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Friday, July 3, 2015

Dear Fay Ann...

Soca is a relatively new form of music that is still trying to figure out what it is as a genre.  Artistes like Fay Ann, Bunji, Kees, and Machel are experimenting with different sounds to define soca and carry it beyond Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, and its Diaspora.  The most recent trend is the fusion with EDM led by Major Lazer and other soca artistes, which they hope will carry the music “international”.

But what does “carrying soca international" mean? It means making the music popular outside of its current space.  Popular in this sense, is selling as much of it as possible to a mass heterogeneous audience outside of the Caribbean.  So Bunji performing on BET’s 106 and Park or having his song played on Grey’s Anatomy did not position Differentology in mainstream popular music.  In the same way, the use of Destra’s Bonnie and Clyde in a Parrot Bay rum ad did not give the song mass appeal.  However, soca did make its presence known in the past. The first major hit for calypso internationally was the Andrew Sisters’ version of Lord Invader’s  Rum and Coca Cola which spent 10 weeks on the US Pop Billboard charts in 1944. Harry Belafonte’s album, Calypso (1956) and Arrow’s single, Hot! Hot! Hot!, which was later redone by Buster Pointdexter )(1982/1987) were also classified as popular. And in recent times, Kevin Lyttle’s Turn Me On (2001), Baha Men’s version of Anslem Douglas’ Who let the Dogs Out (2000), and Rupee’s Tempted to Touch (2004) made their way to the mainstream market.  Although these were proud moments for the Caribbean, the artistes were one hit wonders and failed to keep soca on the global popular music scene. 
Now on to Fay Ann and the Raze music video...Fay Ann Lyons is a great soca artiste, not because she is Super Blue’s daughter or Bunji Garlin’s wife, but because of her songwriting, particularly her ability to create a hook, her strong vocals, and her stage presence.  She is the third woman to capture the Road March title and the first to capture the Soca Monarch title.  She is also the first artiste to win all of the categories in the Soca Monarch competition and win the Road March in the same year. With these achievements, Fay Ann is committed to taking soca out of its seasonal nature and making it a truly popular music genre.  Recently, she has been experimenting with the EDM sound in an attempt to carry the music international.  Her signing with VP records is also a step in that direction. Now, why a successful soca artiste would release such a mediocre music video for the song that she wants to cross musical borders? 

Although Fay Ann believes that Trinbagonians are too small minded and unintelligent to appreciate the production of a music video, there were many small minded wanna-be experts who failed to see the artistic greatness of the video and in true Trinbagonian style, did not hold back their views.


But I don’t think Fay Ann was ready for her own people to share their feelings on the video and she took to traditional and social media to respond:
 “As far as I am concerned I am happy with the video and have no time for negativity”
“Lol thank you, being different has always been ok in my book. Even if no one else thinks so”
“Ok off to bed...but I hope all these experts on videos can point me in the direction of the place where they are in rotation in Trini! TNX”
“Problem is yal say things and think because we artiste we must not respond or say anything. But guess what you wrong”

“Dont know who say vids must depict song, take me to church song watch the vid? All these experts! Locally!! Lol”
“I wonder where these "experts" does be hiding I did the vid I like the vid that's it. Stueps!”
“No sorry, to Trinidad the song old. Don't know why they pretending to care. When they let soca mostly play for carnival:”
“Vids are done with many purpose my dear, do you think I did it with you in mind? Lol nope. The ppl it was done for got it!”
And my personal favorite:
“Lol the vid was not done for a carnival Trini audience, so I am on target with them not getting it. Plus the RIGHT ppl like it”
I really don’t believe that after Fay Ann read the thousands of comments, she literally Lol-ed.  It must have been very hurtful to get such negative feedback particularly when she felt the self directed video was up to international standards. 
So Dear Fay Ann, instead of taking your precious time to read and respond to every single comment from those you perceive as ‘haters” (and we know Trinbagonians can carry it too far), acknowledge the feedback and redo the video. As an artiste, it is important that you do not insult your audience because without the local, there would be no international.

So here are some suggestions from a non expert:
  • Get a GOOD video director and videographer
  • The most powerful hook in the song is “wake up everyone who sleeping” which is a call to subvert or to unmask within the Carnival.
  • Keep the basic concept with the snow, but it needs to be contrasted with something darker like the oil and mud of Jouvert.  Jouvert (“a new day dawning”) represents this awakening and transformation.
  • The call to put “all hands in the air” is a significant part of the spirituality of Carnival- a reaching to skies, coming off the earth…it’s all a part of the revelry. We need to see this portrayal.
  • These dark scenes would complement the winter scenes, which is a significant image of social forces that restrict freedom in our everyday lives (ok ok, I hear you laughing so I’ll stop).
  • I am no expert on fashion so I’ll leave the styling to those who are, but K2K could have done something fabulous here.
  • A great editor, producer and director would be able to put all of this together to tell a critical story of getting out of our comfort zones and achieving liberation despite the status quo.
Raze captures so much of the spiritual and physical aspects of Carnival, but the video fails to do the same.  This depiction does not have to be literal in terms of the stage, big truck, mas costumes, or a night club.  So I’m confused about Fay Ann producing a song and a video for 2 different audiences.  Moving from the periphery to the center or carrying the music international is no easy task, but don’t alienate the local audience – don’t tell us that the video is not for us. We are your audience and we know when your work is mediocre, so stop taking it so personal…
Raze is a great song and the video should target anyone who experiences this waking up and transformation that defines the Carnival. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jamaica Carnival 2015: Where All Dem Fetes Come from Daadddyyy???

Jamaica Carnival fete list for the next 2 weeks:

Jamaica Carnival really begins this week with more events to choose from and to budget for...but I can say that it is finally a Carnival season here in the land of reggae and dancehall.  For many of us, it is a welcomed change to the years of just Mas Camp Fridays, Beach Jouvert, and Bacchanal Jouvert.  I am happy to see that so many promoters are introducing new concepts and challenging the old school Bacchanal Jamaica model.  Yet, this comes with a hefty price tag.

Have some of these promoters lost their minds??? I know that Jamaica Carnival belongs to the middle and upper income groups and there is this unbelievable need to keep certain groups out (don't debate me on this), but jeezus, ease up on the ticket prices!!! These promoters will keep trying to exclude people until they are successful in keeping everyone out making it truly exclusive with not one patron in attendance (if only).

And promoters, please don't try to justify these prices with the "but it's cheaper than fetes in Trinidad" nonsense. Trinidad and Tobago has a stronger economy and stable foreign exchange.  In essence, the Trinbagonian middle income group has more to spend. I'm not saying that fetes shouldn't make a profit but damn, how can you double the price in the space of one year? But I guess this works because people are still going, especially the kind who needs to make an appearance for the various Facebook pages and has little or no interest in Carnival.  Let's call them the feters en blanc....

All is not lost, there are some affordable options that are still trying to keep us regular folk in.  For instance, the weekly fetes such as Tabanca Tuesdays, French Lyme, and Karnival Countdown are great for their no or low cost.  They don't go too late and you can get to work on time the following day.  You also get to enjoy the same DJs as the bigger more expensive fetes.

My personal favorite is the I Love Soca cooler fete which I have been to every year since its inception.  It has managed to keep the price low with good DJs and guest performers.  But then again, why should I pay any more to bring my own drinks, cups, ice etc ?

Another best bet for your money is Dusk that is drinks inclusive for $3500 (approx. JMD$116=US$1).  But my top pick has to be Glow, another drinks inclusive, but only for $1500! And the best part is that ladies dressed in white get in at a 2 for 1 price before 11pm.  At this price I am questioning why would a cooler fete charge $3000 *side eyes Sundown*...

In terms of the all inclusives, I can't believe that Frenchmen is actually the best choice.  Yes, they have increased their price but they have not reached the $9000 that one fete is asking (I see you Marbana).

For breakfast fetes, there is Frenchmen Rise Up for $6500, Canboulay for $5000, Sunrise for $8000 or $9000...and Vale Breakfast for $3500 ( no drinks)...you decide....

Now for the Jouvert fetes....I am confused that Cocoa Jouvert was $4500 (same price as last year), but Ambush is $8000 ($7000 if you got the early bird).  Although Bacchanal's Jouvert is the cheapest at $2000 with performances by Destra and Kerwin Du Bois, I am still not a fan of their events....

Who am I to complain?...this is just the ranting of someone trying to stay afloat in a struggling Jamaican economic situation but still trying to enjoy its best time of the year....while I can.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why Trinis Should Do Jamaica Carnival

Now that Trinidad Carnival is over and the tabanca has fully set in, don't fear my Trini friends, you can always do Jamaica Carnival.

The Jamaica Carnival season is in it's early stages now, but things really pick up around Easter weekend with the Road March being held on April 12.

BUT... I am warning you to not compare Jamaica Carnival to Trinidad's because it's no where on the same scale.  Jamaica Carnival is a very small event (that is growing) and not a national festival.  The road march and costumes are managed by Bacchanal Jamaica, a private entity, and the fetes and J'ouvert are put on by Bacchanal and other promoters.  Even so, it is worth the experience.

Photo credit: Eloquence.com
1.  It is cheap(er).
Because of the exchange rate (about J$116 to US$1), Trinis can get more for their money in Jamaica  as it relates to fetes and costumes.  And since Trinis are feteing like oil is US$200 a barrel, then why not?  For instance, a cooler fete can range from US$20-25 and an all inclusive can start from US$70. In addition, you can get a BL costume from US$300 and a FL from US$400. However, keep in mind that the airfare from Trinidad on CAL is pricey with a cost of about US$500-600. If you don't mind a longer route, Copa airlines are sometimes cheaper than CAL (but through Panama).

2. You may not have to pay for accommodation.
Everyone knows a Trini in Jamaica.  I mean there are literally hundreds of Trinis living here.  You must know one who would be willing to put you up for at least a week (not me of course). But please, if you do go this route, offer to pay for groceries or contribute to the light bill because those aren't cheap. If you can't find someone to put you up (Jamaican or Trini), hotel rooms in Kingston can range from US$140-250 per night. You can check out Knutsford Court Hotel, Jamaica Pegasus, Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, and Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston.

If you plan to get here for the Easter weekend fetes, keep in mind that these do not take place in Kingston and you may have to get accommodation in either Ocho Rios or Portland where basic rooms can cost about US$60-100.

3. You can recycle your costume from Trinidad Carnival.
There is one band for Jamaica Carnival (yes, it's that small) and the costumes are okay and reasonably priced.  But if you want more, you can wear your own costume and simply pay for the t-shirt option (US$240) to get the armband. The prices are all-inclusive and come with drinks, meals, and snacks.  There is also a cool down area and restroom facilities.

Photo credit: Dwayne Watkins

4. The J'ouvert is awesome.
During the season there is Cocoa J'ouvert (March 7) and Beach J'ouvert (on Easter weekend), but on the Friday before the Road March, there are about 3 major J'ouvert events.  The 2 major events are Caesar's Army AM Bush and Bacchanal Jamaica's J'ouvert with my pick being Caesar's Army. Last year, AM Bush only catered to 300 patrons, but I'm sure it will be bigger this year.

Caesar's Army Ambush 2014 Photo Credit: Jamaica Gleaner
5. Machel will be here.
I'm not sure when and where, but Machel will be here; he's always here.  He usually does the Pandemonium fete on the Thursday before Carnival, so he might be here for that. And it's not just Machel, but a lot of local soca artistes and DJs are booked for the season.

Photo credit: Skkan
But even more importantly, Trinis should do Jamaica Carnival simply because nobody loves a Carnival more than a Trini.  Trinis be like: "aye, I hear it have ah Carnival in Space"..."Eh heh? When is dat?"