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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Making a way for Carnival

Editor at Large, Keith Smith of the Trinidad Express has an excellent article today on the issue of the Savannah stage and comments made by Culture Minister, Edward Hart on the proposal to have "mas on the move":

Supposing there's no Carnival next year. "Now we only supposing," as the calypsonian Composer once sang in what the old Dave Elcock would have described as a "delightful ditty", that what Lloyd Best once called "the central rite of the civilisation" does not take place in 2007 - at least in the form to which we have become accustomed.

Already, the Minister in the Ministry of Culture, Eddie Hart, has reaffirmed the Government's, which is to say Prime Minister Patrick Manning's determination that no Carnival feet will set foot in the Savannah, Mr Manning fed up with the old "horse shed" and persuaded, for all I know, by Benny Hinn that the place is crawling with demons, Hinn expostulating in his ear:

"I see dragons, imps and devils - my word, they are blue rather than black - and I see women gyrating in a most sinful way and men staggering in their cups - Good Lord, devils and devils by the dozens!"

Seriously, though, the Savannah is out and nobody knows what is in. Well, if Mr Kenny de Silva and the rest of his NCC colleagues know they are not telling, which I find difficult to believe, men of their experience knowing full well that Carnival is upon us, dragons breathing down our necks and minstrels crooning in our ears, to say nothing of the fiery likes of panmen like "Boogsie" Sharpe and "Wire" Austin hot on the Panorama trail.

I hear tell that Mr Hart has said that mas is for the road but I don't know if, like Archimedes or whomever, this is to be taken as a "eureka!" moment, meaning that next year's mas will now go not into but around the Savannah as the old John Humphrey has long suggested, the "world's biggest roundabout" (Humphrey again) ringed with bleachers, the crowds (hopefully) cheering, steupsing or maybe just sleeping as MacFarlane, Trini Revellers and the rest make their way unimpeded (again hopefully) around the Savannah circle.

Is either that, I suppose, or mas along the foreshore on the way to the Stadium, a move that would move me almost to tears since it would mean carrying the mas even further west but here, if the truth be told, I may very well be guilty of cultural bias, mas for me from boyhood incorporating the colourful steaminess of Nelson and George and Piccadilly streets, now allegedly "high risk areas" and leaving the door open for those who don't understand, as the Bajans do, that Carnival is of the people, men, women and children packed in the yards and the "galleries" and on the sidewalks, waving and shouting and serving drinks as they watch their costumed "friends" pass by.

All of this speculation on my (our?) part would have been avoided if the new state-of-the-art Carnival centre had been delivered on time as promised but not a boom has been raised or heard, for that matter (and this being seemingly the new style in Trinidad and Tobago, nobody has taken the responsibility of telling us what's the matter) so I guess Carnival next year will have to catch as catch can, which may not necessarily be such a bad thing, necessity having to power the imagination and what, pray tell, is the Trinidad Carnival but imagination taken to the nth power.

Again if the truth be told, I am not the least bothered simply because, for me, Carnival has never been the official infrastructure and certainly not the competitions. I am not knocking either but, maybe - just maybe - there may be something sane about reverting to a pared down festival. Take all the pending Panorama prize money and split it among the steelbands in accordance with a ranking system and let them play pan up and down and all around, let the calypsonians and soca artistes sing in their tents and the fetes even as we hear their CDs on radio or along lines of bar-owning DJs on the streets or play them (legally purchased!) from our entertainment centres ("entertainment centres" - what a development from the days of black and white TV and "Blaupunkt radiograms" before that!), all melding into the making of merry mayhem, free of rules and regulations and points and judges at this point and that point.

I say to you - what unregulated fun! Not that it will ever happen, of course just as, regrettably, in this KFC town, we will never get back to black pudding sizzling pungently on Park Street, Carnival now having its own built-in establishment, all those people who have to be paid, all those interest groups for whom Carnival is an annual raison d'etre, all those thousands of folk for whom Carnival is a structured event and not a spontaneous general wine-down, the mas made personal - you or the two or three of you with a bad, which is to say good, head in a street crowd, dancing in the old-time spirit of gay (ooops!) abandon, time standing still and the lime laughing in the sun, rain or wind.

For those of you wishing to voice your complaints and displeasure about the Savannah situation and wish to make a petition to have a Savannah "Langniappe" for 2007 Carnival, here is a list of the relevant media and Government bodies to whom you can address written complaints by email or fax:

Fax#: 868-625-8362







HOTT 93:




Mr. Terry Joseph
Public Relations Officer
Queens Park Savannah

FAX: 868-623-1391

David Cameron
Public Relations Officer
Queen's Park Savannah

FAX- 868-625-9772

Ms. Candace Ali
Communications Coordinator
Tourisim Development Company
Level 1, Maritime Centre
Barataris, Trinidad
Fax: 868-638-7962

Mr. Donald Little
143 Belmont Circular Road

FAX: 868-621-3405

Ms. Sherma Mitchell
Communications Specialist
Ministry of Tourism
Clarence House
125-127 Duke Street
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago

868-625-0963 / 623-9604
FAX: 868-625-0437

Roslyn Khan Cummings - Deputy Permanent Secretary
Finbar Ryan - Director of Culture
Joan Yuille Williams - Honourable Minister of Culture
Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs
#8 Jernigham Avenue,
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

PHONE: 868-624-0119,627-8669 FAX 868-627-5954,623-1650

Trini Revellers, the new Poison ?

Poison was a phenomenon unto itself, usually the band would launch in October and up until (sometimes) January there would be new sections appearing on the website weekly. I admit, I was one of those who would check the website repeatedly knowing full well that my efforts would be rewarded.

Today, I find myself doing the same with Trini Revellers and their 35 sections, which to date is the largest of any band out there and is quite reminiscent of Poison and the number of sections that band had. Ten sections are still not on the website, so I guess I have to keep checking, like I used to do with Poison, to see when they make their appearance.

Another thing that reminds me of Poison with Trini Revellers is that many of the sections are outside sections, some with their own websites. While this might give independent designers a chance to hone their skill and craft under the Trini Reveller’s banner, to me the same fate which befell Poison has now struck Trini Revellers; the sections don’t look like they belong to the same band!

When there is a collaborative effort in costume design, to me, it shows. The sections not only fit the theme but the costume themselves are usually of an equal standard in construction, quality and creativity. We have some sections in Trini Revellers really standing out in their ability to fit the theme of the band and in their superior design while others look like remnants from the band Poison “all bikini and beads” which look incongruous next to some of the corseted and clothed costumes.

Another caveat of having separate “outside” sections each providing their own all-inclusive is that the consistency and quality of the all-inclusive experience varies. One section might provide full all-inclusive on both days while another might only provide limited drinks and food. And or course, the curse of Poison (in my opinion) was that meant being tied to your section all day in order to enjoy the perks of all-inclusive, whereas in other wholly all-inclusive bands you are free to roam as you choose since the entire band is all-inclusive. On the flip side, having the choice of either all-inclusive or non all-inclusive appeals to those who don't want to be catered to on the road, prefering cheaper costumes to having an all-inclusive experience with all the bells and whistles with a high price.

The only positive thing I can say in this Trini Revellers /Poison comparison is that to their credit over the past years that they have been competing as a large band Trini Revellers have managed to cross the stage first, even beating out Harts which held that distinction for years! I remember walking to meet Poison one year and Trini Revellers were already on stage having reached to the Savannah by 8:00AM!!

With “mas on the move” for 2007 it is anyone’s guess how freely bands will move and how this will affect Trini Revellers and their massive band. I am just enjoying the fact that I still get my fix, checking the website for new costumes, something I thought would have been lost with the departure of Poison from the Carnival scene. I just hope that Trini Revellers does not poison themselves by having a band that grows to a size where masqueraders no longer enjoy it; being number 35 of 35 sections is no fun! And I hope in future the designers would all come together and pool their ideas into a collective melting pot instead of making costumes for costumes sake; they have taken Band of the Year for three years running, but something tells me that we might see a new Champion in 2007.....
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