation (COTT) holds its first such ceremony since 2001 at Queen's Hall.

Awards for the missing year will also be presented when this year's ceremony gets underway at 8 pm on November 20. In all, trophies in 13 categories will be handed to COTT's top performers.

The event also presents live performances from 12 top-drawer acts, including Iwer, Imij & Co, The Mighty Sparrow, Sherwin Gardner, Devanand Gatoo, H2O Phlo, JMC Triveni, Metamorphosis Dance Compaly, Gillian Moor, Adesh Samaroo and the Rio Suave Parang Group. COTT members will pay half-price ($50) admission for the gala.

President Richards will present awards to Songwriter of the Year (the member whose songs overall attracted the largest royalties figure) and Song of the Year (the most played song) for both 2001 and 2002. Iwer is well poised in both categories in both years, coming up against Shadow twice, with David Rudder the third contestant in 2001 and Bunji Garlin in his place for 2002.

Started in 1998 to replace the Nafeita Awards that had been scrapped some seven years earlier, the COTT Awards could not be staged last year because of a shortage of funds. On joining the collection agency as chief executive officer last January, Allison Demas was determined to reinstate the event and has managed to pull it off, with significant help from bpTT, this year's golden sponsor.

Speaking yesterday to The Express, Demas said she felt it was a responsibility of the agency to make public its best performing members.

"The way we have structured the awards, trophies reflect achievement. It is not our function to make value judgements about the work, so it is not like the Emmys or Oscars but rather, a statement of the frequency with which the songs involved have been aired," Demas said.

"The primary business of the Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) is the protection of original works of music performed either in live or recorded format in this country, implicit in that arrangement is collection and administration/disbursement of royalties for its members.

"We felt that those members who do best should be known to all and the awards ceremony would not only make that information public but reward them in a way that provides a lasting personal record of their achievements.

"In a country that still has to complain-and regularly so-about the frequency with which local music is played on the voice and vision media, it is important to establish which of our artistes are best hurdling that problem both here and abroad and that is what we are about with the COTT Awards, which also doubles as a testimony to our vigilance," Demas said. Indeed, COTT is the leading collecting society in the Caribbean region (by income and ancillary services), housing the headquarters of the Caribbean Copyright Link (CCL), the umbrella body for all such agencies in the English-speaking Caribbean, a forum also chaired by Demas.

COTT's membership comprises composers in all music genres, including rock, salsa, chutney, parang, calypso, soca, spoken word and gospel, with some 17,000 such works in its portfolio to date. By extension (and through a number of reciprocal agreements worldwide, COTT represents over 17 million works altogether.

With affiliation to SESAC of the USA, Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), The Performing Rights Society (PRS) of the UK, Barbados' COSCAP and Jamaica's JACAP (among others), COTT is also a member of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) and is recognised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

The awards are exclusively for creators of works and does not reward those who simply perform other people's compositions. The criterion is straightforward, based on empirical evidence, mainly from broadcast media both here and abroad.

The only exceptions are the Golden Achievement Award, which is based on performance activity during the period since COTT's inception-from 1985 to the present, and the Special Recognition Award for Treasured Licensee, which is based on compliance and proven readiness to co-operate with COTT by the prompt payment of licence fees.

"Although in some cases the performer and creator of the work may be the same person, the diversification in the music industry has led to super-specialists, the singers concentrating on that input while creators stay in the backrooms writing the songs. It is the latter category we will be saluting on November 20," Demas said.

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