Before we deal with the expected hottest ever Tobago carnival, let me briefly give a view on the 2012 calypso semifinals which took place at Skinner Park, San Fernando last week Saturday. Firstly let me congratulate Lesley-Ann Ellis and her composer Sherwin Cunningham for making it into the national calypso final.
I first attended the National Calypso Semi-finals in 1976 when it was then held at the Naparima Bowl. Those were the days when there were real classy calypso compositions from the likes of Duke, Shorty, Stalin, Maestro, Bomber, Blakie, Shadow and Rose to name a few. Sometime ago, I stopped attending the event because of the lowering of standards, mostly because of poor selections by the so called calypso judges. However, this year, I decided to make the trip to 'Sando' and out of the forty songs showcased on the day, it was hard for me to find at least ten top quality calypsos.
After all Trinidad and Tobago is the land of calypso and among the hundreds of kaisonians in our land, I am certain there could be more than forty good calypso compositions to be put in the semifinals. There were so many 'abc' songs on the day that I decided to head back to Tobago.
I was not surprised at the selections for the national finals because of the mindset of the calypso judges. It is my view that if the calypso judges were thrown into the Gulf of Paria with the sharks, they would all survive because if they could survive their nonsensical selections year after year, then they could survive anything.
Also this primitive, disrespect for some of our artiste by the toilet paper waving, politically influenced group at Skinner Park remains one of the turnoffs of the event. So much for kaiso, now I am getting the feeling that this year's Tobago carnival would be a very hot event.
Ever since Terry Sandiford began his campaign for improving Tobago 2012 carnival months ago, one could have felt a genuine move to make the Festival better in Tobago. When no one in authority was thinking or acting on the festival, Sandiford was on radio, television and in the print media putting forward his case for the forward movement of Tobago carnival. It was good that Culture Secretary Tracy Davidson and her team responded positively to Sandiford's proposals. So for the first time, Scarborough and Roxborough and Crown Point were decorated with carnival esthetics and Garnet Peters of the Festivals Commission has projected a more positive approach to the organisation of the Carnival.
We must remember that carnival belongs to the people and not to any one group and as such, it is the people's participation and contribution to the Festival which is an essential ingredient for success. The music providers, the food and drink providers, the steelbands, mas makers, calypsonians, the business community, the security forces and the revelers, all play their part to make the festival which is carnival.
As we approach the reign of the Merry Monarch (Carnival) everyone must contribute to the success and happiness of the Festival. This is a time when our music has a chance to be heard and our people have the opportunity to enjoy it. Therefore, I want to make an appeal to our brothers and sisters in the Police Service in Tobago to desist from closing down the Festival in Tobago before the time the proclamation of the President of the Republic dictates. Why should the Tobago police continue to stop the music on the streets on Jouvert morning and on Carnival Monday night? Clearly, such action is going against the presidential proclamation which gives the people the right to revel on the streets from 4 am Jouvert morning to 12 midnight on Carnival Tuesday. Let us hope that the high authorities in the Tobago Police Service will use their power to ensure that the people's rights to carnival are not tampered with.
On another note, the Minister of Culture has recently announced that Caribbean Airlines will be bringing 20,000 visitors for Trinidad's carnival. This is only Caribbean Airlines and there are other airlines which will be bringing in people into Trinidad. At the same time, Tobago will get the 'left overs' of visitors from the Trinidad carnival. Here is where the case for a separate Tobago carnival comes into play.
View Port Supermarket owner Ken Hunt has been debating with me for years, the need for a separate Tobago carnival. At one time I opposed the idea but as they say, 'age brings reason' and now after pursuing all the pros and cons of the issue, I am in full agreement with both Hunt and others who share his views. Ken Hut is a true Caribbean man, born in the tourist economy of Antigua and Ken is the brother of former Antigua Calypso Monarch Calypso Joe, so his understanding of culture is something real. Now Ken Hunt has and continues to make a positive contribution to Tobago providing jobs for Tobagonians and offering fair prices at his supermarket.
He is well aware of how Antigua and other Caribbean islands suffered when they were on the same date as the Trinidad carnival. Since these other Caribbean islands have changed their carnival dates, the economic and cultural value of their Festivals have zoomed to astronomic heights.
Therefore, as we in Tobago continue to compete with the international mega festival of Trinidad, the opportunities for Tobago carnival practitioners and business operators will never see the benefits which the other islands get from their festivals. So let us examine where we are at in terms of the benefits from our festivals after carnival 2012.
Happy Carnival to all! Remember, no violence, let us keep our brand as the safest and cleanest Carnival on the planet.
Opoku Ware is a freelance writer