Monthly Archives: March 2012

Carnival truths

Now some honesty: we don’t have “the greatest show on earth”. Our costume tradition hasn’t been that since about 1986—the year of Minshall’s Carnival is Colour, with his King “The Merry Monarch”, and Berkley’s Cocoyea Village, with its phenomenal King and individuals. This was costuming with no precedent on earth—except ourselves. That year there were dozens of bands worth watching. Traditional bands were still strong… Jason Griffith and his sailors… Burrokeets would still emerge in its dark majesty… Our genius lies in peaks like this: like 1967 when Bailey played Deities Spectacular and Chang essayed China the Forbidden City. These are moments you are supposed to build on…

Nearly every major carnival and folk festival on earth now features superior costuming to us—festivals in Guatemala and Mexico, old European carnivals… Venice… Why? Because they created guilds to pass on traditional skill. Each successive generation has been refining old techniques—and adding modern innovations to it. A casual look at Associated Press pictures of foreign carnivals will show us how sophisticated costuming has become—and how decrepit and infantile our designs now seem…

We should also look at Brazil’s evolving costuming. Brazil is now mimicking the costumes from our Golden Age to produce astounding spectacles! Meanwhile, we discarded our traditions for Brazil’s throw-offs —which we cannot top!

The truth is—all we have left are eight elder genius artisans and designers. These men are the equal of anyone in the world—and in some cases superior. We urgently need to construct the Guild of Masters to get these men to pass on skills—and re-create masterpieces. Government agreed to this in the budget—and recently committed to implement. We’re calling for this to be set up with immediate urgency! Eight masters from the larger Guild died in the last five months waiting for its creation…

More honesty: Dimanche Gras needs to stop sabotaging itself and destroying the nation. Calypso has many tributaries. This competition must honour all. Or it will kill all. King Austin’s genius song, “Progress”, in 1980 was so brilliant that calypsonians felt they needed to write “rhetorical kaisos” to win. Moron judges now believe “rhetorical kaiso” is the only form of calypso. They are boring the nation to death!In my last article, I spoke of the disconnection of our culture judges over the last 25 years who are sabotaging art by rewarding mediocrity… To them, I ask the question: what is Dimanche Gras? The answer: it is the soul of the people made manifest by gifted creators. There were many such calypsoes this year—most weren’t at the Big Yard. This is the real Dimanche Gras line-up (yuh want to bet de whole country would have tuned in and cared!): All Rounder leads with “Garlic Sauce”—smut is a major form of kaiso—this disgusting ditty was a masterful example; Patrice Roberts’s “I am Soca”—sweet, melodic and told the story of the music brilliantly, not in the boring way four finalists struggled to say the same thing. Benjai with “People’s Champion”—this guy is the future and people better recognise. And how in God’s name was Shadow not in the final? Or, for that matter, 3Canal? I’m missing out dozens…

Then there’s Faye Ann with “Miss Behave” and “All Over”. That latter song is the most cosmic piece of music I’ve heard from here in a long time—along with All Stars’ magical Panorama piece. These would have been worthy competitors to Duane O’Connor. Add to them three people selected from NACC and public and private sector competitions. Why? Because calypso skill has migrated from the tent singers to these competitions in the last 20 years. The death of calypso is being artificially manufactured by judges who are killing the evolution of the form and the people’s sacred connection with the music which is their shield and sword.

The most remarkable movement this year was the rise of Groovy over Power Soca—a trend we hope continues. It is the return of “melody”—and it’s happening on the backs of five brilliant young song-writers and producers. There were about 40 brilliant songs this season alive in the public domain. This hasn’t been so for two decades. I will deal with Machel and the Soca Monarch in a separate piece…Trends worth noting: the rise of rhythm sections—there’s a renaissance in music waiting to come from this; party-goers are struggling with exorbitant prices and lack of value—they’re ready for change; brass bands are at crossroads with their sub-standard musicianship—something must give; there’re moves to monopolise Carnival revenue—there’re going to be battles for turf. Our national class issues, played out in technicolour for Carnival, are coming to a serious crisis soon: the marginalisation of the urban underclass, especially low-income black males—who were the engine of Carnival—is coming to a head. The only arena where they have access is the most vital part of Carnival—soca. The solution for the gang and crime problem and the collapse of Carnival is the same: harness the creative energy of urban black males through gifting them back the things which they blessed this society with…

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