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C2K16 a reflection of our society

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Carnival 2016, a reflection of the state of the society; good at the base but set upon by a crawling, clinging, lingering blight attempting to strangle our best dispositions and impulses for the realisation of a true self. And how else could it have been, given the state of the society!

As Minshall reflects on our condition and that of the world, there are those who would have him say nothing but blend colours; ironically though, while bad mouthing him, they attempt to steal his designs, but without a context in which to place them.

They are creatures of the times; they measure quality of costuming in terms of dollars spent not on the creativity and authenticity of the portrayal. The spoilers then seek to blame Minshall for their failure to have attracted an audience to the Grandstand. It must, however, be said that outside of the bikini and beads, there were a few mas’ designers catching at a possibility.

All of the major pre-Carnival shows are in decline fundamentally because the blight has been strangling the creativity of the society; the streets, the pavements, squares and walls stinking with the stench of urine and more; men leaning against a wall; women stooping without shame; children led by their parents to adopt their (parents) most primitive of habits.

Joey Lewis, who created music for 60 years, established, grew and nourished a band over the period, left us on J’Ouvert morning. Your God be with you, Joey, on your journey home, you have done more than your part. Incidentally, Pal Joey provided a leadership model that has not been studied by the local management experts. They and their corporate elites prefer to fly in a foreign management guru every Monday morning to tell us about people management and human development, but ignore what the man from Gonzales with a smattering of primary school education, but with a lifetime of success in managing musicians, a notoriously difficult specimen, to create music for the soul. That is part of our civilisational defect: we value little that is native and revolutionary about us but hang tenaciously on to so much that is imported and at times irrelevant.

But there is always the seed of possibility to be found amidst the ruins. The regeneration of the band from the “Hill”, Desperadoes, is one of those possibilities thrown up by Carnival 2016. Needed now is the insight of many on the Hill and elsewhere to spread the success of the steelband amongst the misguided youth of Laventille. The young men and women need to see themselves as being potentially part of the success of Desperadoes.

Alfred Galy, the Syrian businessman (someone who, by common definition, should be termed “exploiter”) branded as uncaring of a national treasure (Greyfriars) rose to the call for practising space for Desperadoes. In granting the band free use of the space for practice, Galy understood there is a time for cultural contribution over the pursuit of dollars.

Equally full of potential is the emergence of Supernovas led by a Samaroo from the other side of the track; it is an indication of what is possible when we fling aside tribal hate. 

Calypso, since being sold down-the-river by a few well-connected bards, had moments of hope in Devon Seale and Helon Francis. Here are two young calypsonians who showed a willingness to experiment with form and substance and bypass the dirge-like, tasteless, artless formulae that have hung over the art form in the last decade. 

Humour in calypso and stories of our lives away from political contestations have dried up. Is it that our lives are dominated by negative preoccupation with politics and political figures?

We may never again have a Spoiler or a Shadow; but we should be able to produce an artist a little lower down the scale of genius capacity: the question is, which one has to first emerge, the artist or the social transformation?

The young Voice of the soca genre at least provided a difference; the form has to be revitalized; however, the Carnival celebrants of the era are comfortable with it; it gives them an easy wine back.

Now here is a societal/political division that is being increasingly reflected in the Carnival. More than two decades ago, Valentino observed that notwithstanding the fact that “Carnival is a gift from the Almighty…how all dem races does jump as one family, but when Carnival come and pass de people does go back to dey race and class so de only thing to bring them together is mas.”

It seems that today not even Carnival is bringing together the race and class as the Carnival of the middle class and the lighter shade is gathering in the West and with a force that reminds of Captain Baker and his men hired to beat off intruders.

In the East there is the Canboulay and traditional mas, resurrected by John Cupid and sustained by Eintou and Fullerton, with the talents of trumpeter Etienne Charles intervening to search for possibilities in the ancestral cultural forms.

So there is much in Carnival which is negative and reflective of the state of the nation and culture; but there are a few early blooms peeping out. As always for me, one heartening picture is that of the lame and halting, the castoffs and marginalized of the society, clinging on to and pushing a steelband rack of their community band.


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