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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Hol(e)y Budget.

Ah yes, today is Budget Day in Trinidad and our Prime Minister has just finished a very long, tedious budget presentation. The newspapers will list all the details of what The Budget entails, however I think that the fact that alcohol is going to be taxed additionally will have a direct effect on the all-inclusive bands and their justification for raising costume prices.

Local and regional beers and rum will be taxed at 15% while international beers, rum and other spirits will incur a hefty 30% tax!! That means that all the "premium" drinks promised by these all-inclusive bands will either dwindle, and we will be lucky if we see Alzie or Hypnotiq flowing like water, or the mas bands will backup the hike in costume prices by saying they are now incurring higher costs to provide alcoholic beverages to their masqueraders.

I tell you more and more all-inclusive bands are becoming less and less attractive!And you can only imagine the prices of all-inclusive fetes for 2007, this year I was shocked at prices for Lara and Headley's fete, but it looks like for 2007 those fetes might be costing the same as a costume in a small band! Lara's fete was $1200.00 this year while Headley's started at $1000.00, with CAREC not backward at $650.00 and Amnesia (which I went to ) at $450.00, I can safely say Amnesia was a waste of money! Hopefully TRIBE will give their masqueraders a discount to their all-inclusive fete Bliss, which was $350.00 this year for members, or else I am not paying to attend any all-inclusives for 2007.

Additionally cigarettes will be taxed at 15% effective immediately so for all those smokers out there , stock up from today. The best part of the budget for me was that the Prime Minister has suddenly realized the ill effects of gambling on the country so all the casinos have to comply to laws that state they must operate as a private members club, no more slot machines are allowed and online gambling will be phased out.. that's right no more play whe or lotto!! The only get rich scheme the average man has now is to join politics.

I dub this Budget the Hol(e)y Budget since the government is seemingly on a mission to release the country from the grip of all these "vices" without addressing the big issues of rising food prices and crime! The only positive coming out of this budget is that there are concessions for mortgages hopefully making it easier for more people to afford their own homes.

And with all this talk I heard nothing about promoting our culture or establishing some sort of archive for our Carnival History, but I guess Carnival is also a vice that they might soon be seeking to cure. I just hope they don't decide to pull a Gulliani and try to "clean up" Carnival as well, seeing as they want to string a halo around Trinidad and Tobago or is that wool they trying to pull over our eyes?

You can read more on the Budget here at Breaking News.

Mas Prices too High.. complaints reach the media!

The TnT Mirror has been the only newspaper so far to report on the complaints of mas prices, even though several media houses were sent letters by disgruntled masqueraders. The following is that article:

Mas prices too high!

Masqueraders complain about ‘overpricing’ and ‘segregation of classes’ by some leading Carnival bands
T&T Carnival is by far becoming too expensive!

That’s the cry from scores of anxious overseas players who say from the look of things many of them might not make it home for Carnival 2007.

“Too costly,” is how one irate “foreigner” described the present scenario.

She explained it was the “overpricing” that caused many of them not to come home for C2K6.

“These days it seems as though you no longer could save enough to come home for Carnival,” she lamented.

“I’m telling you things like airfare, accommodation -- if you don’t have family to stay by -- costumes, parties ... just about everything get so expensive.

“We have been talking among ourselves up here (New York) and what we have realised is that more and more people who have their hearts set on coming home are being turned off because of the cost of Carnival today.”

The Carnival fever is definitely in the air as the majority of big name bands already launched for C2K7, and across the world, Carnival lovers are feeling it.

It’s the reason those concerned have began lashing out at the promoters and bandleaders who have quietly increased their prices.

“Fete prices doubled in 2005/2006 and put a major dent in patrons pockets,” she went on.

“When people come to Trinidad for Carnival they want to experience all and have a ball.

She then asked, “but how can one do that if the prices increase dramatically?”

The avid masquerader, who takes pride in promoting the greatest show on earth, further slammed not only what she called “ridiculous prices of costumes,” but also what she identified as “segregation of classes and unaccommodating nature” by some of the leading bands.

“Those practices that have been slowly creeping into some of the more popular bands and have left a negative taste for many locals and non locals,” she continued.

“The working-class people are not able to participate, they have set a bar where only the elite are participants.

“They are even more annoyed that they face discrimination as overseas players.

“Do you know if you are not living here, you can’t make a downpayment. You are expected to pay the full cost at registration?”

She accused many of the “guilty” bandleaders of “not caring about the art form, the history and beauty of our sacred festival”.

“To them it is all about the money generating out of producing a band.

“Once bandleaders’ main focus becomes fixated on the revenue generated by bringing out a band, opposed to developing and being part of the culture, it takes away from the festival and the rustic charm, which for many years have drawn people to this island.”

She fears that if the trend continues prospective masqueraders will go elsewhere.

“Observe how the Bajans are always in Trinidad promoting Crop Over and inviting people to come over,” she went on.

“If this overpricing in Carnival continues, many of us will choose to go Barbados where it’s less expensive and you can almost get the same experience if not better,” she warned.

The overseas players are begging for the intervention of National Carnival Bandleaders’ Association (NCBA) and Tourism Development Company (TDC).

“Many of us are very upset at the way 2007 is panning out,” she ended.

Hopefully other newspapers and feature writers like Terry Joseph can also address the issue at hand and lend some space in the daily newspapers to this concern just as they made a big fuss over the size discrimination in Tribe last year. It would also be impressive if the bandleaders give their" side" of the story and let us masqueraders know the reasons for the price hike as well as the new policies currently implimented for potential overseas masquerders. I am waiting paitently for the other shoe to drop.

Carnival is for Gays Too

The travel package being offered by Nubian Kinghts brought back memories of the uproar over the launch of Island Events 2006 Presentation for, Mardi Gras which was held at an alleged gay bar and featured male models in drag displaying female costumes. Michelle Khan, partner of IslandEvents, came out in defense of the Band's stand and gave her side of the story in the Sunday Punch. The following is that article:

HIGH-profile mas team has slammed critics who have taken them to task for using gays in last Sunday’s launch of their C2K6 presentation, Mardi Gras!

Saying that Carnival is for gays too, former beauty queen-turned- Carnival bandleader, Michelle Khan, is strong in her defence of the popular drag queens who performed in the major production which introduced the eight sections of Mardi Gras on the stage at the O’Beach Club, Cocorite.

A former Miss Trinidad and Tobago, Khan, now into her second year as a bandleader, insisted that she did nothing wrong by allowing the talented “ladies” on stage.

She has even promised to work again with Sean Edwards, well-known designer and producer for the launch, and the person who prepared the talented “ladies” for their respective parts.

Side by side they perform
(drag queen on left).

“I’m not phased by what is being said, as a matter of fact, I can’t wait to work with him again,” a defiant Khan told Sunday PUNCH.

“Whatever is being said now is pure mischief and an attack on

“Sean did such a fantastic presentation and we all loved it.”

Khan said after a successful launch for 2005, in which a dance group was used, decided to do theatre, and so gave the job to Edwards.

A former Miss Queen of Queens and “her”
colleagues go through their paces.

“Last year we used the Metamorphosis Dance Company, this year we gave Sean the responsibility and we are all satisfied with what he did. We wanted theatre and that’s just what we got.”

The “ladies of the night” featured prominently on stage drawing oohs and aahs from the medium-sized crowd from the moment they came on stage singing and dancing.

Drag queens surround Mardi Gras models.

Most of the drag queens involved in the Mardi Gras production were part of the recent Miss Queen of Queens 2005, the premiere show in the gay community.

Edwards is also the promoter of that beauty pageant.

A former Miss Queen of Queens did MC duties on the night.

Sources told Sunday PUNCH that some patrons became upset when they realised the cast doing the routine on stage was in fact gay men.

They expressed their views publicly.

Khan noted that was not promoting homosexuality.

“In fact, in IslandEvents we do not discriminate,” she said, as she took pains to explain.

“We welcome people from all walks of life in our band.

“If you are Black or White, if your are wealthy, from the grass-roots, fat or thin, be part of our band.”

Khan warned that Island Events is here to stay and so-called detractors would not take them off-track.

“Douglas (Gordon) has been sitting quietly in the background and one thing we are sure of, we will not disappear,” she chuckled.

“I’m really taking this thing as a big joke.”

Each year gays flock the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans.

What do you guys think, is Trinidad society ready and /or willing for our Carnival to attract the same element as "Mardi Gras" in New Orelans?

Carnival Packages for Alternative Lifestyles

I am quite aware that a few companies provide package tours to Trinidad for Carnival; these packages usually include airfare, accommodation, party tickets and/or a costume. While it may seem like the "tourist" thing to do since many visitors for Carnival are returning Trinidadians who stay with friends or family and may not need what the package offers, it is slowly becoming a viable business as proven by my recent discovery of a Carnival package exclusively for gay men!

The company providing this service is Nubian Knights and according to their website :

"Nubian Knights has been meeting the gay community on the beaches of the world for over 13 years. If there's sand on the beach, you will find Nubian Knights. Nubian Knights was established by Levi Ray Johnson in 1993 to develop and market travel products for gay men of all races. Most of the trips are private tours that are not promoted online. We are the first African American Gay Tour Company to offer REFUNDABLE deposits on vacations with payment arrangements. By 1998, Nubian Knights became the largest full-time tour operator and travel agency, devoted to African American Men and those who love them. Please be advised that women are always welcome."

No details are released on their website as to exactly what the package entails, however they are doing a pre-registration , I assume to get an idea of the interest Trinidad Carnival will generate among their customers. If you are interested in knowing , the package is from February 17th to 22nd, arriving in Trinidad on Carnival Saturday and leaving the following Thursday. The estimated cost is $1500.00 and the trip is recommended for "the wild, the wicked and non-stop party goers."

It is refreshing to learn that our Carnival is appealing to a wider market, which should make the Ministry of Tourism happy since the more visitors we can attract for Carnival the better, and I have to say my curiosity is peaked. I want to know if this is the first time Nubian Knights will be visiting Trinidad Carnival, what parties they patronize, if the tour includes playing mas and if so with what band? However I know although my personal beliefs allows me to be quite accepting to the fact that a tour like this is being organised openly, not everyone might feel the same way, especially seeing that this is a country still deeply rooted in religious values.

On that note, I would love to hear what everyone else thinks, so go check out the website and come back and give me some feedback.
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