by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 18, 2023
The Bliss Center for the Performing Arts came alive with musical talent during the National Song Competition held on Friday, September 15.
Eight artists, whose musical pieces were selected from a pool of over 20 submissions, graced the stage on Friday night; however, by the end of the evening, it was Marlyn Vansen’s captivating performance that took center stage and secured her the victory.
This year’s performers consisted of a diverse mix of artists, including Cecil “Cocono Bwai” Jenkins (a 4-time winner in 2015/16 and 2018/19), Denzel Charley, Tyrone Usher, Harley “Echo” Middleton, Marlyn Vansen, Sam Harris, Sharon “Bad Gyal” Martinez, and Kernelle “Nello Player” Parks (3-time winner in 2012/13/14). Each of them showcased their musical talents, backed by their dynamic bands and dancers. (The duo Denise Castillo and Alexander Evans captured the prize in 2017.)
It was Marlyn Vansen’s heartfelt rendition of her original song “B E L I Z E” that earned her the honor of being the first recipient of the BZ $20,000 prize.
“All of us at the National Celebrations Commission (NCC) feel that we have to value our artists, and we can’t keep shortchanging our artists. They put a lot of effort, a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of creativity into creating these songs, so we have to reward them properly,” expressed the chairman of the NCC, Hon. Francis Fonseca.
The National Song Competition was last conducted in-person in 2019 (due to COVID-19), and was to have been rotated yearly among the districts in order to foster inclusivity and expand the audience. Winners were then recognized in varied categories. However, this year’s focus shifted from just celebration anthems. The emphasis was on encapsulating the Belizean experience—its heritage, stories, and historical significance.
Kim Vasquez, Director of the Institute of Creative Arts (ICA), shared her vision with Kremandala reporters earlier this year. “We’re not going patriotic and carnival. We’re not having those categories; we are just looking for a really good Belizean song,” she said.
Marlyn Vansen’s victory is particularly moving, given her personal challenges. After a two-year hiatus from the music scene due to her fight against Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a debilitating disease affecting motor functions and vision, Vansen made an inspirational comeback.
Despite facing challenges like joint pains, heavy limbs, and daily seizures, her resilience shone brightly. Fresh off her performance at the Belikin Bash 2023, Vansen’s win is a testament to her invincible spirit.
She took to Facebook to express her gratitude stating, “NEVER DOUBT THE POWER OF GOD! All praise and Glory to him in Jesus Name!”
Hon. Francis Fonseca also celebrated Vansen’s triumph on social media, commending her spirited performance and poignant lyrics. “Congratulations to Marlyn Vansen on earning the title of National Song Competition 2023 Champion, taking home the grand prize of $20,000. Her performance was energetic and inspiring, and her song lyrics were meaningful and uplifting,” he said.
We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Marlyn Vansen and commend all participants for their impressive performances at the National Song Competition this year.