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If this is our way, then we need to check ourselves!

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In my column of July 5, I had expressed scepticism about our celebration of 50 years of “Band of the Year”. I indicated then that I had a gut feeling that it was 1962 and this was reinforced by an item in the Vincentian of 1963 that I quoted or made reference to. I now have incontrovertible evidence that my gut instincts were correct. The evidence has come indirectly through Cheryl King, from one whom I call the “Grand Master of the Bridge Boys,” Roy Austin. I want to thank Cheryl for following up on this and Roy for setting the records straight. This has come from a tribute Roy did to Sammo, who died in October 2006.{{more}}

I quote now from part of that tribute, sent to me by Cheryl: “The record shows that in 1962, Sammo’s “Gothic Middle Ages” captured the historical first prize and Band of the Year. This year also marked the beginning of a strong rivalry with the Bridge Boys whose “Barbaric Splendor” won first prize in the fancy category but was considered by some judges as ineligible for Band of the Year…” Roy in an earlier piece to Cheryl referred to the controversy in 1962 when the decision was taken that only the historical section was eligible for the award. I distinctly remember the controversy, but was not sure about the year when it happened.

I find it totally unacceptable that the CDC, based, I believe, on information from the Carnival Bands Committee, would make such a declaration without fully checking their information. Added to this, as I indicated last week, MCs were referring to the celebration of 50 years of Mas. This was also done in a few of the calypsos I listened to. When will we get things straight?

But this seems to be our way. We have to be careful how we go about things when we are dealing with national festivals and generally with matters pertaining to the nation. I say this to raise another issue that surfaced on the website of the Ministry of Tourism under its section on Cultural Overview. This time it is “Nine Mornings”, another of our big festivals. This one beats the cake! I quote from that website; About “Nine Mornings” it says “The origins of the festivity are clouded in some mystery…Although popular opinion has this practice as starting during slavery, it was more likely to have been a post-emancipation practice…”

This is fine, but how can it then jump from that to speak about celebrating 100 years of that “Unique Vincentian tradition” this year. Again I quote, “Vincentians will this year be celebrating 100 years of the annual Nine Mornings festivities. This unique tradition which was started in 1913 in St.Vincent and the Grenadines will be officially launched on Sunday 1st December 2013 with a street parade consisting of lighted flambeaus, traditional music of boom drums etc…”

Now, are we mad? We seem to be looking around for any occasion to celebrate something even if we have to create it. This is not a play-play thing. It is our national festival that we are talking about. So, not knowing the date and having admitted that, we then have to create an occasion for a celebration and of course 100 years sounds good, remembering that we just celebrated 50 years of “Band of the Year”. I find all of this totally shocking, as though we don’t know what we are about. We are really insulting the intelligence of the nation with all of this hogwash.

I don’t know how they came up with 1913, except that it provides an opportunity to have a celebration this year. I have for long been searching for the origin of “Nine Mornings”. We have already ruled out the period of slavery. I believe it started later rather than earlier in the 20th century. Let us picture 1913. There was no electricity in Kingstown. According to existing regulations, stores were prohibited from having lights in their business places after 6 p.m. The roads were built for horse and carriage. In fact the ,first motor car came in 1913 and when it was able to mount Sion Hill, it had done something that was unthinkable. What would people be doing on the streets in the early hours of the morning? You could not go window shopping. Bicycles might not have been around. Granted, we can say that the early celebrations would not have been what we knew, say in the 1960s and 1970s. But the question is, what would “Nine Mornings” have been like in 1913? I might be dead wrong, but if I had to guess an era when “Nine Mornings” started I would have said the late 1930s or early 1940s. I don’t have evidence to support this, but it appears to be a better proposition than 1913.

There is a lot about our nation and its history that we do not know, but please let us not go about creating things to suit our own fancies. Certainly there is a lot of this around. Let us set a process in place for recovering this material that can help in our tourism drive, especially if we are thinking of eco/cultural-tourism. We have to be professional and realise that we are in the 21st century. I hope that none of our students doing their different school projects have gone and copied some of this. It must leave us wondering how much of what is fed to us is genuine or factual and not the creation of someone’s fertile imagination.

Really, as a nation, we have to check ourselves or have ourselves checked.

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