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Love and Carnival

By Rubadiri Victor

I once loved a girl, but it was impossible. It was just one of those things. It had happened at Carnival time so we circled one another from afar whilst I tried to distract myself with fete after fete and the whirl of beautiful multiple female limbs… It did not work. After each wining moment died I was left hollow — and still in love. Carnal appetite could not satisfy the spirit… the rituals and spirit of Carnival is like that love — without it the festival is empty, reduced to appetite… And the human being requires more.

There's something missing now from Carnival. Under-35s who've never experienced it will not know its wonder. They cannot compute that level of electricity.

There were waves of anticipations shuddering through each week, tinglings accompanying each ritual opening — Pan-in-the-City, panyards and tents opening, Panorama prelims, semis, King and Queens prelims, Viey La Cou (traditional mas), each song released by a genius bard… "What Shadow, Rudder come with?"

That holy trinity of Pan, Mas, and Calypso with their multiple ritual genuflections all sent a magic into the air that was inexplicable.

Dimanche Gras and the revelation of bands on the street were the culmination of an avalanche of excitements. Las lap with live music on the road… Charlie's Roots on that last stretch… This is holy stuff. Legendary. Now nearly all gone. Replaced by fete after fete and the solitary monolith of the Soca Monarch…

It's now or never. We don't have time for stupidity anymore… The distance is here… The Golden Age generation is almost all dead. We must stop gaping like bystanders at our collapse and intervene.

Here's a list of things that would've died ages ago if Europe and America said, "it's only progress": all their heritage buildings; symphonic orchestras; most theatres and museums; independent TV and cinema; Italian fashion… Instead, their leaders responded with institutional measures to ensure preservation and growth. Now all are significant parts of mainstream global life — most are multi-billion dollar industries. This is a call for all-who-love to intervene.

Carnival Monday needs to be converted into Acoustic Monday — close off city centres to DJ music — from Woodbrook to Port of Spain proper: let live-band music explode, let revellers loose. On Monday let the Kings and Queens and traditional mas parade. Let pan reign. Open the country up to village carnivals with PTSC shuttles — broadcast them live!

Monday is lost, looking for direction — let this restore it. Tuesday then can be boisterous and spectacular, an explosion of the electronic, the mass-produced, the noise and the glitter…

Save the costuming tradition by implementing Minshall's "The Future of Carnival". Let "Band of the Year" be the most prestigious Carnival prize — $3 million. Open only for bands 30 to 300. Artisans of all classes will once more be interested.

Let limes, youth groups, sports clubs, families, rediscover their interest in forming bands. Return Carnival to the community.

Give it two years and witness the explosion of creativity we thought disappeared.

Let these bands cross the stage. Let the big bands parade around the Savannah with a special stage in front the Magnificent Seven.

Have these two bands parade different routes…

Calypso's not dead, but the Independence era kaisonians have become a CEPEP-gang- guaranteed tent places. Real calypso has migrated to public and private sector and NACC competitions. Also, party soca is kaiso too!

The best of all these must be selected to battle in the Big Yard! TUCO must do an annual 3-CD compilation of the best kaisos of the season…

The Carnival and Steelband Museum in the Savannah — with Carnival stands — must begin construction this year — with the recreation of the 100 greatest costumes of all time.

This will be the cornerstone of our Renaissance. Essential is the funding of the Guild of Masters to pass on Golden Age skills before the last geniuses die. This cathedral will transform us.

'What yuh feed does grow': and sponsors feeding fetes. Alcoholic and other sponsors must be Carnival-taxed from next year and that money re-channelled into tradition and creativity. It's time we craft sophisticated tax-instruments.

The media are also marginalising ritual Carnival in favour of fetes. Every daily paper's cover should feature a sponsored strip down the left with a schedule of ritual Carnival events — in villages and towns.

Every station should feature sponsored segments every hour featuring Best Calypso releases and "reports from the ritual" — stick-fighting results etc. Ritual must be returned to the mainstream.

Make the rituals of Carnival sexy to the young. Let our best design visionaries like Minshall re-engineer the Festival sensitively. Look at it as a whole — then its parts… For instance: You want youths on "the Greens" mentally involved in Panorama? Bring back medium-sized bands for the Semis. Let them only play party-soca as tune-of-choice. Watch the difference!

There's something that is our engine room — that causes us to be the special people we are, that engine — like love — is preciously wound like the gears of a watch — we must be sensitive of how we handle her or we will be all out of time…

* Rubadiri Victor is a

cultural activist

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