Trinidad and Tobago is, without a doubt, the creative and cultural capital of the region and the home of Carnival, of which ours can best be described as the greatest show on earth.
But year after year we are embroiled in some sort of controversy or bacchanal as it relates to funding and selection for participation in the various competitions leading up to and inclusive of Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
While our Carnival is considered by most a display of prowess by our cultural artistes, it is considered by many, including our artistes, an opportunity to contest or rival each other for territory, a niche, for scarce resources, for prestige, recognition, for awards, for group or social status, and profit. And herein lies the problem, as deep rivalries develop and everyone wants to win at all costs.
But should we continue to encourage ‘the greatest show on earth’ to be a contest between rivals?
It is time we seek to revolutionise our Carnival celebrations against the background of this Covid-19 pandemic environment, which has forced us to change the way we do things and has provided us with the ideal opportunity to create a new paradigm.
Do you remember when every DJ had his own sound system because he wanted to prove he had the hardest pound? Well, today sound systems are rented, and a DJ only has to walk with a laptop to play music. In fact, today every hired DJ plays off the same sound system in a party.
So, what if for the Panorama finals we have a single orchestra set up on stage for all finalists to perform? Won’t this make the playing field level, especially in this new normal? Additionally, think about the amount to cover Panorama expenses, inclusive of transport for individual orchestras, as exists at present.
Maybe this is the ideal opportunity to start the discussion with Pan Trinbago about a revolution of the Panorama competition.
What about creating a model in keeping with our cosmopolitan culture, similar to what exists for the Grammy Awards or Billboard Music Awards, to replace the rivalry that exists in our Calypso Monarch, Soca Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch competitions?
What about putting systems in place to make the Road March the most popular tune played on the road, and not only on the stage?
Remember, the award is for Road March.
What about also putting systems in place for mas bands to perform at specific judging points on Carnival Monday and Tuesday throughout the country, based on their geographic location? Won’t this improve Carnival celebrations outside of the traditional venues and, in the process, create the environment for a genuine National Band of the Year?
Further, the Kings and Queens should be allowed to parade at these locations on Carnival Monday and Tuesday and judged for the National King and Queen of the Band.
These suggestions are worth consideration as part of the new paradigm post-Covid-19, and they could be fine-tuned to suit our present circumstances, and in keeping with the advice and guidance of our medical professionals if Carnival 2021 has to be imagined.
Let’s begin the conversation now, against the background that every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind.
Bryan St Louis