Crop-Over still ‘we culture’?

By Adonijah

One of the best ways to express yourself is through writing.

You don’t have to deal with the aggro of dealing face to face with people whom you’d prefer to avoid, especially when you don’t trust yourself to display socially acceptable behaviour in those meetings.

So today I want to write some letters, to parties whom I have no problem at all meeting face to face.

Dear NCF, I don’t know if VIP PASS every Wednesday night in Barbados Today is read by your staff but it really should be mandatory; make it part of the contract. I say this because opinions expressed in this column are often shared by many but it seems to me the vibes don’t reach West Terrace.

Let me say first of all that this missive is not prompted by any anger or bitterness on my part because I was placed 8th in the calypso competition. You’re just doing your usual thing, I know. These are issues I have been thinking about for a while and some at West Terrace know that. I simply want to share some things with you, some of which I touched on briefly in my last column.

In the spirit of goodwill, feel free to implement any of my suggestions; I’m giving them to you free. All I ask is that if you see it fit to implement any of them you have the courtesy to acknowledge from whence it came. Don’t let it be like the brilliant two-week break between semis and finals that I thought was conceived of by the NCF only to discover that it was John Roett who brought it to the table.

Crop-Over as it is right now needs to be scrapped and you need to sit with the much-vaunted at times shareholders and create a plan which will show the world what makes Barbados’ festival different from the many other carnivals in the world. Right now it is a wuk-up festival fuelled largely, it would seem by Crop-Over 2K12’s experience, by non-Bajan music.

That’s a good place to start. You cannot leave the projection of the festival in the hands of some culturally ignorant DJs. I have heard the complaint over and over again this season that Trini music ruled many of the fetes and the road. Now you can’t control the fetes, I know, but surely you can control the road.

More than one reveller told me the road experience of Kadooment was ruled largely by Trini music, and not even this year’s. I even heard that Katy Perry was played on the road. Katy Perry, on the road at Kadooment Day? What kind of madness is that?

And how do you control that? It’s simple. Make sure you have enough people at enough points on the road to get a real and accurate sense of what music each band is playing. Those that play Katy Perry or a preponderance of non-Bajan music, disqualify them! That sounds harsh but a people’s culture is a serious thing and serious methods have to be taken to preserve it. I know some people will say “the people called for it”.

Sometimes you have to lead the people and this is one of those times.

We only make ourselves look like fools to the world when others’ music is so large in our festival. I am sure Katy Perry would freak out if she heard her music was being played at Kadooment. I’d be very surprised if she even knew what Kadooment was, unless Ri-Ri filled her in. So you have to deal with the music.

Now to the question of what makes Crop-Over “more than a carnival”, which it isn’t right now. I have heard that the donkeys have died out so it isn’t possible to have the decorated donkey cart parade any longer. Try horses, nuh? What’s wrong with having a decorated horse cart parade? We have horses, for sure. I’m not even convinced there aren’t enough donkeys. Wunnah try to get Cornwell? Popsicle swore he wouldn’t sell him, so he should still be around; he looked healthy last year.

What happened to the Plantation Fairs? Were there too many people to be accommodated? If so, isn’t it possible to have a ticketing system where you provide only so many tickets as the space will accommodate? Those that don’t get tickets lose out, so people that want to go will do what they need to. Surely that is a better prospect than just stopping the fairs.

Then there’s the Culture Village, to which I referred last week. Why not return to King George V Memorial Park in St. Philip with a totally back-in-time theme? People dress according to the theme, the music played by the DJs reflects that, with the year’s party songs also played to appease the younger crowd and, to top it off, live bands such as The Troubadours, Blue Rhythm Combo, The Twilighters and The Dynamics reassembled to take the crowd back to the days of yore when we had good bands like peas.

A spouge section dedicated to Jackie Opel could be a highlight coming out of that. It would be a different flavour in the pot.

Those are three things that were unique, as far as I know, to the Bajan festival experience and we need to re-introduce them. The question is, though, why were they ever stopped. I think I have the answer or at least an answer.

Somewhere along the line, someone decided that what was uniquely Bajan was not sexy, glittering or glamorous enough to be offered to the world, so we went instead with “internationalising” the festival. This translated into having non-Bajans headline the festival and was apparently seen as the way to go.

I knew that artistes were in trouble from the time you, NCF, painted over the work of Timmy Callender which adorned the front of the building at West Terrace. That was almost an act of sacrilege because Timmy was and remains a seminal Bajan artiste. How could you even conceive of doing such a thing? What came afterwards in the de-Bajanising of the festival was no surprise to me.

Another area of concern is the management of shows. Nowhere else in the world have I heard of a headline act’s set being cut short because time ran out. What you do, if you have so badly miscalculated, is cut other acts, not the headliner. That leaves you with a dissatisfied public.

I am assuming, of course, that you do care about the public. I hope you feel differently about them than you apparently feel about calypsonians.

The level of disrespect shown to calypsonians is incredible, year after year. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. As president of UAB I had to intervene, successfully, when calypsonians taking part in the semis which were then at the East Coast had to park quite a distance away from the stage area in a field full of cow dung. Sponsors, of course, were parked nicely in a paved area close to the stage.

This year, NCF, you met with the DEM, the police, the fire service, Sam Poochie and the Duppy when the approach of Tropical Storm Ernesto occasioned the switch in the finals from Kensington to the gymnasium. There was no meeting with the calypsonians. And let me make this point here. Calling up Sinclair Gittens and telling him what you are going to do is not meeting with the calypsonians. First of all, he represents a minority of the tents, and his organisation, BATMAN, represents tent managers. Oh, and when last did he manage a tent himself?

Do you mean that no one at all thought that perhaps you should meet with the people who made up the show? Now that is disrespect at its highest, or lowest, take your pick. So on the morning of the competition, the ten finalists had to make their way through the rain to meet at the gym, when most of us would have been at home preparing for the night’s contest. It is true that the two NCF representatives apologised but that apology needs to be made publicly, though the media.

We were promised faithfully at that meeting that all the calypsonians would have separate rooms, which you need in order to really concentrate and prepare yourself for a competition. When I arrived at the gym, I was taken to “my” dressing room, which I also shared with Gabby, RPB, John King, a bariffle of dancers and support singers. There was so much noise in the room that at one point I had to approach one of the dancers and tell him that even though he looked muscular enough to beat me, his fellow dancers and he should make less noise.

Now of course I don’t have a problem being in the same space as my colleagues but we were made a promise. To add insult to injury, when I asked one of your officials what had happened, the response was “You lucky dey en got more people in dey”. Now tell me that is not gross disrespect! If it was suddenly discovered that the gym did not have enough rooms available (as if it was built last month) could someone not have called and told the artistes what to expect, instead of having them turn up to find a situation precisely the opposite of what they had been promised? I guess that’s too much respect.

This vexing issue of the release of points is another area in which massive disrespect is shown to calypsonians. Last year, although the rules indicated that the semifinals points were to be made public within seven days after the finals on July 22, they were never released until September 9. We heard all kinds of stories about people being back in the US and others being on vacation; no respect at all for the calypsonians. This year they still haven’t been released yet, more than a week after the finals.

Another sore point is the disappearance of the preliminary points from the picture. Once, all the points were available, as they should be. A calypsonian needs to know, at every stage, how he or she is doing — what areas are not as good as others, which is really the stronger song, these kinds of things. An organisation which truly had the welfare and development of the calypsonians at heart would see to it that these things are done, and in a timely fashion.

I get the strong feeling, and I am by no means alone in this, that your thinking, NCF, is this: “Wuh dey gine do? Dem is just talk but duh en gine do nuttin.” And you have been right, so far. Tell me this, though. Do you not even care that the withholding of these points only strengthens the public perception that there is “dibble and dap” surrounding these competitions? And the Sweet Soca fiasco has only strengthened that.

Don’t you care at all? Are you just happy when you have sold all your stall spaces, to sellers of Taiwanese products, and all your event tickets?

Crop-Over is too big to be anybody’s plaything and if you don’t move soon, with help from people who know about the festival and truly love it, it will degenerate even further into more mindless wukkin up, with little if any traces of what the festival is supposed to be about.

Is this what you want?

Yours in frustration


P.S. I willing to help!

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