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Carnival should remain true to its cultural tradition



The annual debate which inevitably follows Vincy Mas is again well and truly on the way. Whether in the media, on the blocks, in bars and restaurants or in the privacy of our own circle of friends or homes, Vincentians are making their opinions heard.{{more}} Even the merits and demerits of Carnival as a festival are on the cards, with the apparent diminution of morals being used by some as an argument to suggest that carnival is not playing a positive role in our development.

Unfortunately, from which ever perspective the argument comes, we seem, almost automatically, to focus on what we perceive are the weaknesses of our Carnival, rather than what went well. It is always what is wrong with it, that we appear to remember. From there, it is but a short step towards who is to blame.

This is not to say criticism is not useful and necessary as a tool for improvement. It just seems that year after year, we do not move past the criticism to the next stages of analysis, strategy formulation and implementation of solutions.

For years, one of the consistent cries after Carnival is for there to a renewal and refreshing of the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC), especially if the festival is to have more appeal to our younger generation. We fully support the call for an infusion of fresh ideas into the CDC, but while the festival grows and evolves, it should also remain true to its cultural tradition of mas, pan and calypso.

From all appearances, the present CDC puts a great deal of effort into ensuring that these three components remain a vibrant part of the festival. In doing so, the CDC goes far beyond the coordinating role it should play, into the direction, content and management of these three art forms. Therefore, when any aspect of the festival does not live up to expectations, it is not the Youlou Pan Movement, the Carnival Bands Association or the SVG Calypso Association which is blamed, but the CDC.

The institutional capacity of the Youlou Pan Movement, the Carnival Bands Association and the SVG Calypso Association for self-organization and efficiency, must be looked at, and developed. Perhaps, in the present economic situation, now is not the best time to make this suggestion, but an annual subvention to each of these organizations may assist them in institutional strengthening.

That being said, the Dimanche Gras show, which featured these three components, was of a high standard this year, and provided patrons at the Park and viewers at home with good, decent entertainment. While many younger persons dismiss this show as being boring and irrelevant, it was the key role played by several younger persons which assisted in making last Sunday’s presentation a good one. The calypso monarch competition included stellar performances from youngsters such as Javelle “Lady Diamond” Frank, Kahalia “Queen B” Beache, Shernelle “Skarpyon” Williams and eventual winner Maxwell “Tajoe” Francis, while for many of the pan sides, more than 50 per cent of their members are under the age of 25.

So while the Wet fetes and painted J’Ouvert bands are growing in popularity, they should not become the defining characteristic of our festival. They have strong entertainment value, but if we are honest, we would agree they are just a very temporal jump and wave, have a good time phenomenon, without any deep cultural relevance. We therefore have to continue to work with the components to strengthen them.

Quality mas, pan, calypso and soca not only ensure that we have an enjoyable Carnival and attract more visitors, but these cultural art forms are an important part of the export strategy being developed for our country.

There is absolutely no doubt that the core of our Carnival is like a rough diamond. To derive maximum beauty it needs to be suitably trimmed and polished, marketed and managed. It is not beyond our capacity to do this.