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What is good for Carnival is not necessarily

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EDITOR: Carnival must be in the air because the bacchanal has started! The opening salvos for this year’s carnival have been fired between two of the protagonists, the CDC and Hot97, in our capacity as promoters of “Insomnia”. Who would have thought a fete could have caused so much bacchanal?{{more}}
The story told so far seems to be centered on the fall in attendance at the CDC’s “Soca Monarch” competition. This has been attributed to the “Insomnia” fete. Funnily, however, “Insomnia” hasn’t been given any credit for the increased attendance at the “Miss Carival” show which immediately precedes “Insomnia”. Why is this? The CDC, while quick to lay blame on the promoters of “Insomnia for the drop in attendance at last year’s “Soca Monarch” competition, has not attributed the increased attendance at the “Miss Carival” show to “Insomnia. Perhaps there were other factors involved!
Was the absence of two of our biggest soca stars from the Soca Monarch competition, Luta and Roses Crew, factored into the analysis? It is well known within entertainment circles that both these artists command huge and loyal followings. The perceived injustices that both artists’ fan bases felt towards the organisers of the “Soca Monarch” competition must have negatively impacted on last year’s attendance.
It has been stated that “Insomnia” last year featured many of the artists who were slated to compete in the “Soca Monarch” competition, and the question of why patrons of Insomnia would then want to attend “Soca Monarch” to see the same artists was forwarded by the CDC. The only artists who appeared on both shows were Pat Ragguette and Alla-g, while Madzart and Shannelle both appeared in their capacity as members of the band Hottsands. Would the CDC have us believe that the promoters of “Insomnia”, because of their use of four out of the 15 Soca Monarch competitors, are the reason for patrons not attending the “Soca Monarch” competition?
It has also been claimed another reason for the fall in attendance at last year’s “Soca Monarch” show was the booking of the same overseas artists. While it is true that we both utilised the services of Iwer George, Hot97 had booked him as an individual, pre-TnT Carnival and cannot be blamed for CDC’s subsequent booking of the band “Invasion”, whom Iwer is a member of around April/May 2003, some months later. Furthermore, it is widely known that Iwer George’s membership of the band “Invasion” does not preclude him making personal appearance bookings. It should also be noted that in addition to Iwer George the popular Bajan band “Square One” and other regional artists were engaged to perform at “Insomnia”.
Finally we cannot ignore the fact that the “Soca Monarch” competition is promoted exclusively on Hitz FM. What marketing was done to the Hot97.1 listener? The radio listener-ship realities have changed. Was this factored into the analysis of the causes of last year’s declining attendance?

To conclude:

l Perhaps there really are other explanations for the “Soca Monarch” competition’s decline last year. Perhaps the CDC just hasn’t bothered to look for them. It must be remembered just three years ago the show was run by a private entity that had spent a number of years resurrecting the show after the show had been run into the ground previously by the CDC. Perhaps history is repeating itself.
* Carnival is about activity and options. The large crowd in attendance at Insomnia over the past two years says volumes about the need for other activities and other formats during the carnival celebration. Surely the CDC is not advocating that carnival patrons must once again be limited to liming on the street. Times have changed. Tastes have changed. Free enterprise needs to be allowed to meet these challenges.
* Carnival is an engine of economic growth; why else was it moved some years ago from its traditional pre-Lent date? It must be recognised that carnival is now an increasingly competitive arena within the Caribbean with almost every island actively promoting and expanding their carnivals to attract more tourists – be they regional or extra-regional. Soca events are a vital component to the marketing appeal of a carnival destination.
l We have to stop labelling Hot97.1 as being unpatriotic because we don’t play pan or kaiso. Anybody who knows anything about marketing understands that you cannot cater for all ages and tastes in one stroke. The market is more sophisticated than that. So if we choose our niche why are we accused of hating the other art forms? This is nonsense.
* Kevin Lyttle has become an ambassador for SVG through his homegrown soca music. His world-wide fame and recent recording deal with Atlantic Records is something that has made all of us proud. Soca seems to be poised for a world-wide breakthrough much as reggae broke through onto the world stage in the 80s. How are we helping to develop this industry if we stifle and limit our artists’ opportunity to perform, earn an income and hone their talents for the wider overseas market?

Luke Boyea

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