Mixed reactions to Call to Order anti-crime initiative

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Entertainer Ziggy Rankin sings his verse in the hit song The Call, alongside fellow artistes Mr King, Prophet Benjamin, King David and Isasha, at the launch of the Call To Order initiative by the Ministry of National Security, at City hall, port of Spain on Monday. – Angelo Marcelle

There are mixed views on the possibility of success for the government’s latest anti-crime initiative titled the Call to Order project.

The initiative was inspired by The Call, a locally produced reggae song by Isasha, Mr King, Ziggy Ranking, Prophet Benjamin and King David in which they call for an end to the wave of gang violence sweeping TT.

Call to Order, a three-month-long competition, will see youth between eight and 24 record videos of them singing their own lyrics, using the instrumental for The Call and upload the videos to Instagram.

The contestants will be grouped into three age categories – eight-12, 13-19 and 20-24 – and the winners will be those who receive the most likes and shares.

The winner of each age group will receive studio time and a professional music video valued at $10,000.

Although it is an anti-crime initiative aimed at addressing gang violence, it has seen mixed reactions with one person on social media even dubbing it “Crime Idol.”

Hours after the project was launched on Monday, UNC shadow minister for national security and MP for Oropouche East Dr Roodal Moonilal told Newsday, “I don’t think we could sing our way out of crime.”

He said money should be spent instead on basic resources for the police which are necessary to deal with crime.

“Regular patrols, not only in the day, but in the night as well. These are the bread-and-butter issues (Hinds) has to deal with.”

Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Criminologist Darius Figuera also questioned whether there was any proof that music “drives criminality.”

“If there is no evidence that shows the causal connection between music of a specific type and criminology, then what we are doing is simply putting out songs on the airway that its content is supposed to convince people not to do crime.”

He suggested any move away from gang culture was a social issue as music and social media were not enough by themselves to convince people to change.

“The decision to take a certain action springs from how you are socialised. And if (gangs) are socialising successive generations to adopt their culture and their world view, what difference then would a song make?”

One of the artistes involved in the project has dismissed the negative comments around the initiative.

Ziggy Ranking described people who criticised the project as “naysayers.”

“It wasn’t surprising to me that (negative) comments were made. I think naysayers were supposed to do that, just to stay in character. But music is a very, very powerful thing. I myself, back in the days with certain gang leaders, we would use the music to calm the place.”

He said he was part of a project named It Must Work which targeted youth in Harpe Place.

“We were part of that project. Myself, King David, Mister King, and the music used to help. We would go into the communities and talk to the youth.

“Music is a very powerful thing. It all depends on the message in the music and certain types of music put forward certain things. Sometimes before men go out and do what they have to do, they will listen to a certain type of music, to psych them up and give them that type of energy.

MusicTT general manager Melissa Jimenez shared similar sentiments and contradicted the suggestion that music alone could not influence people.

“Music has the power to heal, raise awareness, and even incite destruction. It is an incredibly powerful medium. History and trends clearly show this, particularly in the realm of healing, where music therapists play a crucial role.

She said while music could not completely stop crime, it can be a valuable layer of psychological preventative work.

“It contributes to the positivity, healing, and uplifting of communities and nations. Music reaches both the heart and mind, ensuring that the intended message reaches those who need it.

“Like gospel music or tabanca music, not every song speaks to everyone, but sometimes, a single song can profoundly resonate with someone based on their life circumstances.”

Moonilal said he did not believe music would motivate criminals to put down their guns as there were already many songs calling for an end to gun violence.

“While that is laudable and something we compliment artistes for doing – I am not sure that will drive down the rate of murder and serious criminal offences.”

However, Ziggy Ranking said trying to make a change was better than doing nothing.

“It don’t make sense everybody sit back and saying, ‘music wouldn’t do this.’ We have to try, and we have to make the effort. It’s about action over words. There is nothing to lose by trying.

“We have to change the narrative and encourage the positive music and positivity in the communities. If they will have a second thought, they would think about it because everybody wants life over death. So we first have to give them the opportunity, and we have to do what we have to do to try and make a change.”

Jimenez added, “The world can never have enough positivity.”