Who will put an end to carnival konmès?

Dennery Carnival 2K10.

There is more mud around this carnival season than hurricane Tomas could have ever dreamt of unleashing on our Fair Helen, but it would seem that we like it so, as there is no one with the gonads around to put an end to all the madness, divisiveness, lack of organization and planning that is happening in carnival this year.                            To add insult to injury the Minister of Education and Culture has remained mute throughout all of this, with the Prime Minister now bearing the burden of all things carnival on top of his already oversized portfolio. And, after having to deal with the water woes following the passage of hurricane Tomas, the man having to deal with the de-silting of “Lucian mas” along with the PM, is John Joseph of WASCO who was appointed to head a “new” carnival committee. It was a decision which came just a few weeks before the launching of Saint Lucia’s carnival and months after a consultation was held in January, to chart the way forward to what is supposed to be the island’s biggest cultural showpiece. But sadly, what is now being seen is a fragmented event with egos and personalities getting in the way and a lack of resolutions for the public good. After all, carnival was once said to belong to the people, but now it would seem that some for selfish gain are attempting a coup of the event away from the people to whom it belongs.
The perennial issue plaguing carnival remains the question of venue and finance.                 However, national access to the event for years has also been overlooked and the event is primarily Castries based with no focus on it being decentralized or making it accessible to persons in the rural communities. On the contrary, over the years more effort has been placed on spending money to attract visitors from overseas to the event, than for mobilizing our own people from within as a means of increasing the numbers attending carnival events and consequently revenue.
This year Saint Lucia’s carnival is also plagued with a number of events being postponed and date changes, which is confusing to the news media and so much more the general public who seem unable to keep track. However, the major controversy thrown into the spotlight this week was the question of the band selected by the Saint Lucia Calypso association 2009 to back up the Calypso semi-finals which was supposed to be held this Saturday June 2, 2011. The band, Caribbean Connections, which was the back-up band for the Ambassadors Calypso Tent, was the band selected and is led by a Trinidadian and comprises both Trinidadian and Saint Lucians. Whereas a clause in the Calypso constitution states a “resident” band must be used the STAR has learned, there is no reference to nationality. And even after the names of the members of the band were submitted to the chairman of carnival committee, indicating that the majority of members of the band were Saint Lucians that did not fly with those opposing the move including Gregory Piper leader of an All Star band which traditionally backed up the competition. A number of Tent leaders also opposed the move and called on their artistes to boycott Saturday’s finals.
Speaking on RCI news Thursday veteran musician and band leader Gregory Piper said he was both hurt and saddened by the move to use the band Caribbean Connection, saying that no where in the world would non nationals be used to performat a national event. However history will show that in 2004 a band comprising Trinidadian musicians lead by the same leader of Caribbean Connections was used to back up calypsonians at the finals here after a lock-out by local musicians over the question of money. In this year’s situation money was also a factor in accepting Caribbean Connection, which the STAR has learnt would perform for EC$10,000 less than the All Star band whose fees would have been EC$45,000.          Calypsonians were split on the matter with nine of the sixteen finalists deciding not to perform at the semi-finals.
A meeting Thursday, between the various stakeholders and the calypsonians got very heated and students rehearsing for graduation at the National Cultural Centre overheard several leading Calypsonians voicing their opinions
while spewing several expletives in the process. In the end, a new compromise; both bands will be used instead of one for the semi-finals. According to Gregory Piper he has agreed to work with the All Star band and the protesting calypsonians to back them. And so the calypso semifinals scheduled for Saturday, July 2 will now take place on Sunday, July 3 with two back up bands at the National Cultural Centre. The Power Soca Monarch Preliminary scheduled for that date will now take place on Wednesday July 6, 2011.
The Groovy Prelims, which went relatively smoothly Wednesday may not have so smooth a sail into the finals, now that the finalists have been released. One radio program announced 19 finalists while the official Calypso Association had originally agreed to 15 names, which were later released.  Some Calypsonians are now calling for the number to be revisited with the Groovy Soca Monarch finals scheduled for Thursday, July 15 at Pointe Seraphine along with the King and Queen of the Bands competition at Pointe Seraphine. The 15 names released so far are Lady Ce Ce from the Soca-Lypso revue tent, from NG Soca Stage TG, Toya, Mongstar, Gozilay, Niki David, Superman HD, Mantius, Scady and Zionomi. The Take Over Tent will be represented by Ricky T, Marianne and Ambi and Soca Village by TC Brown and Ti Carro.
Meanwhile, the carnival bands have quietly been handling their own squabbles the STAR has learnt with regards to the traditional bands and those with mas camps making their own costumes here and the larger party bands like Just 4 Fun and Red Unlimited.
Questions are being raised about the Government’s subventions to the party bands since their costumes are imported mainly from Trinidad.
Panorama on the other hand scheduled for July 16 is said to be getting a boost from Pan Trinbago in Trinidad who are offering judges and trophies for the event as their contribution.
While some are attempting to downplay the argument of Trinidadian musicians over nationals, the question of CSME, regionalism and reciprocity has been raised on several talk shows and social media over the carnival controversy here.
Hopefully there will be no need for Prime Minister “King” to again come to the rescue and kiss and make up with the Prime Minister of Trinidad Kamla Persard Bisessar, just in case there is any backlash.

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