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What are judges really judging on Monday?

By LARA PICKFORD-GORDON Monday, February 18 2013

A new year but the same complaint — bands complaining about the long hours waiting to cross the Queen’s Park Savannah stage (QPS). This should not be a surprise considering the bottleneck of getting to the QPS, if you are unfortunate enough to arrive behind other large bands and if a few of them have some sort of choreographed segment in their opening.

On Carnival Monday I was surprised several large bands crossed the stage along with small and medium ones by early afternoon. Then again, there were no choreographed performance pieces. Unless you are playing with a steelband or a traditional mas band Mondays are dressed down for big bands.

apart from getting some entertainment from watching the masqueraders play themselves, it is quite boring if spectators, particularly foreigners, thought they would be seeing full costumes. One has to wonder what judges are really judging on Monday.

Carnival Tuesday saw the gridlock which has ruined the QPS experience for many a masqureader over the years, some bands complained of waiting six hours to reach the stage. That is ridiculous considering how intense the sun was and the money people spent for costumes. Chairman of the National Carnival Bands’ Association David Lopez at a press briefing last week announced that consideration would be given for a separate route for bands which do not want to compete for Band of the Year. This idea I expect will be met with criticism. For one thing, masqueraders of these non-competing bands would argue that they paid their big money and want to cross the QPS.

The stage is a big lure for persons who, on a normal day would rebuff a reporter’s and photographer’s canvassing opinion on issues, but run toward television cameras, scantily clad to display their agility in swivelling their hips. Some folks don’t mind throwing their bodies to the ground, the same nasty road they would scorn the rest of the year while fully clothed. But I digress.

The NCBA tried to manage the parade across the QPS by setting a time limit for large bands of 30 minutes. Bandleader and (large) Band of the Year winner Brian MacFarlane thought the time unrealistic for a large band. His band still managed to win the Band of the Year although losing points at the QPS venue for exceeding the time limit. So his presentation was judged at other venues and emerged at the top place overall.

At one time there was a plan in which different bands were given different venues to start to avoid the congestion at QPS. I can’t recall what was the post mortem of that experiment and why it was scrapped but here we are again trying to solve the old problem of bands taking too long to cross the QPS. Masqueraders and bandleaders complain but come Carnival time we are back to the same routine.

The National Carnival Commission (NCC) invited proposals for the staging of the Dimanche Gras show. There was much hype about the show before it happened. I was skeptical given the short Carnival season and even shorter notice when the invitation for proposals went out. The lack of a competition did take something away from the show and this was reflected in attendance.

There is no shortage of talent in TT so we hope that for next year there will indeed be a better show, one that would start on time and not be a marathon session. And they could skip the pre-show.

A couple years ago Kaisorama had extempo as well as the humorous, political and social commentary. There was also limbo. That was a good show.

The limbo helped break up the constant singing segments and I wish organisers of shows come up with some new formats in presentation.

Time management is another area to be addressed. Shows continue to go on for too long and a good example was the Soca Monarch which was almost like engaging in a day’s work considering it began at night and went till after 5 pm Carnival Saturday. This was an event with several performers and also guest artistes. The longer the show the higher the production costs, so why do we continue to have these shows that drag on.

The State continues to be the main sponsor of prize monies for several events including Soca Monarch and I look forward to the day when interest groups become self-sufficient. At the post-Cabinet media briefing Minister of Arts and Multi-

culturalism Lincoln Douglas said an “estimated” $90 million was spent on Carnival this year.

In an interview on Carnival Tuesday I heard the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan say half a billion was spent on Carnival (by the current administration). What are the tangible benefits we have to show? Are we getting value for money?

We like to call our Carnival the greatest but greatest compared to what? And why are we even drawing comparisons with other Carnivals? What we have is our own and it is time we get serious.

we are promoting and selling our culture to the rest of the world as a tourist attraction and as we know there is stiff competition on the world stage. we have to come good.

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