July 9, 2004

Beyond raw talent

Our Editorial of last edition paid homage to the prowess of our Carnival masmen and the high quality of their productions. This Carnival Day, they proved themselves once again in the process outdoing themselves much to the delight of an appreciative public. The standard of mas displayed was one of the highest we have seen in many years.{{more}}
Yet another of our editorials had made a call for bursaries or formal training opportunities to be offered to mas men in an effort to upgrade the design skills of these very talented aficionados. We pointed to the fact that the indefatigable Ossie Constance was being called upon to design for too many bands and that other designers need to emerge to ensure continuity.
Today we reiterate this call against the backdrop of mas bands here having to resort to importing designers from Trinidad and Tobago. And its not that we are against the concept of sharing expertise across the region, after all our own Julian “Peling” Pollard and others have been assisting other territories in this area. It comes out of a fear that this is being done since we are, seemingly, coming up short in the search for designers.
We feel that the way to go is for us to further spread arts programmes and arts appreciation within our schools. This would have to be done from the primary school level up. The ongoing training of artists and designers would provide a steady crop of qualified teachers. Additionally, we can tap into the resources of sister nations such as Venezuela and Cuba, which have achieved very high standards in the plastic arts.
We make a similar proposal in relation to our calypsonians. While many laud the high standard of the finalists in the annual competition, it has to be recognized that the majority of the finalists have been around for well over twenty years. Outside of that crop of persons who each year invariably make it through to the semifinals there is a large pool of “others” who, we know, are struggling with a love for the artform but often without the requisite skills to produce well-composed material. This is simply a recognition of the stage of our development that we must face up to as we plan to make future improvements.
So here again we propose a similar programme in music.
One does not expect to see immediate miracles but we are confident that over time the nation would reap the rewards of this type of investment.
It is precisely the type of result we have seen from the work of Robert “Patches Knights” and Joffe Venner among others who in different ways, the former in a manner more informal, the other more structured, have been working among youth and producing a crop of young performers and musicians who are already holding their own on the national stage.
While we do have many naturally talented persons among us, formal training tends to broaden the horizons of those so exposed and pave the way for a better quality end product for our future development.