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Our festivals, Part 2

Most local festivals have now reached critical mass as folk festivals and require sensitive interventions to survive. They are at crossroads for a variety of reasons. These include: the migration of the original source population from the original festival site. Sometimes this is rural-to-urban drift — as is the case with some Hosay and Ramleela communities. Many of the Golden Age genius artisans of mas moved from “ghettoes to suburbs” —leaving East Port of Spain and Belmont for Diego Martin and elsewhere. Many left the country and seeded the 300 Trini-styled carnivals worldwide. These migrations have jeopardised the festival in the original community…

In many national festivals the founding fathers and Golden Age generations who established the classical form of the festival have died — and a new generation is carrying it on with less ritual knowledge and artisan skill. This is the case with many festivals with ritual dances and drum-based music in both East Indian and African communities. Most of the master-drummers and dancers from both sets of traditions have died in the last decade and there are no clear heirs to the Masters’ thrones who have the full vocabulary of local drum and dance practices. Because of this a number of local traditions have disappeared.

In other cases the festival has expanded beyond its original folk footprint and now involves all kinds of outsiders, marketplace activity, and a larger audience…The festival simply has outgrown its scale… Like Paramin’s Parang festival…

In all of these situations we are now entrusted with the critical task of retooling and innovating our festivals sensitively — to either become larger ritual events that remain true to their original sacred purpose — or expanded economised events which embrace the possibilities of dynamic cottage economies as well as multi-million dollar tourist potentials. Even in this type of transformation it’s critical that the festival preserve its source components. If this isn’t done the festival will collapse — and its earning potential disappear.
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