Saturday, February 17, 2018

Year for love

JUST as the nation's spirit was bending under the weight of criminal and economic stress and distress, Carnival has come with its magical antidote to lift our spirits and fortify us for the year ahead.

This year, the music has been the medium for the message of the Carnival Spirit and its Pied Piper has been Voice, the newly-crowned Soca Monarch, powerfully accompanied by artistes such as Orlando Octave with his seductive “Love You So”, a veritable ode to Trinidad and Tobago.

Love may well be the theme of Carnival 2018 and Voice's “Year for Love” may be the song that will come to define it, much in the way that “Full Extreme” defined 2017 with its uncompromising defiance against pessimism.

In this extended season of pain, the rhythm of “Year for love” offers the balm we need and its words carry the message we need to hear.

As if to back up the love theme of Voice and Octave, Blaxx, who took second place honours in Friday's Soca Monarch competition, has given us with “Hulk”, an anthem for endurance and courage in the face of all odds.

This is the magic that has given Trinidad Carnival its reputation as a fountain for inspiration and regeneration.

Whether they articulate it as such or not, this is why Trinbagonians revere their Carnival and will allow nothing to stand in its way.

As with most years, the music produced for Carnival 2018 has been a mixed bag. It runs the spectrum from the odious and demeaning, to the mediocre wine and jam designed for mindless motion, to music with the power to transport listeners beyond themselves.

While calypso agonises about its place in the future, its child, soca, remains an art in progress, dynamic and pushing the envelope in multiple directions.

Granted, 2018 may not rank among soca's most outstanding years, but it must surely be considered among the most innovative. While the old formula still holds tremendous power in fetes and on the road, the more interesting developments are emerging on the margins of the music where younger artistes like Voice, Octave, Nailah Blackman, Olatunji Yearwood, Nishard M and Neval Chatelal and many, many others are experimenting and bringing new energies and elements to the artform that is their inheritance.

It is only a matter of time before one or some of them make the breakthrough that will take soca emphatically beyond the diaspora. It might have happened a long time ago if the State had understood their needs and known how to assist them. It does not. The plethora of State initiatives introduced to support the creative sector are invariably bogged down by bureaucracy, partisan politics, inhibiting legislation and incomplete infrastructure. With the economy down, the limited funds currently available are being misdirected to agencies with precious little to show for what is spent on them.

That, however, is an issue for another time.

For now, let us revel in the gift that our musicians have brought us this year and thank them for lifting our hearts in this year when the only answer to the troubling questions about the future is love.