DON’T STOP DE CAR­NI­VAL!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Toni Ni­cholas

Ac­cord­ing to one car­ni­val song, “no woman, no car­ni­val.” But it’s also true that no con­tro­versy, no car­ni­val. Car­ni­val 2017 was no ex­cep­tion al­beit some­what more tem­pered than in pre­vi­ous years. That hav­ing been said, the 2017 sea­son for the most part was a suc­cess for more rea­sons than one.

Sev­eral ho­tels I checked with last week con­firmed vis­i­tor num­bers here specif­i­cally for car­ni­val. And while the of­fi­cial fig­ures are not yet in, signs of a friendly for­eign in­va­sion were quite vis­i­ble at most of the events, as well as in the Rod­ney Bay shop­ping area dur­ing the fi­nal days of the fes­tiv­i­ties. The na­tional events un­der the “Soleil Sum­mer Fes­ti­vals” ran with few hitches. At­ten­dance ranged from good to great, and the Soleil team must be breath­ing eas­ily. This, af­ter be­ing handed two fes­ti­vals prior to car­ni­val that ap­peared more like sand be­ing sold to sheiks. Car­ni­val, it would seem, was more palat­able to the masses with a tem­plate that has re­ceived much at­ten­tion on the in­ter­na­tional car­ni­val cir­cuit, thanks in part to some of the lo­cal car­ni­val bands, the ef­forts of in­di­vid­ual soca artistes as well as the CDF and the Cre­ative In­dus­try.

The fact that the re­cently formed Events Com­pany of Saint Lucia worked hand in hand with the CDF and the Ca­lypso Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee (CMC) also re­sulted in a bet­ter man­aged and pro­duced event.

Speak­ing of the CMC, the ca­lypso sea­son this year right­fully stole the spot­light, rem­i­nis­cent of the days when car­ni­val was truly syn­ony­mous with ca­lypso. Among the rea­sons: the man­age­ment struc­ture and fewer ca­lypso events, which left the pub­lic thirsty for more. Be­sides, this year fea­tured some good ca­lyp­sos. No need to re­mind read­ers of the fix­a­tion with a cer­tain politi­cian’s ex­posed pri­vate parts. Easy pick­ings for ca­lypso com­posers. What an­other pub­lic fig­ure chose to do with his own equip­ment also tit­il­lated the ca­lypso Beethovens.

But it was an­other doc­tor, a for­mer politi­cian who, though on the short side is known as Dr. Long, who pranced away with the Ca­lypso Monarch, 2017 ti­tle. The Mighty Pep hit the bulls­eye with “Never be Afraid of the Doc­tor” and “Why I Die.” The lat­ter re­turned to life the re­cently de­parted Sir Derek Wal­cott, to ex­plain the causes of his death—among them the clo­sure of Wal­cott House (af­ter the No­bel lau­re­ate had passed, but heck, no one ever said ca­lypso shouldn’t be fake news). This was Pep’s eighth crown in the bag.

The first run­ner up was Solange per­form­ing “Lu­cian Ting” and “The Great Di­vide”—a plea for unity. The Ca­lypso fi­nals were held on Satur­day, July 15 at the Vigie Play­ing Field. How­ever, the con­tro­versy over the use of the field as a venue for the na­tional event paled in com­par­i­son to years ago when a de­ci­sion was taken to use Min­doo Phillip Park. Some in the sport­ing com­mu­nity pointed out that the work done in re­cent times to up­grade Vigie would be un­done by the mass events. Nonethe­less, the Vigie Play­ing Field made for an apt venue, ideally si­t­u­ated near the city cen­ter and within close prox­im­ity to the north. The am­bi­ence and magic which seemed to have been lost when the events moved to Beause­jour a few years ago, ap­peared to have re­turned, be­gin­ning with Steel­pan fi­nals on Fri­day July 14. Babon­neau Steel Or­ches­tra emerged champs that night.

On Sun­day July 16 the Vigie Play­ing field hosted the fi­nal of the ma­jor events: the Groovy and Power Soca Monarch com­pe­ti­tions. In­trigue loomed over the event days ahead of showtime, with con­tro­versy over the suit­abil­ity of Ricky T’s song “Sully” for the Groovy cat­e­gory. Overnight there were the Face­book ex­perts on BPMs (beats per minute) and the qual­i­fy­ing rules. In the end the reign­ing groovy king Arthur re­tained his ti­tle for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year, with the aptly named “Over and Over.” Im­ran and Nerdy came in sec­ond with “Bounc­ing.”

Ricky T redeemed him­self by win­ning the Power Soca seg­ment (which was a bit lack­lus­ter com­pared to Groovy) with the “Drunk­ard,” push­ing last year’s win­ner Is­lah­man into sec­ond place. It beats me, how­ever, that while there are bet­ter songs and singers in the groovy cat­e­gory, the Groovy King will re­ceive EC$20,000 and the Power Monarch EC$35,000.

On the road car­ni­val Mon­day and Tues­day it was all about that girl called “Sully” which had rev­el­ers rav­ing from Choc all the way into the city. There was in­ter­mit­tent much ado about nada in re­la­tion to Ambi’s “Sock it Al­ready,” mostly from the more pi­ous of Face­book heaven: com­ments rang­ing from hi­lar­i­ous to ab­surd to plain hyp­o­crit­i­cal! There was talk of an ad­vi­sory from a cer­tain min­istry, with­out sup­port­ive ev­i­dence. In any case, what a year for any min­istry to ban a ca­lypso be­cause some­one had de­clared its lyrics lewd! Too bad there is still a deaf­en­ing si­lence about re­ward­ing drunk­en­ness, but that’s for an­other show.

I for one was hop­ing for some truth to the ban, but not for the rea­sons some would be­lieve. For me, it would have been in­ter­est­ing to hear my friend AG Stephen Julien mak­ing a case against “But I Sock it Al­ready!” As I have said on pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions, in the ab­sence of proper rules and guide­lines per­form­ers will con­tinue to push the bound­aries of free ex­pres­sion. In any event “Sock It” was the fourth most played song on the road with Ricky T’s “Sully” walk­ing away with the Road March ti­tle.

Tribe of Twel won band of the year, again, which by now is prob­a­bly a no-brainer since there is lit­tle by way of cre­ativ­ity that sep­a­rates the other big­ger and more pop­u­lar bands from one an­other. To each his own?

Over­all, as ear­lier noted, it was a good car­ni­val sea­son. Most of the fetes were well at­tended. They in­cluded U4RIA, Colour Me Red, Es­cape, Aura, Sexy in Black, Rem­edy and Just4Fun’s Break­fast Fete. The Just4Fun fet­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was, as usual, great; SIB had the best VIP and Colour Me Red for mu­sic was def­i­nitely on point. I share the con­cerns of many though, that there is too much damn talk­ing by DJs at some of the fetes and too much butcher­ing of the songs.

The Den­nery Seg­ment saved the day when it came down to plac­ing a Looshan stamp on the fes­ti­val. And to all those who are say­ing “dat mu­sic eh good” check out Freezy on Youtube, whose song “Split in De Mid­dle” has hit over one mil­lion views. The song is a sta­ple at clubs re­gion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, and is on heavy ro­ta­tion on ra­dio as well. Hats off to the other “Den­nery Seg­ment” sol­diers like Matta and Mi­gos, Subance, Black­boy and Umpa who be­sides Ambi’s “Sock­ing” and Ricky’s “Sully” prob­a­bly made car­ni­val 2017 the most me­morable for Saint Lu­cians and vis­i­tors alike!

It was full steam ahead for this year's car­ni­val fes­tiv­i­ties.

Events Saint Lucia CEO Thomas Leonce with Ca­lypso fi­nal­ists from left: Pep, Solange, Morgie, Nin­tus, and Herb Black. Na­tional Car­ni­val Queen Chancy Fon­tenelle at right.

Big win­ners at Panorama 2017 Babon­neau Steel Or­ches­tra.

“Bounc­ing” with Im­ran and Nerdy.

Dancers dur­ing the ac­tion packed Groovy and Soca Monarch com­pe­ti­tion.

Taboo Car­ni­val Band made a last­ing im­pres­sion.

On the road with Solange and Ezi Hall.

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