Peter O'Connor writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
Well look at trouble, yes? They want to tone down, sanitise and control the Carnival to meet our enduring desire to become “Just like America.” But, before I continue, let me declare my blasphemous position regarding Carnival and what modern Carnival has become. Calypso no longer exists and is not a part of pre-Carnival, nor any part of the event itself. The uninspired and uninspiring frenzy presented as soca (Ras Shorty I must be spinning at 78 rpm where ever he is), is dead, albeit still noisy. Nothing new has come from Kaisoca since “Han’in de air!,” and nothing new is expected.
The over amplification of the electronic instruments in the orchestras permits no finesse, no runs, no wit, no joy. And now the authorities want to deprive our musicians of the only strength they have—straight noise.
“Playing Carnival,” or even watching it, has become a boring bikini parade, and while yes, I really do admire the “fillings” in the bikinis (and by the way the USA-inspired “moral police” may soon ban “admiration,” and make us prove that we were only admiring, not lusting). But the plain truth is, I doubt that any observer of Carnival Tuesday on the Savannah stage could describe what the different larger bands looked like, far less what they represented.
Now I do appreciate that elaborate theme costumes are not ideal for jumping in the streets or taking or giving a wine on fellow masqueraders, pavement viewers, or old men like myself (I will come back to this!). But when we had talented mas men designing and creating our players’ costumes, they produced costumes which allowed for dancing display plus wining.
However, let me not pine for “them old time days” and ways. Mas’ players are driven by the music being presented, and costumery and theme lag far behind the comfort and freedom of near-nakedness, so I acknowledge that the mas is totally for the player and not for the viewer. It must be great fun to prance and wine through the streets and across the stage free to move as you want and to wine where and upon whom you want, so go for it, folks!
But wait a minute! This win’ing thing has suddenly been curtailed by the moral police. This unique activity has existed for as long as I can remember (and I am pretty old now), and I have never known it to be a threat to anyone—winer or winee. I have always known that if you do not want that person wining on you, you dance away. I must confess, however, that when this has happened to me, I have never danced away. And this brings up another point—the blatant sexism over who is to be charged for illegal win’ing. It seems that women are going to be protected by the law, but men are not?
The last time I was in town for mas was back in the 1990s, the year Sanelle sang her classic road march River, which was class kaiso, an ode to orgasm which the moral police could not fault! I was liming on the Drag on Tuesday afternoon, and found myself by Rabs Immortelle, lined up under their banner, waiting to go on stage. A beautiful young lady came out the band, and started to pelt waist upon me right under their banner. And not a police (sic) in sight to save me?
And then another, a clone of the first, joined the attack—pelting waist from behind. And still no police! Oh No! A third one, another clone, joined them, jamming, jamming me. I just had to take it, as best I could, until they decided to move on—the three of them. Reeling, I looked towards the elderly guy holding one side of the Rabs’ banner, and he just smiled wryly and said, “Triplets!” Would the new law protect me from this sort of multiple assault should I go in the Savannah again? I hope not!
While I totally agree with the need to reduce “band” noise within or close to residential areas, I think that we are not being creative about noise reduction to the neighbourhoods.
For starters, we ought to build a couple of major fete centres out in abandoned sugar cane lands, which can cater specifically to the requirements of major fetes — safe parking, plenty bars and food outlets, lots of toilet facilities, first aid stations, and a number of professional stages set around the “dance” area. But the amplifiers for the bands and singers would be set on towers around the fete area, pouring the noise (OK, OK, the music!) down into the writhing crowd. The music pours into the crowd, which absorbs it as they jump.
Sound engineers out there: Is this worth considering? Good luck!