According to one carnival song, “no woman, no carnival.” But it’s also true that no controversy, no carnival. Carnival 2017 was no exception albeit somewhat more tempered than in previous years. That having been said, the 2017 season for the most part was a success for more reasons than one.
Several hotels I checked with last week confirmed visitor numbers here specifically for carnival. And while the official figures are not yet in, signs of a friendly foreign invasion were quite visible at most of the events, as well as in the Rodney Bay shopping area during the final days of the festivities.
The national events under the “Soleil Summer Festivals” ran with few hitches. Attendance ranged from good to great, and the Soleil team must be breathing easily. This, after being handed two festivals prior to carnival that appeared more like sand being sold to sheiks. Carnival, it would seem, was more palatable to the masses with a template that has received much attention on the international carnival circuit, thanks in part to some of the local carnival bands, the efforts of individual soca artistes as well as the CDF and the Creative Industry.
The fact that the recently formed Events Company of Saint Lucia worked hand in hand with the CDF and the Calypso Management Committee (CMC) also resulted in a better managed and produced event.
Speaking of the CMC, the calypso season this year rightfully stole the spotlight, reminiscent of the days when carnival was truly synonymous with calypso. Among the reasons: the management structure and fewer calypso events, which left the public thirsty for more. Besides, this year featured some good calypsos. No need to remind readers of the fixation with a certain politician’s exposed private parts. Easy pickings for calypso composers. What another public figure chose to do with his own equipment also titillated the calypso Beethovens.
But it was another doctor, a former politician who, though on the short side is known as Dr. Long, who pranced away with the Calypso Monarch, 2017 title. The Mighty Pep hit the bullseye with “Never be Afraid of the Doctor” and “Why I Die.” The latter returned to life the recently departed Sir Derek Walcott, to explain the causes of his death—among them the closure of Walcott House (after the Nobel laureate had passed, but heck, no one ever said calypso shouldn’t be fake news). This was Pep’s eighth crown in the bag.
The first runner up was Solange performing “Lucian Ting” and “The Great Divide”—a plea for unity. The Calypso finals were held on Saturday, July 15 at the Vigie Playing Field. However, the controversy over the use of the field as a venue for the national event paled in comparison to years ago when a decision was taken to use Mindoo Phillip Park. Some in the sporting community pointed out that the work done in recent times to upgrade Vigie would be undone by the mass events. Nonetheless, the Vigie Playing Field made for an apt venue, ideally situated near the city center and within close proximity to the north. The ambience and magic which seemed to have been lost when the events moved to Beausejour a few years ago, appeared to have returned, beginning with Steelpan finals on Friday July 14. Babonneau Steel Orchestra emerged champs that night.
On Sunday July 16 the Vigie Playing field hosted the final of the major events: the Groovy and Power Soca Monarch competitions. Intrigue loomed over the event days ahead of showtime, with controversy over the suitability of Ricky T’s song “Sully” for the Groovy category. Overnight there were the Facebook experts on BPMs (beats per minute) and the qualifying rules. In the end the reigning groovy king Arthur retained his title for the fourth consecutive year, with the aptly named “Over and Over.” Imran and Nerdy came in second with “Bouncing.”
Ricky T redeemed himself by winning the Power Soca segment (which was a bit lackluster compared to Groovy) with the “Drunkard,” pushing last year’s winner Islahman into second place. It beats me, however, that while there are better songs and singers in the groovy category, the Groovy King will receive EC$20,000 and the Power Monarch EC$35,000.
On the road carnival Monday and Tuesday it was all about that girl called “Sully” which had revelers raving from Choc all the way into the city. There was intermittent much ado about nada in relation to Ambi’s “Sock it Already,” mostly from the more pious of Facebook heaven: comments ranging from hilarious to absurd to plain hypocritical! There was talk of an advisory from a certain ministry, without supportive evidence. In any case, what a year for any ministry to ban a calypso because someone had declared its lyrics lewd! Too bad there is still a deafening silence about rewarding drunkenness, but that’s for another show.
I for one was hoping for some truth to the ban, but not for the reasons some would believe. For me, it would have been interesting to hear my friend AG Stephen Julien making a case against “But I Sock it Already!” As I have said on previous occasions, in the absence of proper rules and guidelines performers
will continue to push the boundaries of free expression. In any event “Sock It” was the fourth most played song on the road with Ricky T’s “Sully” walking away with the Road March title.
Tribe of Twel won band of the year, again, which by now is probably a no-brainer since there is little by way of creativity that separates the other bigger and more popular bands from one another. To each his own?