Dr. Fraser- Point of View
July 8, 2011
2011 Carnival

Well Carnival 2011 is now history, and as usual there will be the post-mortems. I really do not like the word post-mortem, which is more commonly used to suggest the examination of a dead body. But post-mortem also refers to any analysis of an event after it has occurred. It is in this latter sense that I am using the term.{{more}} Carnival officials always decry any adverse comments about Carnival, although once they are not meant to be malicious and are not unfair they should not be shunned. It is always good to know how the public is responding to any national activity and to examine other view points. This is just by the way because in this article I am merely commenting on some aspects of the festival.

There was a lot of talk about the banning of songs, particularly soca songs. While one has to admit that many of the songs were of a smutty nature, I must agree with Blazer Williams that we have to be careful about mixing up creativity with vulgarity. There is sometimes a very thin line drawn, and something that is smutty can actually be very creative. But there appears to be more than smut involved in peoples’ reactions to this year’s songs, and here is where the danger arises. I do not consider Godfrey Dublin’s “Any number cud play” smutty, but there were even suggestions that it should be banned. Here we are getting into the nature of calypso as it has always been. The ‘double entendre’ has for long been associated with calypso. A double -entendre means that it is open to two interpretations, one of which is usually indecent. Sparrow’s “A never Eat A White Meat Yet/Congo Man” falls into this category. In fact, many of the better calypsos fit this category, many of them certainly not smutty. Some persons have traced this back to Slavery when the slaves would carry on conversations among their white masters, but speaking sometimes in language which their masters might understand on the surface but miss the real meaning. The same thing happened with songs.

I am not sure that the policy of the CDC was clear on this matter and perhaps not well thought out. The public was told that they were not going to hear certain songs at junior events, although the songs were not identified. This can easily be accepted if it had to do only with smut. Children are, however, not limited to junior activities. What happens at J’Ouvert when there are thousands of young, sometimes very young people, on the streets jumping to all of the songs which are the ones being labelled smutty? You might say this is on the streets and the CDC cannot control it. But what of Mardi Gras when young children/kids are dancing on stage to all of the songs dubbed smutty. Perhaps what is needed is dialogue with the soca artistes and calypsonians. I am not sure if you can go further than this.

The rains did come during the final days of Carnival, but amazingly did not seriously affect most of the shows. The South Leeward beauty pageant had to be postponed because of the rain. So it was with the ‘Uncle Skinnys Kids Carnival’, which in any event was not a CDC production. Even at Mardi Gras a heavy shower came at mid-afternoon, the sky was overcast and atmosphere was dark. In about 20 minutes this changed, and for the rest of the afternoon the sun was out in all its glory. I continue to marvel at the weather patterns. When I got into town at about 11:15 on Tuesday morning, there was no indication that rain was going to feature at all, but by mid-afternoon it was a different story. Really, not even the ‘weather people’ seem to have a clue as to what is happening with the weather. They are more often wrong than right with their forecasts. It has to be remembered, too, that when the decision was taken to change the dates of Carnival this was one of the fears. Over the years, however, the weather has been kind to us. In some cases it would have delayed shows, but hardly ever causing a major disruption. We have really to be thankful.

The Calypso ‘finals’ was of a fairly high standard, although the problem we find recurring is that most of the finalists would have gotten in based on the one calypso they sang at the semi-finals. When it came to the second song that was where the problem arose. It makes it extremely difficult to make predictions based on the semi-finals, especially when you have not heard a second song by the artiste. Maxwell ‘Tajoe’ Francis was in my view the clear winner, performing both songs well, and really living up to expectations with his ‘Suzie’. I did not hear ‘Abijah’s’ song at the Semi-finals, but it was the view of many patrons on Sunday night that he did not deliver his popular ‘In this Round’ in the manner in which he impressed so many that night. Joy-C performed well, although her enunciation was not as clear as one has come to expect from her. I had some doubts about the suitability of her popular song ‘Breast Fed’ as being appropriate for the occasion. I said I had some doubts, but it was a powerful song, and really was social commentary. She was through this song sending a powerful message. I missed the Calypso Semi-finals this year, the first time this has happened for a long time. I still have not heard any serious analysis of the suitability of the La Croix Boxing Plant for that show. I have been one of the advocates of moving it out of town, not because of declining patronage, but to add some variety and to bring a different dimension to the show. My idea was to have it in a large open area, and before the construction of the airport at Argyle, that was my favourite spot. My view as was that of many others was that, especially with 22 Calypsonians, you start the show earlier in the afternoon, make it a family affair in a kind of picnic atmosphere. Black Point was also a suitability. I want at these shows to be able to get up and walk around.

On a passing note, it really stands out how things have changed in the calypso world. These days we look to the soca tunes for our Road March. Gone are the days when calypsonians sang a fast party type, up-tempo calypso and often a slower one with social commentary. The calypsonians seem to have surrendered without a fight to the Soca artistes in a bid to win the Road March. It really does not have to be like that. Fireman Hooper makes for a good study. He appears to have the ability to get the crowd to do whatever he wants them to do. One can, by examining Fireman, understand why politicians in this country are able to get people to do what they want them to do.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.