AT THIS MOMENT: An overview of the T&T Creative Sector and Creative Moment in the World

The Gate Opener…
The second confirms the first- Soca waiting in the wings for the mainstage…
Bunji, Machel, Nicki Minaj, the Soca Princesses, Dwayne Bravo, Ato Boldon, Olatunji, young local dance, theatre, and film companies…

THE CUSP OF A GOLDEN AGE

We are at one of those historic junctures again. A young generation’s energy is quickening- here and in the diaspora- and it demands to be facilitated and consolidated… If this facilitation happens the result can be a Renaissance- a Golden Age where geniuses flourish and exceptional works of Art appear from all directions, changing our economy, our social mores, our very vibration. The result will be the liberation of superlative works from every part of the country, art that will deeply affect citizens, coming at us on a weekly basis- local songs that conjugate our moods intimately, local visual art exhibitions that compel people in their thousands to go visit and contemplate, local television shows and films that shut down the country as people flock home  and to cinemas to witness them, a Carnival and Festivals that have communities electric with anticipation for the visual and aural spectacle that one is going to experience… Everywhere there will be works so exceptional that many will go down in the country’s and the globe’s canon as classics. Works that inspire audiences, communities, the nation, and the world…

The city as Art- Dubai transformed
The evolving Dubai skyline-
Creative Economy engines are transforming nations all over the globe

Museum of Middle East Modern Art

Museum of Middle East Modern Art in Dubai

That’s what living in a Golden Age feels like, and many parts of the world are experiencing this high at the moment, as part of the Renaissance in the Creative Industry which is worth an annual bounty of $2.2 trillion. The blockbuster movies; the Golden Age of television; the excitement of the gaming industry; the renaissance in publishing; the excitement around experimental architecture; and the reinvention of countries and cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi that we are witnessing are part of an exciting Age in human development which has catapulted the Arts, Culture, and the Creative into becoming the 2nd largest industry in the world.

The Creative Economy has now outstripped manufacturing and the extractive industries as the go-to industry in the world. Both developed and developing countries are using it to leverage the re-creation of their economies into service and telecom based systems. This shift has empowered Creatives all over the world- in developed and developing countries- as countries aggressively retool their systems so that they can partake in this windfall. Most countries in the world have been enjoying this wave- except for Trinidad and Tobago which instead has seen structural collapse in its Creative sector in the last 15 years… The reason has been the studied refusal by government administration after administration to implement the enabling systems of legislation, policy, and institutions which form the back-bone of any Creative Economy…

Fruits and engines of our Golden Age
Trinidad and Tobago was able to create the facilitators to leverage and sustain a Golden Age like this only once before- from 1930- 1956- our legitimate Golden Age. This Age was facilitated due to the record company investments of Sa Gomes, and that of the early Calypso Tent and large Mas Band founders. This economic backbeat of this Golden Age was supplied by the money and audience from the occupying American forces which opened gates to global recording and film companies. This in term was answered by an almost supernatural amount of grassroots institution building.

EVERY 20 YEARS

The prospect for a Golden Age is not a superstition. Roughly every 20 years- since the 1880s with the Hosay and Canboulay Riots- T&T’s culture has been throwing up these simultaneous periods of civil unrest and possible cultural renaissances. The unrest is due to that critical question that has remained unanswered since colonial times at the Heart of the country: How do we create a country that is a ‘Home’, one that honours the ‘Ancestry’, ‘Legacy’, and the ‘Gifts’ of its people with ‘Equity’, ‘Integrity’, and ‘Justice’… The 1880s Riots, the 1903 burning of the Red House, the 1930s Butler riots, the 1950s Independence movement, the 1970s Black Power riots, the 1990 coup, and the 2010 revolt against the Maximum Leader. Each Age has been accompanied by a cultural component demanding to be taken seriously. Only once- in the 1930s- did that Call receive a Response and the result was a Golden Age.
In Golden Ages the clips of Genius run deep…

Golden Ages are not unique to us. Certain Cultural Centres possess this power to create enormous clusters of Genius- Jamaica, Brazil, the United States in certain regions like the South and on the east coast, West Africa, etc. If the energy is not crowned then the Age is aborted- but when it is facilitated the sky is the limit. 20 years is a generational cycle- so the possibility for the renewing of the Age happen in this cycle. Witness what happens when you crown your generation’s energy- witness the example of America: 1910s the Age of Blues; 1930s Jazz; 1950s Pop; 1960s Rock; 1970s Disco; 1990s Hip-Hop; 2010s EDM… Each Age was an economic boom and marked a cultural revolution in style and creativity throughout the entire society, each Age was facilitated to bloom to its natural peak which naturally birthed the next Age…

We were on the brink of a new Golden Age, but…

AMAR

csbCompare this to us: During the 1990s Robert Amar invested over $30 million creating the Kiskadee Karavan and Caribbean Sound Basin- one of the 3 greatest studios in the world at the time. Nearly on his own he almost triggered the 2nd Golden Age, consolidating an explosion of youth energy that featured, amongst other things: Trini designers like First Chapter Adam, The Cloth, and others being the go-to brands that youths were wearing and coveting; local theatre which had a young spring in its step with the Bagasse Company and others; and the mainstreaming of Rapso and local Rock. In fact Rapso should have been the form that emerged to lead the Arts and define the Age, but a number of forces set their targets on destroying Rapso. They were successful and unfortunately no more private patrons joined Amar.

The real killer however was the continuing lack of the facilitative systems of policy, legislation, and institutions from government that should exist for a Creative Sector- without these no Age can sustain itself. These enablers are in fact the missing ‘contract of humanity’ a government must have with its people, that agreement stating that it will facilitate and respect its Soul… The absence of these enablers meant that within 2 years the Amar experiment collapsed-and the buoyancy of the youth culture with it. The possibility of a Golden Age-which was at the cusp of forming- imploded. From 1995 to 2000 the tragic results were generational suicides, exile, abandonment of careers, and all kinds of addictions and neuroses. A generation could not fulfil its Dreams and the nation and the world was poorer for it…

Now we are here again, not only is there an inordinate amount of youth creativity and some private investment, but there is also a global moment that has been created by Trini geniuses in the diaspora in the Sports and the Arts. Cleverly choreographed this moment can provide a ready platform for brand T&T and the geometric transformation of the local Creative Sector and the catapulting of hundreds into the global marketplace as legitimate products and stars. The moment needs to be comprehended and choreographed. However everything at governmental level points to us mucking up this opportunity stupendously once again. We the stakeholders and the citizens cannot allow it. We cannot sacrifice another generation at the altar of ignorance to suffer suicide and despair. And we cannot allow the multi-billion dollar opportunity that this Renaissance represents to evaporate in a puff of smoke… The following represent just a fraction of the multitudes of opportunities existing at this moment:

MAPPING WHAT EXISTS
MUSIC
Soca

Bunji is about sustaining the wave…

bunjiBunji  Garlin leads the roster as Soca’s pioneering ambassador in the mainstream music industry. His major label RCA Records debut album ‘Differentology’ was released this year following his earlier contract with Jamaica’s VP records. It is important to understand that it was simply one song that opened all these gates for Bunji. One good song. The other part of the equation was the fact that he was signed to VP Records who knew what to do with that song. VP is the Jamaican bridge label where most of their upper-tier dancehall talent is signed to. The treatment Bunji is getting is what Jamaican artists take for granted. His song was shopped and licensed and he was put on a media and tour circuit that has been built over generations with institutional memory. There is no such correlative institution in Trinidad and Tobago…

The deal has seen him appearing in more and more mainstream music industry forums (SXSW Expo), concerts (Dallas, Norway, Spain) and media (repeat BET interviews). He has had long articles in industry bibles like Rolling Stone- in September 18, 2014, and The Fader October November 2014. Fader says, “While soca’s other mainstream moments—see Kevin Lyttle with “Turn Me On,” Rupee with “Tempted To Touch” and The Baha Men with “Who Let The Dogs Out”—fizzled out after one anomalous hit, Bunji has assembled an honest-to-goodness-run. “Carnival Tabanca,” a summer 2013 release about longing for Carnival after the festivities are over, followed “Differentology” onto Hot 97 (a development buoyed largely by listener requests) while “Truck On D Road” continues to pick up steam thanks to a new, Carnival-set video, and a remix featuring A$AP Ferg. With the arrival of his RCA Records LP, ‘Differentology’, earlier this month, Bunji became the first soca artist to release a full-length album through a major label since 2004.” This success of course is building on his 2013 Soul Train ‘Best International Performance’ award, his MTV Iggy ‘Song of the Year’ Award for international acts, and his song on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, in football stadiums, etc. Bunji has mainstreamed Soca in the international music scene on its own steam. This is significant. The moment is thus poised for the next act, as well as a wave of music that can crossover. Are we ready?

The moment has been further embellished by Machel Montano’s winning the 2014 Soul Train International Performance Award- the 2nd such win for a Trini in successive years and Machel’s 3rd consecutive nomination. This means that Soca is in the waiting room of mainstream recognition. This follows on from Machel’s Universal France record deal and signing with Olympia Management. Machel remains our real touring monster with literally hundreds of shows all over the world annually in increasingly mainstreaming venues- although his real crossover into those markets is still to come. Machel’s force and brand has prepared the ground-level buzz for next-generation Soca. Other artists need to step up to the plate to make themselves consummate performing acts, relatable brands, as well as brilliant recording acts to sustain this wave…

sugardaddyEvery year there are dozens of songs that could cross over- when Jean Michel Gibert had the Rituals Music label he prove this by getting dozens of songs and artists signed by carrying them to MIDEM on his own. Songs like Sugar Daddy’s ‘Sweet Soca Music’, Fireball’s ‘What I Want’, Nigel and Marvin’s ‘Follow the Leader’, and ‘Dollar Wine’ all went Platinum or Gold once signed to labels who knew what to do with them. The songs can come from anyone- and have. But who is taking the songs and the artists across water to the Music Expos now? There are a host of next level performers with the material and performing chops- Ataklan, Olatunji, Benjai (with his clothes on), and Maximus Dan are a vanguard- and let’s not forget the genius David Rudder. And this is just in Soca and Calypso…

Jillionaire at home... Photo by Anthony Scully.

Jillionaire at home… Photo by Anthony Scully.

A lot of this mainstreaming of Soca is due to the work of Jillionaire- one third of the super-popular international DJ set called Major Lazer- and longtime producer and DJ in his own right. Jillionaire has been mixing modern Groovy and Power Soca into EDM dance mixes and broadening Soca’s appeal outside of diaspora markets in massive mainstream dancefests featuring audiences of tens and hundreds of thousands. Groovy Soca has been also spreading on college dorms and dancehalls world-over, on its own merit, as Caribbean nationals have kept on blasting the best music straight through the year and being contagious advocates of the new sounds coming from acts like Swappy, Flippo, and Kerwin DuBois. Because of all of this Soca is hovering just under the radar of mainstream youth consciousness in some taste-making centres in America and Europe. Jillionaire and Major Lazer- as DJs that DJs in the world look to- are setting a pattern. This is critical. Jillionaire may be T&T’s best travelled musical export at the moment, performing on every continent and many spaces in between. From September 19 he’s been touring Australia on his own- hitting Newcastle, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth before heading to New Zealand for two shows. He is releasing new music constantly with his own re-mixes whilst appearing in a host of mainstream publications. He is a bonafide star. The half-Trini production/musical team called Jus Now production intersects with all 3 of the artists above providing beats and also crossing over these artists into mainstream spaces in Europe that Jus Now has access to on the EDM circuit.

These are the crowds that Major Lazer and Jillionaire play in front of...

These are the crowds that Major Lazer and Jillionaire play in front of…

KMC- who has the largest Caribbean artist recording deal bar Rihanna- is still waiting on the greenlight release of his Universal Records debut album but has not been sitting on his laurels. Apart from songs with JLO, Marc Anthony, Birdman, and Li Wayne, KMC also has done tracks with pop blue-eyed boy Justin Timberlake and a host of others. His exceptionally well written and produced album is rostered for release soon.  He is our Ace in the Hole… Meanwhile other Soca acts like the well-managed Kes continues expanding Soca’s touring horizons with gigs in mainstream industry Festivals and constant networking with mainstream industry talent and gate-openers.

Non-Festival T&T Music

Ettiene Charles is again raising the brand of Calypso in Jazz circles

Ettiene Charles is again raising the brand of Calypso in Jazz circles

In the non-Soca field Trini-jazz artist Etienne Charles closed off 2013 with being awarded the Caribbean American Heritage Trailblazer Award in the States and continued the gains he made with his critically acclaimed album ‘Creole Soul’ which won him so much mainstream jazz press recognition. He has continued to be an Associate Professor at Michigan University whilst gigging regularly all over the States and at Jazz Festivals internationally. Ettiene’s success also means that Calypso as a form is again gaining currency as it is being mentioned and examined by Jazz critics because of him. We have to take note of all the tributaries of Calypso’s resurgence as a mainstream musical force.

Kobo Town and Calypso Rose are both raising the brand of Calypso in World Beat touring circuits
Calypso was also crossing over into mainstream spaces again- but this time from Trinis based in Canada- Drew Gonzalves, Derek Thorne, and crew- the band Kobo Town, who do a contemporary fusion of Calypso rooted in the Golden Age form. The band’s 2013 breakout 2nd album ‘Jumbie in the Jukebox’ garnered a Canadian Juno nomination (their Grammy) and an international Indie Music Award nomination for World Music Band of the Year. They continued aggressive touring playing at the great WOMAD Festival, and in Vermont, New Hampshire, France, Germany, Hungary, the UK, Washington, Chicago and much more. They also played at the Commonwealth Games. Calypso Rose also continued her touring of mainstream venues and Festivals in the United States and Canada joining Kobo Town for a series of dates solidifying Calypso again in the mainstream consciousness of World Music aficionados. The success of Kobo Town and Calypso Rose shows the naivety of the T&T performance circuit and our complete lack of middlemen and institutional memory. We have never crossed over our Calypso singers into World Beat markets, not gone to expos to get them signed to those labels and booking agents, and we have not retained the connections and networks that were forged in those early pioneering years of touring by Sparrow, Sundar, Rudder, and the host of others. We are constantly starting again…

In Canada too there is Trini Brownman- Nick Ali- Canada’s top trumpet player who has recorded over 250 sessions, has 4 working bands, and who gigs relentlessly with some of jazz’s top performers. Alongside him is K-Os- Canada’s top hip-hop artist (bar the export of Drake) winner of Canadian Junos- and Trini by birth.

The band with the best modern discography in T&T- joint pop...

The band with the best modern discography in T&T- joint pop…

Local radio still remains impervious to Ettiene, Kobo Town, K-Os, and Brownman- and all the best recorded local material of this generation. Local rock band Joint Pop continues its phenomenal output by releasing its 6th album ‘Quicksand’- another album of brilliant chart-ready, radio friendly alternative rock music. The band’s music is being played on radio in England, Scotland, Australia, Canada and USA- but not here in Trinidad! Rapso futurist Ataklan continues recording material with local and international producers (his latest is a collaboration with Bunji produced by Jus Now productions) with now enough material to fill several albums. He continues to be marginalised by private and public sector brokers despite his acclaim on the street and his certainty of going global. Significant recordings have also been done by jazz drummer and pannist Sean Thomas who created recordings with New York session musicians featuring his newly invented Nusca rhythm. Also of supreme importance is the sophisticated work of Trini R&B neo-soul act John John. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of local non-Festival music, lterally hundreds of artists are recording exceptional material constantly despite the fightdown they receive to airplay. Local radio- bar the show Indigenous which runs from 7-8pm on Power 102FM on Tuesdays- continues to refuse to play these home-grown geniuses.

Richie Luna- a lesson in modern song licensing and placement...

Richie Luna- a lesson in modern song licensing and placement…

Meanwhile Trini Richie Luna’s “Celebrate!” which was scantily played locally was added to MTV.COM and MTV2 Video On Demand. The video aired in over 30 million US homes and was carried nationwide by DirecTV, Dish Network, Fios, Comcast, Cox, Brightcove, Cablevision and many other US national/regional carriers. “Celebrate!” was also added to 21 major US cable TV outlets so far, including in-store video reel providers. The video was played on TV screens in over 300 US Fitness Centers (NY Sports Club and Gold’s Gym in 40 markets) in addition to TV screens in over 100 US retail outlets and New York City convenience stores. The video peaked at the #1 spot on MTV, surpassing the interest shown to pop songs like new releases from Hip Hop heavyweights DJ Khaled and Lil Wayne, 5 Seconds of Summer (MTV VMA’s Artist To Watch) as well as videos from Justin Timberlake, Iggy Azalea, Pharrell Williams, Wiz Khalifa, Austin Mahone, Miley Cyrus and Linkin Park just to name a few. It did so well it was added to the VH1 playlist. The positioning success of this song is due to the strategy of Luna’s management- local studio Champion Sounds- who have simply signed the song with licensing companies and followed through on a host of new media and licensing platforms that constitute the new frontier of economising music in the post-major-label music industry. This is building on Luna’s previous success with the ‘Best Song of the Month’ Contest winner “Lighting The Way”. The video teaser for ‘Celebrate’ broke an astounding 5 million YouTube views since and landed on the # 1 Spot on the YouTube Charts for “Most Popular Video Around the web. The aggressive campaign waged by Champion Sound Studios for this song remains a template of how similar songs with cross-over potential should be treated. However this strategy requires start-up investment and sustained attention so that eventually a serious buzz will ignite. If enough of this is done around T&T musical product agents will start coming to us looking for material rather than we having to pay to go to them and catch their attention. Now is the time to invest in this with clarity- and good ears.

THE GENIUS DIASPORA

Geoffrey Holder- completely un-utilised…
The genius Steve Stoute- with Nas and Jay-Z

These crossover artists bring brand T&T one type of buzz, but we also have a number of artists operating in the dominant musical forms of the world who are mainstream names. There is a pantheon of seminal Trinis stretching back to early platinum geniuses like Winnifred Atwell, Robert Bailey of Osibisa who invented World Beat as a category of music (!), jump forward to Ralph MacDonald, Billy Ocean, and further to Foxy Brown, Phife Dawg of Tribe Called Quest, Chip Fu of the avant-garde rap group Fuschnickens, Spliff Star from Busta Rhyme’s Flipmode Squad, and critical culture movers and shakers like Steve Stoute of Translation Advertising- probably the single most important architect of the hip-hop Age after Quincy Jones and Russel Simmons! We have not even started to call names- Grammy and Tony winner Heather Headley, the late legendary 2 time Tony award winner Geoffrey Holder, Grammy Award winner Michael Jackson and Outkast  producer Dexter Simmons (who wanted to set up a studio in T&T and has since had the offer rescinded by the Ministry of Arts), Oscar Award winners Anil Kokoram and James Bond director Sam Mendes, and more. All Trini. All squandered as connectors, mentors, gate-openers, inspiration…

Nicky Minaj about to host the MTV Europe VMAs- on top of the world

The lightning rod for the Trini brand presence however is Onika Tanya Maraj. Trini-American hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj is one of the biggest artists in the world. Period. She just hosted the MTV Europe Awards and absolutely nailed it with her wit, sex appeal, style, and charisma. In the meantime she had her 56th Top 40 debut on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop chart! She is set to release her new album ‘The Pink Print’ which already has courted controversy and popular acclaim with firstly its revealing cover of her stooping in a back-shot with a floss thong. This was followed by her booty filled video and song ‘Anaconda’ which now has over 290 million views on You Tube. Let that sink in… The video set a 24-hour Vevo record receiving 19.6 million views on its first day of release. Billboard listed Minaj the fourth-most-active musician on social media since March 2011. On Twitter, she is the world’s most-followed rapper. She has been on the cover of Vibe, Elle, Marie Clare, Billboard, XXL, Cosmopolitan, Fader, Teen Vogue, Complex, Seventeen, W, and dozens more. This month she is on the cover of V Magazine. As her records stand, she is the most-charted female rapper in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, with over 56 appearances. Minaj has endorsed Adidas, MAC Cosmetics and Pepsi. She has won four American Music Awards, eight BET Awards, two MTV Music Awards, an MTV Europe Music Award, five Billboard Music Awards and Billboard ‘s 2011 Rising Star award. She became the only artist to win the BET Award for Best Hip-Hop Artists for five consecutive years. This year she made her big-screen debut with Cameron Diaz co-starring in ‘The Other Woman’.

Theophilus London's album 'Vibe' exec produced by Kanye West and styled by Karl Largerfeld

Theophilus London’s album ‘Vibe’ exec produced by Kanye West and styled by Karl Largerfeld

There are others awaiting our activation: Theophilus London has flown under T&T’s radar for a long time but this rapper is heralded by Kanye West and Jay Z and is a favourite of Esquire, GQ, and Vanity Fair and has built a multi-million dollar brand off just one album with a major label. London’s new album is called ‘Vibes’ (how Trini can you get) and it is executive produced by Kanye West who even duets with him on the song ‘Can’t Stop’ with a vintage Kanye verse! London followed Kanye for one year mentoring from him absorbing all the lessons of mega-stardom, building a brand and a lifestyle, and artistic integrity. Meanwhile London has continued touring extensively: London, Paris, Germany, St Petersburg, Shanghai, Mexico, appearing in XXL, and other magazines like the Hollywood Reporter where he speaks about his relationship with Trinidad saying, “They don’t care about me. Ima come clean, they don’t care about me like that. Shoutout to A$AP Ferg, he’s Trinidadian too but he’s had more success on the radio and stuff like that. I’m like Young Thug to these Trinidadian people; you know what I’m saying? I’ve been out here since 2009; I’ve been making waves. I had the most fashionable man of the year 2011/2012. I’ve got a little bit of accolades that they got to be happy that I’m from there or something like that.” Once again our failure to embrace, facilitate, and maximise on our genius diaspora is coming back to haunt us…

London is considered a taste-maker par excellence and has built a multi-million dollar brand on his fashion sensibility almost completely independent of his music. He has copyrighted his Vibes logo and has a denim collection with Stussy, alongside branded wine, condoms, bed sheets and care packs. His album is even art-directed by fashion legend Karl Largerfeld!!! London has also musically scored the new Apple film, and appeared in the new iPhone 6 film! He also has a career as a model appearing in Gap ads which have been on large billboards in New York and all over the States.

Another Trini descent artist in prominence in mainstream hip hop is A$AP Ferg a member of the hip hop collective A$AP Mob. He signed a solo record deal with Polo Grounds and RCA, the same labels that helped launch A$AP Worldwide. His debut album Trap Lord was released on August 20, 2013, and was met with generally positive reviews. He has collaborated with Bunji on his re-mixes and has helped cross-over Bunji’s stuff to mainstream hip-hop fans and radio. He has even worked on a Soca song called ‘Petit Valley’ in tribute to a love affair he had with a Valley girl during Carnival. His involvement- more than any other- has ignited the prospect of a trend of Soca/Hip Hop collaborations in the next coming years… Originally a designer for a Harlem boutique owned  by his father that printed shirts and logos for record labels- including Bad Boy Records and luminaries such as Teddy Riley, Heavy D, Bell Biv DeVoe, and more- Ferg launched clothing and jewelry lines at a young age and attended art school finally launching Devoni Clothing in 2005. He has designed and distributed high-end belts worn by Chris Brown, Swizz Beatz, and Diggy Simmons. He was named “Rookie of the Year” at the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards and has collaborated with another Trini-hip-hop boy Trinidad James…

Trinidad James holds his Pan pendant...

Trinidad James holds his Pan pendant…

Trinidad James has had an up and down 2014. The year began with his arrest for marijuana possession and then by mid-year he lost his major label deal with Def Jam Records. James believes he is better suited as an independent artist right now and he has no hard feelings against the label he once called home. “I feel like we just had a difference of creative ideas,” said James- who draws a lot of vitriol from hip-hop insiders who hate on his rap flow. James however is a true Anansi character and a clever artist who owned a successful boutique in Atlanta and built his brand and popularity on his own long before the advent of Def Jam. This may be the start of a very creative period for him. It began with the release of the confessional track “Doing Me’… Then there are talents like Z-Star who operates in Europe packing halls of tens of thousands doing music fused with calypso, rock, R&B, techno, and jazz. Another  full-fledged artist that represents Trinidad and Tobago even though we ignore their existence. The sheer quantity and quality of T&T’s genius diaspora is staggering- how do we continue to miss this boat?…

SPORTS

Ato seems to have dealt with his scandal and has raised his brand by grace under fire…

2014 has been a year of notoriety for Trini sportsmen- but as they say “any news coverage is good coverage.” If that’s the case then track star Ato Boldon and the Trini brand should be doing well.  Ato was mentioned in a sex and corruption scandal in Australia, but the international commentator has handled the allegations in stride by denying any corruption and by initiating legal action. He also has continued his professional routine and utterances uninterrupted. Ato has been building his brand as an informed passionate international track and field commentator for mainstream news outlets for years, and so far the scandal and his professional handling of it has actually spiked interest in his brand.

Multi-millionaire Trini cricketer Dwayne Bravo- who has a huge following in the Commonwealth and who has added Indian movie star to his resume- was in the news for being the point person that led the walk-out mid-tour of the West Indies Cricket team in the tour of India. The team walked off following contracts signed without their approval which reduced their tour earnings by as much as 75%. The subsequently called off tour has led to a $40 million US lawsuit that can bankrupt West Indies Cricket and see to the cancellation of several upcoming West Indies tours. Meanwhile ex-goalkeeper Shaka Hislop continues his excellent work as a popular football host and commentator on ESPN football programmes. He is part of an elite boy’s club of globally recognised prognosticators whose opinions and presence is valued. Shaka has also gotten ESPN to focus on Caribbean and Trinbagonian events and talents. Across the border one of Trinidad’s gifted Golden Generation of sportsmen (that generation that included Lara, Latapy, Dwight, etc)- Stephen Ames-was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame with a very Trinidad-centric short documentary done by RBC Canada and Nike. This brand ambassadorship of T&T by sportsmen continues unabated with champions like swimmer George Bovell III, hockey player Kwan Brown, and the fighting Soca Princesses who stand on the brink of a historic first women’s World Cup qualification.

Just like in the Arts T&T has generations of sporting icons with global cache who completely unutilized locally or internationally. Also the intersection between these consecutive generations of sporting and artistic geniuses has never been explored. This is a fertile area for collaboration and networking and creativity…

FASHION

Anya with Tim Gunn in 'Under the Gunn'

Anya with Tim Gunn in ‘Under the Gunn’

Another international Trini kept her brand alive internationally this year. Anya Ayoung Chee appeared in Tim Gunn’s weekly series on Lifetime ‘Under the Gunn’ where she was given a series of apprentices to mentor for a $100,000 prize. She continues to be a creative risk-taker and launched her umbrella label cANYAval which at the moment produces more affordable pieces for her fanbase who can’t afford the boutique prices of her ANYA and PILAR lines which start at US$500 and goes up to $2,500. Anya hosted a high profile label launch in Manhattan, “Her event at MILK had vibrantly dressed masqueraders dancing through the crowd, towering stilt men in Caribbean attire and a live photo shoot showcasing all of the latest collections from designers in cANYAval. In partnership with Miss Lily’s and Red Bull, guests had their palates tantalized by Caribbean food and drinks.” Anya continues to be relevant and wear her Trinbagonianess loudly on her sleeve warranting a Huffington Post feature recently. She has also created HOME a studio/office/café hub for creatives in St Clair which will network talent and provide a multi-purpose space for gatherings and work.

Also in fashion Trinbagonian designers Delia Alleyne, Adrian Foster, and Charu Lochan Dass showed their collections in NY for New York Fashion week. The designers are fruits of the Design and Fashion programme at the UTT. James Hackett- multi-media artist and associate lecturer at UTT’s programme also got a chance to explore international fashion markets this year and his reconnaissance should add value to the programme and his work in various media which have been long in coming. Meanwhile Trini Ric Davy continues his pioneering work as coordinator of Brooklyn’s Fashion Week and doing general all-round styling for a host of New York events and situations.

Richard Young building Caribbean Fashion island by island…

One of the biggest unheralded under- reported stories is the evolving career of Richard Young who has become the Fashion Consultant of the Caribbean, retooling fashion industries up the islands and creating brands, festivals, shows, and an aesthetic where none existed before! Richard is being facilitated in these territories in ways he has never been facilitated here at home, given the VIP treatment as well as the resources to intervene and kickstart fashion industries. It has worked and soon Trinidad will have rivals next door because one of our greatest assets has been discarded.

Meanwhile of course our frontline designers like The Cloth, Meiling, Claudia Pegus, Heather Jones, and Zad and Eastman continued their relentless local, regional, and international presence without the necessary industry facilitation and the 4th successive year of no Fashion Week T&T. T&T also has its fair share- about 2 dozen- of international models who continue to carry our distinctive brand of beauty to the world. ‘America’s Next Top Model’ semi-finalist Rene Bhagwandeen started 2014 by being flown by Guess to Kuala Lumpur for the brand’s party and continues a life in the model fast lane. Angel Ross continues to divide a modeling career between South Africa and Manhattan. Geeta Maraj continues to model for top designers in locations all around the globe. Whilst Michelene Auguste who’s worked with designers such as Moncler Gamme Rouge, Issey Miyake, Mark Fast, Ktz, Antipodium, Mario Schwab, Felipe and Oliveira Baptista also continues to keep her career relevant. More under-utilised talents…

FILM, TV, & ANIMATION

The T&T Film Festival has built an appetite for local films and created buzz around our brand worldwide…

The local film industry is at a critical position where it has the technical capacity and a bedrock of content- the problems are in exhibition space locally, facilitation of global distribution, and the commissioning of arrow-head premium projects- feature films and TV series- that can employ the sector in meaningful marketplace oriented works…

There are dozens of initiatives going on… In 2014 director Omari Jackson continued pushing his feature film ‘Between Friends’ with international Film Festivals and pursuing pay-per-view streaming options. The film was the first feature funded from the T&T Film Company’s (TTFC) fold and its progress is important to track. The film remains a competent ‘Lifetime after-school type’ movie and deserves a place in the international marketplace amidst various diasporas. The Frances Ann Solomon docu-feature on local legend Justice Ulric Cross ‘Hero’- filmed here and in England- is in post-production. Meanwhile Frances Ann has continued building exhibition and distribution platforms for Caribbean Film from her base in Canada with Caribbean Tales which recently won an ACP/EU grant to augment its work. The technically proficient short film Captain T&T written, produced, and directed by Christopher and Leizelle Guinness- continued its winning ways at Film Festivals getting selected for the official iconic Comic Con Film fest. Dozens of TTFC funded films are currently showing in Festivals world over.

Noka raises the local special effects bar and opens the possibility for larger budget effects bound local productions

High points of the industry would be Shaun Escayg’s short film ‘Noka, Keeper of Worlds’ with its very sophisticated digital animation and high-end production values. Apart from being a brilliant short film that should have an active life on the Film Festival circuit and a brilliant showreel for all its collaborators the film is an example of the quality of production that can happen if we assemble our best talent and they receive funding. Escayg already has an impressive resume in international animation to his name- working on ‘Scott Pilgrim versus the World’ and ‘Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon’.  He is one of a slew of Trinis who continue to do exceptionally well in animation at big name studios.

Camille Selvon Abrahams and Animae Caribe have built the foundations of an Animation Industry and has positioned us for the next step…

Olun Riley who grew up in Cascade, was a Fine Arts major at the University of Toronto and studied animation at Sheridan College in Canada. He is currently working at the Walt Disney Animation Studios as a Senior Lighting Artist and was lighting designer for 2 of the biggest animation features in recent times- 2014’s ‘Frozen’ and ‘Big Hero 6’. His projects include work as a key lighter on ‘Tangled’, ‘X-Men’, ‘Wreck it Ralph’, ‘Polar Express’ and many more including a sequence lead lighter on ‘Bolt’. Shilpa Kirpalani is currently a digital artist at George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic in Singapore and has worked on ‘Transformers’, ‘Ghost Protocol’, ‘Iron Man 2’, ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’, and ‘The Nut Job’ this year. Christian Brierely grew up in Trinidad but now resides in Los Angeles is currently at The Odd Gentlemen and “Image Metrics,” a company which has pioneered the field of 3D facial animation over the past ten years through its revolutionary technologies. T&T also has talents working in the multi-billion dollar gaming industry. Shiva Deonarine has worked on the ‘Call of Duty’ series, High Moon’s ‘Transformers (Fall of Cybertron) ‘and Marvel franchises at Activision. Caiphus Moore, who is also a fine artist, has worked on Electronic Arts’ ‘The Sims 4’. The local animation industry has yet to recover from the death of Chris Soyer who worked on films like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ and was somewhat of a legend for techniques he pioneered. Soyer was very sought after for high-end special effects and was just about to return to Trinidad to set up a 3D animation studio when he died suddenly from a heart attack sending shockwaves across the international industry. No one has replaced the vacuum his passing has left… Meanwhile local animators have integrated themselves into the local advertising industry and been able to set up at least 5 new independent animation labs. Apart from this they continue to churn out short films and also this year we saw the release of the first set of local video games as well.

A number of local movies are starting to be shown in cinemas…

Meanwhile a number of local features have debuted on screens. The Laventille gang-based ‘God Loves the Fighter’ debuts in December and ‘Pan The Musical Odyssey’ also began a cinema run. The latter movie is the first feature film on the history of Pan and hopes to have a series of global launches in Europe, America, and Asia soon. It will be interesting seeing how it is received worldwide. Caribbean Laureate winner Yao Ramesar continues his very personal style of cinema with a fleet of new films ‘Haiti Bride’, and ‘The Last Dance of the Karaoke King’ with others being completed. He also continues his work with the pioneering Digital Film Institute (DFI) which teaches film to communities and individuals normally marginalised from the process.

The T&T Film Company has been responsible for the creation of over 200 films…

Overall the Film and TV industry is in a pivotal position: local enabling institutions which stakeholders fought for and won- the TTFC, the T&T Film Festival, Animae Caribe, and the film and animation programmes at UWI and UTT respectively- alongside the DFI- are producing a host of young professionals and a lot of short film product alongside numerous video production and animation houses. They also have generated an international buzz about local film, animation, and gaming product and potential. Literally hundreds of films have been produced in just 7 years and numerous young people have settled in careers in these fields! Despite efforts to derail the TTFC with the Creative TT initiative the TTFC continues to offer grants to local filmmaking now under a new board. The first series of feature films under an expanded feature film grant are soon to be completed and it will be interesting to see what this generation of films look like and what they do in the marketplace. However the refusal of mainstream local TV channels and movie theatres in T&T to invest in and exhibit these films means that a generation of talent and local content runs the risk of being stifled at home. Without this local base of exhibition and investment local content-creators cannot build the capacity to go abroad. With local content on our airwaves still hovering between 5-10% the time has come to deal critically with the question of 50% Local Content Quotas for both TV and radio with a cinema policy of exhibition for local films and shorts. There are literally almost 100 national examples of this to choose from…

The tragedy in all of this is the continued postponement of projects like award-winning playwright Tony Hall’s ‘Yankees Gone’ movie and others. In another country projects like this would  be fast-tracked and championing brand T&T abroad.

'Welcome to Warlock' opens the way for a new grassroots cinema...

‘Welcome to Warlock’ opens the way for a new grassroots cinema…

The big story in film would have to be ‘Welcome To Warlock: Land Of The Lawless’ by Jeffrey Alleyne- a template for a new style of grassroots filmmaking more in keeping with guerrilla-style independent film world-over and in industries like Nollywood. The promo for the movie has over 170,000 views on You Tube and the pirated version of the movie has sold thousands of copies. Like ‘Santana’ before it the movie is a street-friendly form of filmmaking, far from the art-house style of film favoured by TTFC, Film Festivals, and the blockbuster type of movie mainstream audiences are used to. However this form of filmmaking has a massive following on the streets of the world and if the filmmakers are clever and aware of the models of that market they can create a distribution and exhibition system that makes sense. Hopefully ‘Warlock’, similar initiatives, and grassroots training programmes can lead to an upsurge of this type of filmmaking which empowers working class creators.

Trini diaspora actors also were enjoying fresh mainstream visibility this year. ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ alumni Tatyana Ali released an EP of music called ‘Hello’ early this year, but it was her acting career which continues its resurgence since rebooting a couple years ago. She has completed filming on ‘It Snows All the Time’ and ‘November Rule’ and continues to do ‘Love That Girl!’ on TV. She’s also done TV movies ‘Comeback Dad’ and ‘The Divorce’ and the shorts ‘The Black Bachelor’ and ‘Locker 13’.

Alphonso Rebeiro mashing dem up on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

Her elder brother Carlton from ‘Fresh Prince’- Trini Alphonso Rebeiro- has wowed the world in ‘Dancing with the Stars’ with perfect scores- reminding them that he was a child dance prodigy appearing alongside Michael Jackson. The programme also provided an opportunity for brand T&T to get a shout-out when guest judge Pitbull remarked that Alphonso’s moves were reminiscent of Machel Montano and carnival wining. Machel himself was backstage at the time taking in the show.

Nia Long is a black icon… But is also keeping her career relevant and alive.

The incomparable Nia Long followed her success from last year’s ‘Best Man Holiday’ and got a new TV series called ‘The Divide’ which unfortunately was cancelled after only one season. She also had a new film ‘The Single Moms Club’ earlier this year. ‘The Best Man’s ‘sequel is already in the works for a 2016 release.

THEATRE

‘The King and I’- one of the large theatrical productions now commonplace in local theatre

It is actually in theatre where there’s somewhat of a revival with many forms of local theatre re-emerging, breaking the monotony and monopoly of the bedroom farces of Richard Ragoobarsingh and Raymond Choo Kong which continue apace. There’s actually a musical theatre revival with large scale Broadway productions like ‘Les Miserables’, ‘The King and I’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’, and ‘The Wiz’- a tribute to Geoffrey Holder. These productions are showing off a bevy of brilliant well-trained voices and musicians. The amazing thing is that most of these large and medium size theatrical outings are packing houses and making money! One of the other points to note is that this upsurge is reflective of a dense population of skilled singers and musicians- a perfect population to create a recording scene of professional studios with session musicians. The system for this however would need to be constructed carefully. All the raw materials however are there.

‘The Wiz’ featured exceptional singing voices and musicianship. The surfeit of professionally sounding musicians is the population base for a studio system with expert session musicians

The 2014 musicals include Iere Theatre’s ‘Sundar’, the Creative Arts Centre’s ‘Same Khaki Pants’, and UTT’s recently staged ‘Jab Molassie’- all local works. Best Village, of course, continues that tradition with interesting experiments like Mt Dor’s staging of the ancient Greek drama ‘The Bacchai’. Ralph Maraj’s resurgence continues with his constant remounting of his plays like ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Archbishop and the Prime Minister’. The Trinidad Theatre Workshop staged ‘Two Can Play’ and the ‘Same Old Mas’ by Randy Ablack, whilst Brenda Hughes remounted Derek Walcott’s ‘Pantomine’ and Ronnie Amoroso’s ‘Sangre Grande by Two’. The National Academy for the Performing Arts students under Michael Cherrie and Belinda Barnes staged a bevy of free productions- ‘Antigone’, ‘The Rose Slip’, Genet’s ‘The Maids’, and ‘Coups and Calypsoes’, utilising Elders and seasoned veterans like Errol Sitahal and Mervyn De Goeas to blood the young performers. And of course3 Canal continued their Brecht-style Jouvay Theatre for Carnival- also they took the concept out of carnival and mounted ‘More Love’. In another innovation they have also created the newly minted Black Box Theatre on Murray Street which can now be utilised by interested artists.

One of the main engines in the local theatre revival has been the Trinbago Playwrights Workshop led by Tony Hall where dozens of playwrights- from the veteran to the novice meet regularly and workshop works-in-progress. The Workshop has also staged readings and mini-productions of works as well and a number of works have graduated to the stage. This initiative is very under-reported and under-resourced and is probably one of the most important initiatives in Art in T&T at the moment…

All this is in addition to the normal rounds of dance recitals from the nation’s numerous dance companies which include: the growing Coco Dance Festival and the seasons of Metamorphosis, Noble Douglas, Elle Dance, Nrytanjali, Malick, Bentley Potter, the Caribbean School, Shiv Shakti, and many many more. Dance troupes continue to be one of the most professionally run set of art organisations in T&T (and in the world as a rule) and their productions are among the most profitable of theatrical events. All this again is independent of the seasonal Laugh Fests which are all insanely profitable- from the high end with shows like those of the genius  Paul keens Douglas, the medium tier which includes the geniuses Sprang and Learie Joseph, and on the low end with the staples of Tommy Joseph and crew…

THE VISUAL ARTS

Chee Wah has remained committed to the idea of public art and murals- the well executed Renegades Panyard Mural in process

The visual arts are remaining stifled by the conservative gallery system which prejudices safe landscapes over experimentation in scale, medium, content, and style. This is being somewhat countered by a progressive executive in the Art Society of T&T who has kept their headquarters in Federation Park bubbling over with activity. Meanwhile on the fringes young artists like Darren Chee Wah and groups like WE DOES DRAW are experimenting feverishly with illustration and doing interesting murals. In the latter group are dozens of talented illustrators whose guiding stars are popular culture- comics, video games, animae… Whilst their technique is sophisticated they lack an indigenous style and approach. They are still wrestling our landscape into their imaginings… There are also interesting things being done with t-shirt design by numerous graphic artists like Keegan Simon.  Also making interesting movements in the field of industrial design are Marlon Dabreau with his multi-purpose boxes and Dean Arlen with his furniture line, installations, and playground and public art projects. All of these projects require some sort of industrial facilitation and public/private intervention which has proven elusive. There are also a host of graffiti artists marking walls all over urban centres- from the normal hip-hop tags seen in Woodbrook to more esoteric stencilled and free form graphics appearing along the East West corridor.

Che has now become a very technically sound painter with an interesting aesthetic that is uniquely Trinbagonian

However despite the emergence of a new generation of young lions like Che Lovelace and Richard Rawlins from under the legacies of Elders, and despite the experimentation of singular voices like Wendy Nanan and Kathryn Chan, the visual arts is still one of the most artificially conservative of local art spaces- despite the fact that there are rich visual and plastic traditions like the Carnival, Hosay, and Ramleela to draw on and dozens of mythologies and folklores with which to populate that art. It is in the diaspora with artists like Zak Ove that we see the possibilities of this inheritance developing. Based in the UK Zak’s sculptural installations combine objects from the ancient to the modern from all threads of the 5 ancestries T&T has access to… Also amongst the upper end of our graphic arts and designers in collectives like Above Group or publishers like Melanie Archer there is a sophisticated design aesthetic developing. There are also a number of local graphic artists who are international slick and cutting edge with their techniques- in publishing and pure design.

The fascinating work of Zak Ove… ‘Nubian Return’- a tribeswoman in her personal space capsule…
In the visual arts it may be the photographers who are the most sophisticated but yet still the most marginalised. There are now a host of photographers of serious skill from Gerard Gaskin in the diaspora to ‘elder statesmen’ like Abigail Hadeed, Aldwyn Sin Pang, Alex Smailes, Marlon Rouse, Sean Drakes, and Mark Lyndersay here. Then there are young guns like Kerron Riley, Arnaldo JJ, Maria Nunes, Richard Acosta, and others. All of these people’s commercial work is part of mainstream local consumption- product shots for ad agencies and the occasional press release image- but their oeuvre of real artistic photographic work remains unpublished and under-exhibited, not seen by the wider public. The work of T&T’s photographers is the last real unexplored frontier of our Artscape- and possibly the most important. The archival work of documenters like Noel Norton, Jeffrey Chock, Harold Preito, Ian Yee, Apoesho Motope, and Clive Nunez are unexplored countries of ourselves… The real destination of the work of the nation’s photographers is: in a National Portrait Gallery/Hall of Fame where the work of photographers are given precedence; in well done publications devoted to their works; and integrated into the landscape with large scale posters and prints- an entire missing genre of work in our nation. Our photographers are in fact the people missing the most from our gallery system…

One of T&T’s premiere photographers Abigail Hadeed. Photo by Caribbean Beat

The big story for the visual arts is the absence of curated space. The absence of experimental and community galleries that will nurture voices and exhibit more ambitious work in scale, subject, and medium- all culminating in the absence of a proper National Gallery which allows the proper contemplation of the pantheon of the best visual arts of the past and present. From Mas to fine art painting. Spaces which canonise excellence and create a critical discourse that places the work in hierarchies and context….

The marginalising of Elder Geniuses like Leroy Clarke is to our detriment as a people and to the next generation of artists…

This ‘absence of space’ has led in the visual arts to one of the most dangerous aspects of the present moment- the silencing of Elders. Throughout the visual arts the edifice constructed by consecutive generations of Elders is absent from ‘the Gallery’- in depth, quality, and quantity but moreso absent from the nation and its civic spaces. Where are the hundreds of relevant and available works of Peter Minshall, Leroy Clarke, Carlysle Chang, Isiah Boodhoo, Carlisle Harris, Ken Crichlow, the Singh Brothers, Jackie Hinkson, and others? Even the mid-generation of Chris Cozier, Eddie Bowen, Irenne Shaw, Wendy Nanan, Steve Ouditt, and others have been removed from the centre of discourse. This banishing of ‘the Elder’ extends to all fields- literature- where icons like Earl Lovelace, Pearl Eintou, Marina Maxwell Omowale, and Willi Chen are being made peripheral to societal discourse. Television where Christopher Laird, Timmy Mora, and others are marginalised, and theatre where the Theatre Workshop and Elders like Brenda Hughes, Errol Sitahal are clambering to assert legitimacy and centrality. Tony Hall alone because of the force and relevance of his works in ‘Jean and Dinah’ and now ‘Miss Miles’ has been able to seize a middle ground and a soap box corner. Even in the Calypso, giants like Shadow and Stalin who are still releasing quality material are being sidelined for reasons other than the power of their Art…

Tony Hall and the Playwright’s Workshop…

This vanishing of Eldership- alongside the nation’s failure to document, collect, curate, and disseminate the Legacy of our Golden Age and past generations- means that we are always in an eternal now, repeating past mistakes because we lack the Memory of past pathways and victories. It means that current generations are more absorbed in foreign aesthetics and subject matter. They have no indigenous ideological lens with which to deal with the landscape and the world, or they come to these tools too late- in their 30s- when they should have received these tools at childhood… Both the UTT and UWI are still too deficient in this regard- especially the former. Whereas both are churning out students a little more refined in the technical elements of their craft there still is an enormous missing indigenous matriculation process that has been forfeit-and it shows. The curriculum of both institutions has to become more rigorous in their apprenticing of students in the techniques of Masters- local and international. This interrogation of craft, style, subject matter, philosophy, and the canon is what leads to a sophisticated cadre of artists who can inherit traditions successfully as well as take on the world. And speaking of the inheritance of Traditions…

CARNIVAL & THE FESTIVALS
Many of T&T’s Festivals are at a generational crossroads. A class of Elder artisans- musical, dance, craft, and technical- are dying and taking secrets of construction, form, and content with them. Over 19,000 of 20,000 VIP Elders are now dead. This year will mark the last we have with most of the remainder. Important nuts and bolts are going missing… As a result dozens of traditions have already disappeared…  In some cases Festivals have grown past their folk and village roots and are confronted with: increased audiences of outsiders; the outgrowing of old venues; the need to engage new technologies. From Parang to Ramleela to Hosay, none are immune. The creation of well-configured Guilds are the only way to document and transmit technical skills to the next generation, but the interventions for each Festival to expand and evolve has to be sensitive and must come from a DNA-level understanding of the Spirit and Source of the thing. It must also come from an accurate read of what the clues are telling you as regards the direction the Festival wants to go. Already Paramin’s super-folksy Parang Festival was clumsily altered and almost killed with its rooting out from the Village to be transferred into the Trinidad Country Club- its opposite in soul and sensibility. Only sensitivity married with Good Design will save our Festivals… One Festival which has been interfered with to its detriment for too long is the Port of Spain Carnival- an example of how not to intervene.

A template for action- All Stars Band of the Year portrayal of Traditional Sailors. Photo by Abigail Hadeed and Caribbean Beat

The 2014 Carnival was an unmitigated disaster with the Canboulay collapsing almost completely, and the worst aspects of the Mardi Gras ascendant. Working class urban masqueraders- especially male- are now almost a thing of the past, the result is empty streets throughout Port of Spain, for hours on both Carnival Monday and Tuesday. There are now thousands less masqueraders. Carnival is now a middle-class and upper-class sport!. The spectacle is at an all-time low except for straggling survivors of Traditional Mas. The one Hail Mary pass that might point to salvation is the Band of the Year win of All Stars’ traditional sailor band. All Stars might point to a model for the redemption of community mas-‘ and a return to the traditional’ that may be necessary to rescue a dying festival. There are a host of brilliant suggestions from consultations held over the last few years as to the necessary interventions to resuscitate Carnival- from the establishing of ‘Acoustic Monday’ to the offering of $3 million prizes for Band of the Year and restricting it to bands from 30- 300 members. These interventions need to be engaged with a root and branch reform of the way the Carnival has been conceptualised and managed to ensure there actually is a Festival in 50 years…

Pan also is at a crossroads with the same ‘gentrification’ threatening Panorama- symbolised by the facilitation of the philistine impulses of the audience that inhabit ‘The Greens’. Rather than initiate the younger demographic into Pan as a sacrament, the audience in the Greens is being corralled and fed with their own worst devices further alienating them from their traditions. It is a dangerous miscalculation and one which needs to be reversed. In terms of arrangement and the music being written for Panorama a sea change is necessary to select songs that are more melodic, hypnotic, and relevant to the audience and the instrument. Kitchener’s death brought on this crisis as his compositions constituted more than 75% of the selections normally played. Again the failure to apprentice and understand what Kitch was doing in terms of melody, folk narrative, rhythm, and movement has meant that there are no heirs to his genius in the Panorama. The closest songs worthy for selection are in the Groovy and Power Soca categories- the mojo is definitely not with the current style of ‘Panorama Tunes’. If these same boring cliché ‘Pan Tunes’ persist, the alienation of all demographics from Panorama will be complete and people will vote with their feet… When that happens even geniuses like Boogsie will not be able to save the Festival… Yet still hundreds of new players are emerging annually, and others are graduating to the realm of pretty decent soloist and arrangers. However what is missing is a finishing school, a necessity to take these talents to the next level where they can leave these shores and compete with other musicians for bandstand space in the mainstream industry. Until this happens we are trapping generations here with underdeveloped skills. We should have graduated talents like Dane Galston, Noel La Pierre, and others to mainstream recording careers and touring circuits outside the normal diaspora round…

Sullivan Walker- here acting in ‘Earth 2’. His Dream must be resurrected… But by who?…

This failure to graduate our talents to the level of exceptionality may be a reflection of the insular nature of the T&T art scene. Our touring contingent is only about .05% of our creative population when it should be 35%! And most of our touring cohort only move around a Carnival and Chutney-based Trini-diaspora circuit- not even a wider Caribbean one.We definitely are not interacting with mainstream markets and audiences and that insularity and lack of competition and direct engagement with comparative professionals stunts our development. The lack of rigour in our tertiary level institutions is another factor. The refusal to resource returning nationals who have the ability to set up institutions based upon those Best Practice is another. Sean Thomas returned from the Theolonius Monk Institute of Jazz wanting to set up an institute exploring modes of jazz and indigenous improvisation. Sean never received the assistance, but his students have been accepted into the top music schools in the world and are now the top players in the new generation. Our greatest missed boat on this tip may be the missed opportunity with the late Trini-Hollywood actor Sullivan Walker who acted on the Cosby Show and with 50Cent etc. Sullivan wanted to set up an Academy based in New York that would have broke Caribbean- especially T&T- talent into Broadway, off-Broadway, and Hollywood. Sullivan would have used his extensive contacts and the networks of peers to leverage an Age of the mainstreaming Caribbean talent. Our government refused to entertain the request and the Dream died with the frustrated Sullivan 4 years ago… Trinidad has been a land of such missed opportunities for too long…

CONCLUSION

This moment is real! A generation of young talents has announced itself and await resources and guidance. Meanwhile a genius cohort of Trinis in the diaspora have created an unprecedented platform for brand T&T and T&T creative product and talents willing to take on the world. The things that exist to sabotage and abort this moment are: the refusal of consecutive administrations to create the enabling environment for a vibrant Creative Industry and Cultural Sector; the failure of the private sector to invest in local value-added; and the failure of artists to understand their moment and historical context.

We must battle now for the baseline Creative Sector enablers if we must inherit this moment and transition to a Golden Age. Those programmes are: the creation of an international Best Practice Arts Council which will offer transparent funding for each genre of the arts in regular quarterly calls annually; the creation of a proper National Museum system with a National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, a Carnival, Steelband, & Festival Museum, a House of Music, and numerous economised Heritage Sites; the creation of a National Heritage Warehouse and Memory Projects to collect as many stories and artefacts from our Elders before they die or are discarded; the re-outfitting and provision of proper Community Centres and Artist Hubs where work can be incubated (galleries, band-rooms, proper theatres spaces and soundstages: think of them like community playing fields but for the Arts); the creation of a lead Music-Studio (ala Caribbean Sound Basin) which can be a Best-Practice studio and hub for local and international musicians; the passing of 50% Local Content quotas on radio & TV and the instituting of short-film quotas in local cinemas; a music incubation policy that incubates the best products from recording through mastering to printing to facilitation to go to select overseas expos where artists can then win industry middle-men and thus no longer need subsidies instead becoming net earners of foreign exchange…

To cap off this first phase there needs be a sensitive structured strategy to activate the genius diaspora & encorporate them into a National Mission. Interventions like these are absolutely essential in moving forward and converting this pregnant moment into a Golden Age. These are the undeniable foundation. These initiatives and the rest of the needful things required by the Creative Sector are articulated in detail in documents that can be downloaded on the Artists Coalition of Trinidad & Tobago (ACTT) Policy Document page on its website:www.artistscoalition.wordpress.com This is our mission. We have no choice. We either win or see our Dreams & Nation shattered. It’s that simple.

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Posted on November 13, 2014, in President's Blog and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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