It was the usual garbage for Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 2009. Fun garbage, creative garbage, artistic garbage, music garbage. But garbage all the same.
Don’t get me wrong. Carnival is essentially about having fun and people appeared to have had a good, safe time in 2009. Women took over, as usual, and for a change felt safe and had fun on the country’s streets. There is no such thing as being “too fat” or “too ugly” to have fun. I am not among those who feign outrage at the sight of chunky, scantily clad women having fun and being proud of themselves.
What irks me most about Carnival is the pretence that its outputs are something of creative value that must be in some way, by official edict, honoured. Hence the call for broadcast content quotas to force the playing on radio of the tonnes of garbage heaped on listeners by untalented calypsonians and soca singers.
It is true that about 5% of what is produced has some creative value, but the vast majority of it is forgettable nonsense, in my view. I will continue to rail against efforts to shove garbage down our throats through content quota regulations.
Most of what was presented by way of soca and calypso will not be remembered a year from now. The Mighty Chalkdust won the Calypso King competition with what passes for satire in calypso these days. An infantile play on the word (Calder) “Hart” along the lines we once heard only at intra-mural college competitions somehow convinced the judges and the crowd that this was something worthy of a substantial financial prize.
Then there was the so-called Road March which was won by Faye-Ann Lyons singing (?) a song that repeated the line “hands inna de air” no fewer than 100 times. More rubbish substantially rewarded is difficult to imagine.
Then there was ‘the mas’. There was no improvement here over recent years. Brian Mac Farlane won with something that vaguely resembles mas’ I saw 40 years ago at small-time Carnival in Tunapuna. It was, admittedly, a different story for the King and Queen of Carnival prizes which he won with genuinely creative work. The rest was recycled, obscure, geographically inauthentic garbage.
As usual, the only thing worthy of any lasting memory were the performances of steelbands at the Panorama competitions. Because of my son, Mikhail, I followed the Junior Panorama competition this year. There is hope that pan – the best thing we do as Trinidadians and Tobagonians – will continue to play a role as music, as community consolidator and as a valuable asset to the country.
The Bishop Anstey/Trinity College East Under 13 band came second while the Under 16 slipped to third after winning the competition last year. There was such joy in the presentations that I promised to continue following the competition in the coming years.
Then there were the competitions in the single-pan, small, medium and large categories. This year, I followed the prospects of Curepe Polyphonics in the single pan category. They placed low down. Sforzata in the medium size bands. They won. And, of course Exodus in the large band category.
There is no doubt that the Port of Spain oriented judges and crowds possess an inherent prejudice against Exodus. I sat in the stands and listened to drunk and well-fed Pan Trinbago ushers and other paid assistants talk about Exodus as if they were complete outsiders. Of course, these folks ought to have been working, but they chose instead to talk right through selected performances at the top of their drunken voices.
Pan Trinbago has proven, once again, by their complete disregard for patrons, to be the worst thing for pan!
The Panorama faithful are also being cheated by the absence of a proper facility to host the annual competition. It should also be the place to go anytime of the year to listen to good pan.
I am impressed by the work of the new and upcoming steelpan arrangers and look forward to their emergence over the old and tired veterans in the coming years. Silver Stars, this year’s Panorama winners deserved the trophy and $1 million prize. Well done!