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Daly: T&T Carnival is becoming the Greatest Pappyshow on Earth

The record breaking success of Full Extreme is thoroughly deserved.  I will add to the boiling pot of opinions of why it struck such a deep chord.  For me it is a restatement of the saying that laugh and cry live in the same yard.

I am otherwise reluctant to join in the annual Carnival post-mortems. But the delusion that our Carnival is “the greatest show on earth” is moving to its own full extreme.

Photo: MX Prime (right) from the Ultimate Rejects moves the crowd with 2017 Road March tune, Full Extreme. (Courtesy Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)
Photo: MX Prime (right) from the Ultimate Rejects moves the crowd with 2017 Road March tune, Full Extreme.
(Courtesy Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

“The greatest show on earth” has become a pappyshow claim.

Let’s start with this: This year’s Panorama champion steel orchestra, Trinidad All Stars—now a 10-time champion—played on two occasions at the Grandstand, once at 3.15am and once at 2.30am.  To have a high quality show, prime bands must play in prime time.

Next there is the withdrawal of spectators in ever increasing numbers over a decade not only from Panorama but from the two days of parade of the bands.

How can we claim to have “the greatest show on earth” when the show currently attracts only low numbers of spectators?  There were reportedly 2000 in the Socadrome.  I saw what looked to me like even less in the Grandstand when All Stars, in which my wife and I are happy sailors, sang its way across the stage with the additional refrain: “the rain could come down but we jammin’ still.”

One large band has many more bodies than those spectator numbers. By contrast, residents flying out or heading to our beaches away from Carnival constitute numbers probably many more than several large bands.

Photo: Tribe revellers let loose on Carnival Monday in 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Tribe revellers let loose on Carnival Monday in 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

As an aside, I expect that the business acumen of the promoters of the Socadrome may lead to future success because failure is not an option for them. I hope they succeed because we need alternative venues to bring about a decentralisation of the parade from the Savannah bottleneck.

Carnival is too big for one venue. One route alone cannot accommodate the juggernaut of trucks—some of which carry a wannabe country club-type element superciliously perched above it all.

Dimanche Gras has been equally pitiful in its ability to retain spectators. That show so blight that even a series of bush baths would not relieve it from its terminal condition.

A good dose of shame might do that if we were capable of feeling shame.  The problem is that shame has been suppressed by the gorging on State funds thrown in abundance at Carnival activities, for which failure is a well rewarded option.

Few commentators have advocated more intensely than I have, that the steelband movement be treasured, that its role in social development cannot be overestimated, that it is a scientific and musical patrimony and that it must not be blitzed out of Carnival by the capitalist takeover of the Carnival routes by means of monster trucks.

Photo: BP Renegades pannist enjoy themselves during the Carnival 2016 season. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: BP Renegades pannist enjoy themselves during the Carnival 2016 season.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Nevertheless, in connection with accountability for State funds, I must ask my many friends in the steelband movement to consider carefully the madness of Panorama hours and the responsibility that comes, or should come, with access to State funds.

The current Minister of Community Development, Arts and Culture has shown the will to re-examine the lax approach to State funding but her Ministry never threatened to defund Carnival activities.

However, in a press release in early February she was accused of “a hostile takeover” after insisting on lower budgets and on alternative arrangements for collecting revenue and disbursing State funds.

Interestingly, subsequent to the press release and at variance with it, those arrangements became an agreed interim position for Panorama 2017 within the precincts of the Court where the matter has now reached.

The media release was reported as follows: “Tanty Joan (Yuille-Williams) or big sister Marlene (McDonald) would have applied more class and style in the dealing with groups under their charge. Dialogue would have been the very first intervention. Not bacchanal and scandal in the public domain.”

Photo: Culture Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. (Courtesy Elections.TT)
Photo: Culture Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
(Courtesy Elections.TT)

I have pinched myself many times in trying to equate accountability with a lack of style and class, also trying to understand why meetings about budgets were not “dialogue”.

I listened again to Chalkdust’s St Joan of Arts, referring to the Ministry of Culture’s “rich playground” and predicting that “all the fun and the lahay would go one day, all the fete and dingolay are not here to stay.”

The strut of the Minister of National Security and law enforcement top brass along the streets on the parade routes was another pappyshow because no suspect for the murder of Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya on Carnival Tuesday last year is in custody, even though “town” may early o’clock have had valid leads in the case.

It is just another “ongoing” investigation—meaning ongoing to nowhere.

Them doh business with Asami because Carnival is “crime free” ent?

With acknowledgment to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, they have strutted upon the stage and told us tales signifying nothing. That is the ultimate pappyshow.

Photo: Revellers enjoy themselves during the 2016 J'ouvert celebrations. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Revellers enjoy themselves during the 2016 J’ouvert celebrations.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

AboutMartin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation, a board member of The Little Carib Theatre and Folkhouse and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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