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Friday, April 30, 2010

"Bacchanal is not Carnival"?

The following statement was made by Keith Noel, a contributing writer to the Jamaica Gleaner on April 15, 2010:
"In recent years, the capitalist urge has led to a number of designers outfitting their groups in pretty but skimpy clothing and although their groups are still colourful, one associates them with this rather than with their artistry. The celebratory, highly sexualised, aspect of the celebrations are also a focus. It is this 'branch' of carnival that was 'transported' to Jamaica and has become very popular. This is an integral part of carnival, but when it is the only focus and the cultural aspects are removed," it en really canaval yuh have! So dat is why I, a big, big Trini, not in dat!"

I respect any Trinbagonian's decision not to take part in Carnival in Jamaica especially if you expect it to be exactly the same experience as in Trinidad. In fact, the first thing that I tell any Trinbagonian when they ask me about Carnival in JA is that they should not expect the experience to be like Trinidad. I think that Mr. Noel failed to conduct proper research before making his assertions. First of all the Trinidad-style Carnival was brought to Jamaica by the Trinbagonian and Eastern Caribbean students who resided on the Mona campus in the 1950s. The activities included fetes, ole mas, a Carnival Queen show, a las lap fete and pan. By 1976, a group of affluent Jamaicans who made their annual visit to Trinidad formed the Orange Carnival which took place in the uptown residential community of Cherry Gardens. It eventually became a four day event that consisted of an all inclusive fete that featured calypsonians such as as Mighty Sparrow, Denyse Plummer, Gypsy and Singing Sandra. Byron Lee and the Dragonaires as well as the UWI Panoridim provided music. The event ended with a day long parade of masqueraders.

By 1990, Byron Lee had created his own "Jamaica Carnival" which featured costumes by Trinidadian designer Stephen Derek and Stephen Lee Heung as well as Peter Minshall's infamous King and Queen, Tan Tan and Saga Boy. In the early nineties, Byron Lee's Jamaica Carnival consisted of a Calypso Tent, steel band and a Junior Carnival parade. The mid 1990s, saw other activities being introduced such as wet fetes and j'ouvert by other emerging groups such as Oakridge and Jokers Wild. By 2000, there were two major organizations for Jamaica Carnival: Bacchanal Jamaica and and Jamaica Carnival. Bacchanal Jamaica became the main body for groups such as Frenchmen, Oakridge, Revellers, Raiders and Jokers Wild. Bacchanal Jamaica focused on their Friday night fetes, soca aerobics, j'ouvert and road march. By 2003, Byron Lee announced that his organization would be reducing its number of Carnival events and concentrating on their adult road march. In recent years, Bacchanal Jamaica is the dominant organization for Carnival events in Jamaica. Jokers Wild continue to host a J'ouvert and Island Mas promotes an annual wet fete.

It is true that there has been a reduction in traditional Carnival activties in JA which is also true of the Carnival in Trinidad. We have seen the slow death of the calypso tents, less persons at the pan yards and very little support for the King and Queen competitions as well as the Calypso Monarch. In Trinidad, sponsors flock to the fetes, j'ouvert and the road march which whether we like it or not, these are the dominant events for the Carnival. During the road march, the beads, bikini and feathers are the costume choice for the majority of masqueraders. In addition, one cannot ignore the impact of Jamaican dancehall on soca music whether through sound, performance style or collaboration. So if someone were to implement a model of the Trinidad carnival, soca music and the skimpy costumes would definitely stand out since this is what we have decided represents the festival. I'm not sure what "cultural aspects" have been removed since costumes and soca music are what currently define the Carnival culture of Trinidad. I believe that Mr. Noel means that the "traditional" aspects have been removed from the Jamaican interpretation but this phenomenon is also occurring in Trinidad. It should be noted that cultural expression evolves in any society and of course the older generations would feel a sense of loss and ultimately criticize the new forms.

I would also like to ask Mr. Noel if he attended the Soca on Sundays fete in March which featured a Trinbagonian DJ who played calypso and soca from the 1980s to present? What about the pan fete on April 7th at the Pegasus with steelbands Invaders and UWI Panoridim? or even the Calypso show on April 10 with Calypso Rose?

The idea is that Carnival means different things to different people, even in Trinidad and Tobago... but its liberatory nature is always constant...so who is Mr. Noel to say that Carnival in Jamaica is not "carnaval"???

Note: Keith Noel's article could be retreived from http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100415/cleisure/cleisure4.html

More on the history of carnival in Jamaica can be found in the article "Carnival as Lived-Meanings: Producing Trini-Style Carnival in Jamaica" (2005) by Hilary Brown.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Emerging Divas in Soca Music

Last weekend I attended a conference, Gender, Bodies and Technology hosted by the Virginia Tech's Women's and Gender Studies Program. I presented a paper based on research I've been doing on female soca artistes in Trinidad. I've been interested in the way women use cultural expression to assess, contest and redefine gendered discourse. Here is an excerpt from the paper on Faye Ann Lyon's experience being pregnant during the 2009 Carnival season:

At twenty eight years old, Faye Ann’s decision to continue working until near her delivery is not unheard of for contemporary women. For her, pregnancy does not mean the end of her career or even her sexuality. By publicly declaring that she was not ill but pregnant challenges the ideas of some areas of Western medical care that the pregnant body is in a state of disability and all women are just simply in a state of waiting for the birth of their child. Faye Ann also brought new ideas of sexuality to the stage with her pregnancy. The pregnant body takes up more space than the female body is expected to inhabit and the body no longer maintains the slender image that society approves of especially in the performance space. A contradiction emerges here about the status of the pregnant body. On one hand, it is evidence of sexual activity, but since female sexuality is expected to be hidden, pregnancy makes this difficult to conceal. On the other hand there is a supposed loss of sexuality as the woman has submitted her body to reproductive function. But Faye Ann’s glamour and confidence never faltered and she did not attempt to suppress her sexuality as she continued to wine and maintain her diva status during her performances.

Faye Ann Lyons proudly declares, “I always said that I want to be the female version of my father or surpass that in terms of performance”, which she has achieved and more as she is the only woman to capture three Road March titles and the first female Soca Monarch in Trinidad. She has accomplished her own signature as an artiste. She makes it a point to condemn the industry’s expectations of women and advocates that they should be seen as more than just sex objects but in the same light as men which is, as serious and talented soca artistes. She does not depend on her body or sexuality to achieve success but focuses on the strength of her voice, crowd incitement and writing her own songs. Her additional roles as daughter, mother and wife has not reduced her commitment to her career as she clearly wants to be on equal ground with her male counterparts. Faye Ann definitely will not take her role in the industry lightly and is prepared to continue contesting the male dominated ideas until there is significant transformation for female soca artistes which she has already contributed to.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Harts or Bacchanal?????

There was this one masquerader last Sunday whose individual costume caught my attention. It did not match any of the other costumes and it just seemed really familiar. I decided to send a pic of the costume to Saucy, the carnival costume guru and the creator of http://www.trinidadcarnivaldiary.com/ and I asked her if she knew this costume. Lo and behold, she confirmed my suspicion that this costume Life in the Waters/Earth Crisis came from the Trinidadian Carnival band,Harts 2010 presentation "50". I have no problem with people using their Trinidad Carnival costume in Bacchanal carnival because you paid a lot of money for it and it looks better than the Bacchanal costume. And in this masquerader's case, she stood out and got lots of attention from photographers. I saw her in both newspapers and tagged in a lot of FB pics. She also seemed to a part of the "Bacchanal VIP" so I guess it was no big deal for her to wear her Harts costume. But again I wonder if all is equal in Bacchanal because there's a clear policy which states that, "Only costumes purchased from Bacchanal are permitted- you will be asked to leave the band and your armbands removed if found in any other costume". Now I wonder if I came in my Thailand costume from Spice if they would have thrown me out?

Pic of the Harts Costume: http://www.trinidadcarnivaldiary.com/
Pic of the Masquerader: Jamaica Star Newspaper

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bacchanal Jamaica 2010: A Success???

I don't know much about PR but Bacchanal Jamaica really think I really stupid and that I have short term memory because I got a message from them in my FB account this week singing their praises. Now, I am not saying that I didn't enjoy myself cause I real palance and some people probably have that on camera, but don't expect me, a paying customer to forget the sh$t that people went through since the band launched earlier this year.

Furthermore, they have the audacity to quote one of their people praising the band, "Bacchanal Jamaica PR manager Renee Hartley said, 'It was an amazing and fulfilling bacchanal journey and the rain just added to the merriment. Seeing the love and unity between everyone this season makes me only look forward to another successful and unforgettable year." Steups, I know for sure that there was no love and unity when dozens of people didn't get their entire costume on the Friday before, or when people realized that the costume didn't fit the way it should or when people waited for up to thirty minutes to get their lunch. So Ms. Hartley stop feeding people this PR bullsh$t. In fact you should address some of the following:
  • Registration began without any prototypes of the costumes on display.

  • Female masqueraders should have been able to try on the bra at registration.

  • Come on, we all know that Frenchmen was not sold out when you said it was.

  • The tshirts should have been ready the same time as the costumes.

  • What's with these Bacchanal babes??? Why would you help to promote body discrimination by allowing these people to "select" their masqueraders based on a full length photograph. These people are paying their money; it's not like the costume free!

  • All of the costumes should have been ready for the stipulated distribution time.

  • Some of the bras should have fit better; check your suppliers for quality.

  • You need to recognize that all of your masqueraders are not the same size so consider the diversity of body types.

  • The distribution process is too slow and disorganized.

  • Please explain the mishaps at the lunch stop: why were some people unable to get their lunch in an effecient manner? Because someone was not in babes or Frenchmen does not mean that they should be completely disregarded.

  • Where were the security guards in Half Way Tree?

  • On a personal note, I did not get my complimentary Pure Country orange juice!
So stop acting like everything was fine and dandy because there are people like me who know that when I give you my money, you are not doing me a favour so treat me like a paying customer. Guess what? Mas is a business so act like you know how to run it.....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bazodee 2010- Review

I have to tender apologies to those who I influenced to attend this fete. I am so disappointed with The Ambassadors this year and their recession fete. I'm not an economist in any capacity but how can you increase the cost of the fete and offer less?

We got there about 9pm and used the courtesy shuttle to get from the parking area to the venue (which took about 2 minutes). After collecting my complimentary metal cup, that looked very much like a fancy enamel cup, I headed to the food. It should be no surprise that I began with the doubles, samosas and the bake and saltfish. Later on I had the roast lamb with noodles and the barbeque pig tail. The dessert station was a bust...it lacked the variety of cakes and pastries like previous years. If you love doughnuts, you would have made your name here. I'm sure they still have doughnuts remaining. I've never seen so much doughnuts on a buffet table; they even ran out of space for all these doughnuts. They also did not have the haagen daz station which was a major let down for me.

There were less bars which made it difficult to get drinks and the cocktail and wine bars were noticeably absent. They didn't even have apple vodka or premium drinks; I know they had Johnny at one point but it was finished by the time I asked for it. So it was regular Smirnoff vodka and coconut water for me...

For the first hour, the same mess DJ from mas camp was playing his usual sh$t....soca from the 90s mixed with 2 2010 songs and Destra's It's Carnival, which he played about 10 times. The sad thing is that this man feels he's the best thing since frozen patty. I really don't have court clothes so I going to leave the man alone. I was so glad when DJ Smoke took over and the vibes picked up a lot after that....next thing I know....I am hearing the 90s music mixed with 2 2010 songs and It's Carnival....guess what? time to go home!

There were some good aspects of the fete: DJ Smoke, the food was tasty, I had the opportunity to lime with a lot of my friends and there were a lot of trini celebrities (Shurwayne Winchester, Michelle Xavier, Doug E Slaughter and Wendy Fitzwilliam). Most importantly, I did not need any zantac!

Not sure if I will do this fete next year because you know they will definitely increase the price again and I definitely felt like I did not get my money's worth...so I suggest that the Ambassadors go back to the drawing board and plan this fete better next year....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bacchanal Jamaica Palance 2010

I was very happy that I did not to meet the band on time at 10am on Sunday because by 11:30, the band was no where to seen on Wellington Drive. I then decided to meet the band at that point and waited for almost 30 minutes until they got there. Once we got with the band, the vibes were nice and the music was good. Again, big up to Private Ryan, a real soca DJ as well as DJ Smoke from Renaissance. The band looked great even though I didn't really get to see the costumes in their sections. There's really a difference when you see the prototype costume and when you see it on the road in the daylight with masqueraders in their glam makeup and accessories. There were a couple of individual costumes, not sure how legit these were since they didn't really go with the theme...some did look good though. On another note, why are some men still wearing cycle shorts with their costume? Hello...not even Colin Lucas wearing cycle shorts anymore! The male costume comes with the board shorts so that means you have to make a special request for the cycle shorts....which is more disturbing.

So everything went well, we palanced down the road.. in the hot hot sun...people, drought sun is the worst sun. And you know if the sun hot, you get thirsty...these people only distributing tiny bags of water and the bar did not give a bottle of water but poured it into a 6 oz cup so I real vex I left my cup at home (I'm one of those people who want to "save" their complimentary cup to carry to work). I suspect the water situation had something to do with the sponsors.

About 1:30, we got to the lunch stop on Lady Musgrave Rd. and this is where the mess happened. Because I was in Frenchmen, I went to our designated 2 tents...if you see push for lunch and you know your girl not in that wildness so I waited a little for the hungry people to get their food first...I don't now why these people couldn't just form a line. So I opted for Chinese roast chicken and then made my way for a drink. There were mimosas, wine spritzers and fruit juice. I had a couple of mimosas and asked for an orange juice. Now I don't know if I blight with Pure Country orange juice but I was told that I couldn't get the juice in a bottle, only in a small cup....I real like my juice and I was really thirsty too so a little cup of juice would have done nothing...so I take the lil cup and humble myself...I should have brought my own damn cup! Frenchmen masqueraders could also choose from fruit plates, hot dogs, jerk chicken and rolls. There were a lot of chairs, sinks and portable toilets in their lunch section.

I went back to meet the hubby and lo and behold, he had not moved in the line for the Kashmir, Kahlahari and Diamonds masquerders. I realised that the food was now being boxed by only three persons whereas everyone else's food was already in boxes. People got very agitated and a fight broke out; it got even worse when they sent the sanitation workers to collect their food at the same tent. (Imagine the sanitation workers had their own section: Binny..). The masqueraders were in that line so long that I saw a girl pass out right there...they couldn't even get water to her because there were no drinks inside the lunch stop. Eventually he got his lunch and we ate...the food was horrible...I regretted not having the hot dog and fruits instead of the uncooked rice and cabbage but the chicken was edible. I went to the Frenchmen bathrooms which were extremely clean with toilet paper and went back on the road. The lunch stop was poorly organized; it seems as if you are not in Frenchmen or Bacchanal babes (BB had an two tents for themselves while 6 sections battled it out under two tents), you had to put up with poor organization amd horrible service; at the end of the day, everyone was a paying customer. I am really tired of this segregation in the mas, with some people getting preferred treatment over others, and we know that a whole heap of people in the stoosh sections, get their costume free.

The palance from Lady Musgrave was fun...the sun was gone, I had plenty protein in my system and I had 2 bags of water. I was still with the Private Ryan truck and even saw some of my good friends along the way. We got to the beach village and didn't see much people there (somebody please tell me how that went). The whole Waterloo Rd stretch was the best! The rain came and we well palance in that rain. I put my phone and camera in a zip lock bag and I real enjoy myself. By the time, we got to Half Way Tree, it was clear that the rain wasn't easing up and you know Half Way Tree real nasty and I was walking through some black water up to my knee which grossed me out. Also, most of the security guards had disappeared by that point. Now I not in the business of getting ring worm and rash and those kind of things so I jumped in mummy in law's car and went home about 5:15pm.

Although, I didn't go the entire route, I enjoyed myself to the max. The costume held up well and the toe protectors were okay in the boots. I had a previous cut on one of my toes so I'm not sure how effective the toe protector was on that toe. Also the boots were drenched in water, so that also hindered their use but I will try them again next time. Surprisingly, the music was better than expected (Private Ryan to the world!), and the rain came at a good time.
There's a complacency when a band does not have competition; they know that there are no alternative bands so they take on a "take it or leave it" attitude. The customer service at mas camp is horrible and their organization skills are ineffective...we are no longer in the 1990s so step it up and get with the times with your music, costume purchase and distribution and quality and design of costumes. Give us back packs, collars and tails. PLEASE explore new colour combinations and give the men something better to wear....

Friday, April 9, 2010

Carnival this Weekend in Jamaica!

So folks the weekend is finally here with lots of events to choose from to get your Carnival fix. I heard that the Frenchmen's Blocko (not to be confused with the Bacchanal Jamaica Blocko) that was held last night was a success. The party had a good vibe and it was well worth the JA$2000. Later tonight, Shurwayne Winchester and Y.O.U. along with Imij and Company will be at The Bacchanal J'ouvert at mas camp. The paint will be distributed at mas camp before they go on the road in New Kingston. Some persons are opting to meet the band on the road without going to the show which is fun too. Bacchanal will also be providing water trucks for people to wash off the paint before they get home because of the water restrictions. I know that paint is necessary for J'ouvert but unlike the paint used in Trinidad, this paint is very difficult to wash off because I think it's not mixed properly. Considering the critical water situation, using valuable water to wash off J'ouvert paint seems selfish. Most importantly, I urge everyone to be careful on the road...there's usually very little security and it becomes a free for all kind of thing.

Apparently Joker's Wild J'ouvert has been cancelled and I don't why the people acting as if it was never on. It's a good thing I saw the flyer with my own eyes. But I am not surprised: how did they expect people to pay all that money to see no one perform?? Best of luck next year!

Tomorrow Island Mas will be hosting their WATA party, another sore issue with me. Firstly, there should be no water parties during this period even though they will be getting the water trucked from outside of Kingston. Guess what...it's still water being wasted...I don't care if the water coming from the moon...the fact is that there are people who have not received water since December and that water can be used by someone who actually needs it for their survival. In a later press release, Island mas claimed that they will abandon the water truck idea and it will now be a foam party because this needs less water....it's still a waste of water!

You can also do Bazodee on Saturday which is all inclusive and expensive but if you can afford it...I fully endorse this fete. They are even offering a Trip for 2 to Crop Over as the gate prize (keeping fingers crossed!). I collected by reserved tickets yesterday at the Pure Country Building on Deanery Rd. so I'm not sure how people will get tickets tomorrow. Will let you know how this one goes...
The road march is on Sunday from about 10am to 4:30pm but if you didn't get a costume, you can check out the Socamaloo Soca Road March Watch Party (the name real long boy). It will be held at the Keycard Beach Village on Trafalgar Rd. from 10am until 10pm complete with the whole beach vibes which include sand and Hellshire fish and lobster on sale. I get the feeling that this fete will attract a lot of persons because of its location.

Just a follow up to the last post: I still didn't get my complimentary bottle of Pure Country Orange Juice! Doh worry, there's still tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Beach J'ouvert 2010- Madddd!

As I said before...Beach J'ouvert is a must-go fete during carnival in Jamaica and the fete delivered this year.
As usual, James Bond beach is an appropriate venue for the fete. It offers a large space, bathrooms and a covered area for those who do not want the paint. If you got there too late, you had to park on the road (some people told me that it is actually a highway). Now I don't mind parking on the road because I got there about 5:15pm but why the hell I must pay JA$300 to park on the Government of Jamaica road (or highway)???? And the people who collected the money were definitely not employees of the Government so why the a$$ I must take my hard earned money and pay a man not to tief my car???? especially when there are loads of police officers everywhere! Lo and behold when I walk the mile and a half to the venue, I hear a security guard telling another guard to let people park inside...so I paid JA$300 to park on the road when if I was 15 minutes later, I could have parked closer to the venue...steups.

Anywho, so I reach inside and another security guard by the entrance confiscated my Republic of Trinidad and Tobago flag! So I get vex one time...how the hell you would confiscate a national flag? So then I thought about it...why am I assuming that the guard knows that this a national flag...so I proceeded to explain to her that I am from Trinidad and this is our national flag yada yada.. My girl would look to tell me that I'm carrying a weapon and that the sign clearly states "no weapons allowed"...So by this time, I'm keeping back the line and person getting disgruntled so I told her that I did not plan to hurt anyone, I just wanted to wave a flag...so she took the flag off the stick and kept the stick...and I left it that...no time for no CARICOM argument. I say flag...you say weapon...whatever...

I'm finally inside and realized that the paint wildness was going on so I hid near the no paint zone because I don't like that wildness...trini to the bone...doh play mas and fraid powder...stoosh...whatever....not me and that paint attack.

Every year there's this guy (don't know his name, so is nobody popular) that takes control of the microphone in an effort to hype up the crowd...I think he's some kind of Bacchanal Jamaica mascot of some sort. First of all, the beach j'ouvert crowd does not need to be hyped up so this man continues year after year to make a fool of himself. He just becomes a distraction to the music...just let the DJ play the music and leave this man's annoying voice and antics out of it. Talking about Djs, you know these people bring the same mas camp DJs to play the same 10 songs that they play in mas camp...steups...I'm not going down that road again. But thank you Bacchanal Jamaica for bringing a REAL soca Dj to the fete...Big up to Private Ryan...the best soca DJ outside of Trinidad and Tobago (he's from Miami)...let me tell you that this man saved the fete!

Now I was not happy about seeing Ding Dong perform and boy was I right...a bunch ah man on the stage and they alone know what was going on...There were so many people on the stage that I'm not sure if Ding Dong was actually there. Let's just say that the performance was awful. Again, leave the dancehall and Ding Dong for another event.

A little after 8pm, Faye Ann, Bunji and the Asylum band came on the stage...madness...They performed all of their popular songs and these two really improved their act. Forget being husband and wife, there's a clear chemistry in their performance. Their voices were clear, the delivery was strong and there was a lot of energy. The majority of the crowd were not familiar with a lot of the songs but everyone else enjoyed them. Faye ann's out fit was a little boring which didn't matter to me because her performance was that good...and no one cares what Bunji wears anyway. The freestyle bits by Bunji were not too much and he got a good response from the crowd. Their performance went on for over an hour and ended with Faye Ann's True Lies (my absolutely favorite song!).

What I loved about their performance was that it was enjoyable...no glitz...no lip syncing...no imitation...just a legit show. At one time Faye Ann said, "I'm not Rihanna and I'm not Beyonce....I am Faye Ann Lyons"". This is the point that I was trying to make about Destra...stop trying to imitate other artistes...just do you...nothing was wrong with you before. Is it that we are not confident in our cultural capabilities so we imitate others? Faye Ann's attitude will make soca stand out by not making it into R&B or dancehall performance.

All in all I had a ball...it was a great fete...one of my favourites outside of Trinidad....and talk about Trinidad...if you see how much Trinbagonians were in this fete...down to meh girl Wendy Fitzwilliam...so the Trinis represented well!

Bacchanal Jamaica Costume Collection

Friday, April 2, 2010

Toe Protectors for Carnival

I read about toe protectors on http://carniaddicts.blogspot.com/ and it caught my attention since I've lost many big toe nails over the years all in the name of mas. I did some research and purchased a Visco-Gel Toe Protector from PediFix. It's a soft fabric sleeve that is lined with a gel and it stretches easily over your toe. It's large enough to fit over your big toe but can be used on the other toes as well. The aim is to protect your toe especially if you are prone to ingrown nails, corns or any form of toe discomfort and the fabric allows your toe breathe while in the sleeve. I purchased it on amazon.com for US$6.38 and it arrived in about one week. I'm going to try it with my boots for carnival in Jamaica but it could also be worn with sneakers too...will let you know how it goes....check out the reviews on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Pedifix-P82L-Visco-Gel-Toe-Protector/dp/B0002DUSXY/ref=pd_sim_hpc_1