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Thursday 16 August 2018
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Commentary

A Carnival on lyrics

Mark Lyndersay writes a weekly column for the Newsday. 

The start of the 2018 Carnival season is one that’s already been hallmarked by a surprising degree of political correctness.

The Police Service issued a statement warning of the criminal charges associated with “unlawful touching.”

The Telecommunications Authority (TATT) issued two advisories to the Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) warning of the consequences of airing songs containing what it described as degrading, negative and discriminatory material.

The TTPBA is currently seeking counsel and declined to make a statement on the matter.

TATT ignored e-mailed questions on the subject.

It’s unclear on what basis TATT is threatening to revoke the licences of any broadcaster found guilty of airing material which contains lyrics “disrespectful to women,” given the theoretical status of the Broadcast Code.

Especially since the history of calypso and soca is littered with examples of the lyrics that so disturb them, most notably and recently the atrocious Kick Een She Backdoor, of which the less said the better.

The police are certainly on sounder ground in underlining the issues of harassment embedded in Carnival, a matter that was more agreeably raised with the “Leave She Alone” awareness campaign that rode on the success of the popular song by Calypso Rose.

But threats of legal action seem to be an unproductive place to start in engaging the history and legacy of the TT Carnival, which is by both name and design a bacchanalia of a most enthusiastic order.

This is a festival in which being disorderly, drunk and debased have long been held as a starting point for the revelry and in the fevered centre of which proper behaviour seems as out of place and unlikely to survive as a fattened lamb in a lion’s den.

To single out Machel Montano’s endorsement of wanton wining in apparent defiance of the law and the statement of the police is to ignore a long tradition of inciting bad behaviour from the stage at Carnival fetes and the hearty agreement with such instruction from the people responding to the music.

People should be free to dance on their own at Carnival if they choose, and they should be equally free to be as licentious with their laps as they care.

Getting to that place won’t be mandated by law, and the first steps should always be discussion, particularly in a Carnival that finds its cultural heart congested by unfocused state support of an idea of the festival that’s increasingly removed from its practical reality.

That distance seems even greater when TATT calls on broadcasters to exercise “socially responsible behaviour.” How did the authority plan to measure its progress along this particularly slippery slope?

Massive Gosein’s song is simply a disappointment. When I think about all the mathematically unsound areas of governance that a maternal Rowley might have fact-checked, all I hear is an opportunity for a great chutney song lost.

Despite that, the appalling video has clocked more than a quarter of a million views since it was posted four weeks ago, making TATT’s concerns moot.

The world of Carnival has been crafted and curated for decades by its popular circumference operating with only tangential connections to its cultural and creative history, while its guiding core, the NCC, has rotted into irrelevance and insignificance as one more rule maker, disconnected from the reality of Carnival’s events and climactic street party.

There are conversations that are overdue in Carnival, evaluations of a festival that is both bigger and smaller than we imagine. Questions of direction, of relevance, and contemplations of a historic legacy in obvious stasis.

It’s a slippery beast, our mas is, but we need to come to grips with it.

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there

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