Allowing artistes and creators of a previous generation
For social groups with differing tastes to once again
enjoy the elements of the mas.
The growth of calypso cannot be constrained.
the last ten years, five years for certain, the Carnival
has been spreading, room and space being created for social
groups with differing tastes to once again enjoy the elements
of the mas that meet with the stage-of-life, cultural tastes,
physical abilities, even spiritual dispositions of larger
numbers of people.
In this evolution, the Carnival is also allowing for artistes
and creators of the festival of a previous age and generation
to return, if not to centre stage, assuredly to the aprons
of the stage and to once again feel part of the expression
their generation fashioned into this thing we call (with
our exaggerated sense of importance) the Greatest Show on
old man trying, was the demure response of four-time
calypso king, the Mighty Duke, as I congratulated him during
the intermission on his performance of Carnival Monday night
when he got on stage at the Jean Pierre Complex and allowed
the over-40s and 50s, my generation, to play we self on
stage. Not with anything like the mid-torso dexterity of
the fierce winer girls of the age, but in that sweet mellow
way we use to dance when we was young; that
time when Nello would encourage us to La, La...
On the night at Jean Pierre, from Sparrow, whose wining
ways have slowed to a gentle swivel but whose voice is as
powerful and captivating as it was when in the 1960s it
was raised in that deep visceral, native triumph of the
Congo starting to laugh and giggle in anticipation
of going to take ah little taste, to Stalin,
to Baron, who once had that evergreen Doreen Gray look,
they all lived again and we marvelled at story-telling in
calypso bouncing, as we did, on the laughter
of the melodies created by our griots and poet laureates.
All night, Tommy Joseph, with a powder puff pink outfitwhich
he admitted to buying at some famous store in Brooklyn,
all be it after a heckler in the audience asked, to the
amusement of all, where he got such an outlandish outfit
fromhad been talking about the foundation role of
the likes of the bards named above, plus Explainer, Crazy
and King David, in the modern Carnival.
Incidentally, we missed Shadow. Mr Martineau, you should
contract him from now for 2008.
Tommy understands, in his crazy way, that we cannot simply
throw these men and their music away while indulging in
the present crop and their offerings.
But I got carried away into descriptive detail at the expense
of painting the broader picture of a Carnival that is expanding
to include the historical and cultural roots of the festival
handed down by our African, Indian and French-Creole ancestors.
The re-enactment of the Canboulay Riots on fore-day morning
Carnival Friday is becoming the most significant aspect
of the festival, grounded as it is in the time when the
jamette society, with bois, flambeau in hand and determination
in intent, intervened to tell the fast and out of
place Captain Baker that he and his colonial arrogance
and ignorance could not stop the Carnival.
The NCC should issue a decree that every year the winer
girls and the social upper and middle classes who play the
frothy thing of the present should come to the spot outside
Hell Yard to play oneno wine onefor
them jamettes from behind de bridge for saving
It was wonderful to hear bits and pieces of the French-Creole
Patois, the language widely spoken in the 19th century by
the ordinary people, retained in the language of the Calinda
chants. I looked at this woman I know to be Dominican sitting
on the bleachers revelling in the Creole, which in her country
is alive and well. John Cupid never gets tired of saying
that part of ourselves as a people is wrapped up in Patois;
we must recapture that self.
But even in the midst of madness and mayhem of Carnival
Tuesday, the artistic space has begun to widen. Brian MacFarlanes
splendid India and the story of Boyie climaxes the return
to costuming and meaning in the mas that Minshall,
Stephen Derek and Tribes have struggled with over the period.
Yes, no one is going to deny the winer girls their own spacebut
I got the impression that the waists were not spinning the
Carnival around and around in that same maddening circle
Maybe I did not pay as much attention, but it seems the
waists are being tamed by the wild Indians and frightened
into silence by the Midnight RobbersBrian boy ah hear
yuh band speeching-off the Prime Minister on Tuesday while
holding-up the passage of the winer girls; thing does happen
boy! Remember Rudder predicted that a couple years ago?
So yes, the foundation established by Bailey and Saldenah
is beginning to support another generation of mas makers
that is prepared to open the mind to creativity beyond the
bikini thing that has exposed our vulgar impulses.
For many of us who grew up on the wonderfully mellifluous
sounds of pan, JOuvert morning at Victoria Square
has become a kind of mecca for sweet panman holding
he woman and dancing in the road while he mouth humming
some Bomb tune resurrected from memory, they
have their own space in the Carnival.
Imagine they used to call steelband music noise.
How light and beautifully fragile this soundeven the
strains could be lost if you stay too far from them in the
morning aircompared to the electronic cacophony coming
from the boxes.
And perhaps it is good that as the decentralisation of the
Carnival spreads, the steelband Panorama has taken flight
to San Fernando.
Ironically, a few weeks ago I was provoking a man from Guapo
in Point Fortin, Black James his calling name,
that for sweet pan he had to come north and he, self-assured
in his southness, was displaying contempt for
me and north calling names such as Earl Rodney as being
among the foundation stones of the steelband.
The one aspect of the core of the Carnival that shrunk rather
than expanded this year was this one-song thing. The monarch
has to demonstrate range and capacity for the different
genres of the calypso; a one-song king can only rule half
The development and growth of calypso to continue playing
its historical role cannot be constrained by the desire
of organisers for a tight show.