Sunday 25th February , 2007

Anand Ramlogan
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Rudderless Carnival

Carnival was different this year— new venues for Dimanche Gras and Panorama, the one-song rule and maximum security.

The noticeable the gap between the various social classes widened this year with VVIP sections, ultra-inclusive fetes and expensive costumes.

We partied under the watchful eyes of heavily armed soldiers and police officers. The greatest show on earth was relatively safe given the magnitude of the event and the size of the crowds. A tough, no-nonsense attitude with zero tolerance for louts and violence kept crime statistics down to a minimum.

CoP Trevor Paul and his team deserve full marks on this score. What impressed me the most was the fact that the heightened security presence was not reserved for Port-of-Spain alone.

I was at the popular Carnival Monday night Ole Mas celebrations in Gasparillo and witnessed the same professional show of force and expert crowd control.

At Panorama finals in South, Skinner Park came alive to the sweet sound of pan. The disappointing absence of a band from San Fernando did not dampen the enthusiasm of the thousands of Panorama fanatics who made full use of the fact that pan was playing in “we own backyard.”

To all the grumpy grumblers from North who refused to venture South to attend, I say “tough luck! Trinidad doesn’t end at Grand Bazaar.”

Yes, the crowd was significantly smaller. But it’s about time people realise that the distance from North to South is the same as it is from South to North. Southerners have been happily travelling to the Savannah for years without so much as a beep.

The affable Minister Joan Yuille-Williams courageously made some historic changes to Carnival. I applaud the decision to move Panorama finals to Skinner Park. The bands moved quickly and the standard of the production was high. The smaller crowd brought the advantage of extra “elbow room” for socializing.

The San Fernando City Corporation proved it was more than equal to the task and the Mayor should be congratulated for a job well done.

On a critical note, the two huge screens that formed the backdrop were a waste of good money as patrons could not see the live images because the overhead stage lighting was too bright. These screens should have been erected elsewhere.

I am yet to make up my mind about the most radical of all the differences to this year’s Carnival—Jean Pierre Complex and the one song rule.

The shorter Dimanche Gras was welcome but people missed the second song, which was usually designed to “ease the tension.”

Jean Pierre as a venue was a mediocre choice, I missed the intimacy and rapport of the calypsonian managing his presence on the big stage, taking his performance to all sections of the crowd on both sides. They seemed too far away, on a tiny stage.

Acoustically, the venue affected the quality of the performances as the words seem to merge as they travelled upwards to where I was seated.

Cro Cro was a clear crowd favourite and delivered a commanding performance of his now controversial song. He scored full marks for humour and the appropriate use of a simple but effective cast that kept bringing various items (including an old bicycle!) to take for friends and relatives.

I was outraged however to read about the shabby manner in which artistes were treated. Calypso Rose’s outburst about the absence of toilets facilities and changing rooms for women is a serious indictment against the organisers. This is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. Without the performers, there is no show and they deserve to be treated with respect.

While a few calypsoes focused on the Government, the sting was not there. Smelters apart, there was a lot to sing about but that wasn’t to be.

The independence of the artform has been compromised and Tuco would do well to make all calypsonians listen to the unrecorded Cepep Gang sung by semi-finalist Wendy Garrick who won the prize for Best Social Commentary. This calypso is an apt summary of the debilitating impact political biases have had on the artform.

Machel proved that timing is everything. His late release of Jumbie paid maximum dividends as it stole the Road March from behind. My favourite was, and remains, Crazy’s Cold Sweat.

The one thing that I really missed this year was the healing power and influence of David Rudder’s songs. For many, his music is virtually transcendental and this will be remembered as a Rudderless Carnival.

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