Carnival, the annual bacchanalian festival is on the go racing towards two days of revelry in the streets of Trinidad and Tobago. We Trinis talk about the explosion of colour, culture, music etc but what it all comes down to is, Carnival is big business. Fetes costing five hundred dollars and up, mas costumes that are equivalent to a house or car payment, is it all worth bankrupting yourself? To anyone who knows me, reading this would fill them with wonder. Clearly I must be getting old and more curmudgeonly. After all, I am the woman who would spend fourteen to sixteen hours producing some or other Carnival feature, then race off to party before catching a couple of hours sleep, put in some time at the mas camp and then start all over again. What happened you might ask.
I applaud all those soca artistes, mas makers and fete promoters for their embracing of the environmentalist’s challenge to reduce, reuse and recycle. They’ve been doing a marvelous job of this! A week ago, watching the Soca Monarch preliminaries, subjected to the same tired, boring, stupid lyrics and arrangements, I thanked the performers, they’ve saved me a ton of money, I have no desire to go anywhere and have that crap playing in my ears over and over again. Understand, most songsters don’t release an album every year, at least not the really talented ones. They generally take their time, craft their product and then release it. Not soca artistes, they release an album every year, it’s hard to be innovative and creative all the time. What generally happens is the recycling of melodies, pap filled song lyrics and intensive sampling of other people’s work. With the exception of Machel Montano, the product of many soca artistes does not transcend the current year of release. And even Machel has his off days, does anybody remember what he sang last year and how does it stack up to say….Big Truck?
Touring the mas camps have not made it any better, with the average costume costing anywhere upwards of three thousand dollars. For years I played mas, made mas costumes and ran a mas camp. I fail to understand why a costume that I will wear for one day is going to cost more than my car payment. Sure the cost of everything has gone up worldwide, sure the musicians are charging more, and yes security costs but there is a recession going on people. Who the hell is going to be able to sustain this? You’d better find some way to cut your production costs and yes, it is possible, try making a smaller mark-up why don’t you. Because despite all the cries of poverty from bandleaders NONE of them are in this for the fun and games, they all are in it because they make money. Look Brian McFarlane is a personal friend, it does not help that while going through his designs I realized that I probably could dig through the back of my closet and find a few that look exactly the same. Yes, admit it, you’re channeling Minshall because that’s the only person I paid to play mas with, all my other costumes were ‘free’ because I was part of the band machinery.
I fail to understand the lure of the all-inclusive fete, what’s up with that? Women go out and buy and outfit for the occasion, this on top of the ticket price which can range from $400 for the basic fete to $750 for a super, superior event. You stand around with your drink having a social ‘wine’, everybody looking to see who wearing what and who came with whom so they could tell their friends they were there. It’s like a very expensive cocktail party with ear splitting bad music. Fine if you like that sort of thing but you know, $750 gets me two pairs of shoes at the Outlet and I’m going to be wearing them a lot longer than the one night.
So you see folks, even though this is our national festival I’m happily giving it a miss this year, again. I’m really glad I had the times that I did when mas and Carnival were a big part of my life but that chapter is pretty much over, thankfully. My pocket and my knees would probably collapse under the strain now. That’s the nice thing about getting older; it lends a different perspective of what really enjoying something is about. These days I find wielding a glue gun making costumes more fun than wearing one, and really, there’s nothing wrong with that.