Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TRINIDAD, GRANDMOTHER OF CARNIVALS

According to an HBO special aired recently and viewed by millions throughout the United States and Europe, Curacao hosts the, "Caribbean's biggest carnival." And the Notting Hill carnival is promoted as biggest street festival in Europe and grandest of West Indian Carnivals.
Both these events generate millions of dollars in revenue for their countries. They each also attract thousands of international visitors who fill hotels and spend millions on a good time.
MASMAN: Brian Mac Farlane
 speaks about how he deals with mas production
 during the panel discussion titled, Look De Brand Coming.
These carnivals and the many others like them around the world were spawned by Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, but with the exception of local Trinis and Trinidadians living abroad, no one seems aware of this.
Leader of the Legacy Mas band, Mike Antoine who is involved in 12 Carnivals around the world said from his observation, "Trinidad is fast becoming the grandmother of Carnivals" because the carbon copies are developing faster than Trinidad's and attracting greater numbers that include people that used to come here for the festival.
Antoine stated this during a panel discussion at a symposium presented by the University of Trinidad and Tobago at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain from June 28 to 30. Titled This Business of Carnival, the symposium sought to explore how Carnival and the culture, arts and entertainment revolving around it be effectively exploited.
This discussion was titled Look De Brand Coming and sought to look at the business of mas and whether it was making any significant impact as far as being a revenue generator for local producers and the state.
Wendell Manwarren was the moderator. The panel consisted of Antoine, Brian Mac Farlane who has won the last four Band of the Year titles, Gerard Hart from Harts Mas Band and Renwick Browne of the National Carnival Bands Association.
While the discussion was supposed to look at how mas can be further developed as a viable export product in itself and also how spinoff industries can be created and nurtured things went the way of a heated debate over whether or not the bikini and beads style of costumes was destroying traditional mas and stifling the creativity of Carnival.
Hart was placed on the defensive when Browne and Mac Farlane expressed that much of the traditional mas and the people's creative spirit has been lost because of bandleaders that, "take the easy way out" and go for simply decorating bikinis and putting wee wee trucks on the road.
art and Antoine countered saying they were only providing what their masqueraders ask for and if they were to make a switch from what they do now to more traditional style mas or create costumes using large amounts of fabric rather than beads and feathers they would be out of business. Antoine said when he was first invited to produce mas in New York for Labour Day, he in fact replaced Peter Minshall because the people there wanted a change.
The discussion never got around to addressing how can elements of carnival be developed to both create export opportunities for products, services and skills as well as to attract more new international visitors to carnival here because time ran out as the panelists remained focused on the debate over bikinis and tradition.
Mac Farlane even suggested that there be two Carnivals each year with the traditional mas having its place before Lent and the beads and bikinis taking over the streets during August. The one thing all the masmen agreed on was that mas needed to be returned to the Big Stage at the Queen's Park Savannah.
Another exciting panel discussion was titled On With The Show and looked at the business of festival events. Jason Williams was the moderator for this panel which included Roy Maharaj of TriStar Promotions, Frank Martineau of Spektakula Productions, Joel Morris from Noise Productions and Sayeed Emamali who serves as a consultant to promoters. Absent were promoters William Munro, Dane Lewis, Cliff Harris and Randy Glasgow.
The main focus here was the lack of venues to hold large events. Maharaj said some years ago he approached former prime minister, Patrick Manning requesting a piece of land upon which he could constructa concert venue that would have been available to all promoters. He said Manning looked over the proposal in which Maharaj showed that he had already secured some of the $15 million needed and was well on the way to getting the balance.
Martineau said people have the wrong perception about promoters thinking they are all millionaires. He said they don't understand how much money promoters invest in shows and that many times they end up at a loss.
When someone from the floor raised the question of promoters providing foreign artistes with better promotion than locals especially during carnival, Morris said that is not true. Morris said he produces the ads for most of the promoters and that the local artistes receive equal billing to the foreign acts because several ads are produced and played for each event.
On the question of payola at radio stations, Morris said it has and does happen, but now less frequently because of the advanced technology at radio stations. Morris said promoters would pay DJs to play their ads more frequently than the ads of other promoters having shows at the same time or to play the songs of the artistes on their shows more. "DJs don't walk with their own music anymore. Everything is loaded up on computer so it's harder to do that," Morris said.
There were also panel discussions on the pan and its development and place in Carnival. The overall point of view here was that not enough pan music is played on radio and there should be a rule put in place making it mandatory for mas bands in the Parade of the Bands competition to have steel orchestras providing some of their music on the road.
Kim Johnson of the UTT Academy of Letters and Public Affairs said in his presentation that pan has to be properly branded as coming from Trinidad so that whenever people anywhere in the world needs anything concerning the pan they will look to Trinidad first. "It must be known worldwide that if someone is looking for the best pan they will come here. They need the best teachers, they will come here.
Also making presentations at the symposium were, entertainment consultant, Josanne Leonard, music producers, Carl "Beaver" Henderson and John Afoon, businessman, Robert Amar and musician, Mungal Patasar.

By Wayne Bowman 



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