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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)

About Martin 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 and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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  1. This article is very inaccurate

  2. Why am I so concerned about this article. The head of the Socadrome was asked by a reporter (I believe on Carnival day) what plans they had for the development of costuming etc…. she had no reply. Secondly, anyone looking closely will see the 200 year old fight and separation among the classes rearing its ugly head once more in Carnival. I agree carnival is not run the way it should but we must be careful not to see further than what is sold to us. Thank You.

  3. Daly needs to go soca drome
    And hush

  4. Get some statistics b4 u talk out ur butt about we carnival.although u may have a valid point about the lack of person in and viewing this great annual event

  5. carnival is not just town its a NATIONWIDE event so sitting and observing the socadrome makes it a failure sorry drive around the rest of the country in smaller communities that have formed their own celebrations an because they refuse the commute to the little bubble u live in town ppl we smh lol

  6. Donald have all Trinis frightened to leave the US so, plenty didn’t come. PS I don’t care who comes or not, only if you looking for money from them you should worry.

  7. Foreigners or not…hotel sell or not…as a teacher and a student of history…who actually knows about the origins of carnival…and who teaches cultural change in class…i can say without fear or favor…it is one big pappyshow…no wonder there are so many visitors…they dont care about carnival..they come to wine…

  8. 868 is a hater guys his articles does have less truth in it than late o’clock news. Fire bun

  9. tks , everyone might not agree,but this is to open up the conversation. i’m not a carnival person, but love pan. Of greater concern to me is the lack of interest regarding Arts and Culture in T&T is so sad. Last night it hit me again, these artistes are dying and who is documenting the information, Who is Archiving the Art form. Sparrow , Rose, Nelson, Valentino etc where are their histories. I’ve never been to Camboulay. No one I know is interested in going. Two years I was employed at the then Ministry of National Diversity now Community Development and was exposed to so much things I never knew existed in T&T, such as the number of private museums, National Archives, etc,Two (2) years under this new regime and Minister and all that we did such as national consultations,which led to a National Draft policy for the Museum, and the Archives. Where is it today? in a draw gathering dust. Why do we always want to reinvent the wheel and in the long run do NOTHING. We talk culture and do otherwise, simply politicking, while artistes are dying and all their stories go with them. Angelo Bissessasringh ddi his own research and writing. Then again you need funding. Who is willing to do so in T&T. we keep doing the same things over and over and getting the same results and refuse to learn. We bury our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich saying, Carnival is the best.Comedy hour continues

  10. Now this is a much better perspective/analysis.

  11. if there is mas to be viewed, people will return to the savannah. It ended when Minshall ceased bringing out a band, People returned when Mc Farlane entered the fray.It stopped again when Mc Farlane ceased making mas. Why? Those in charge need to think hard. They had a post mortem last week ( an annual event) and what now.? JW and Blaze had this conversation this morning. Blaze remarked that there was a noticeable reduction of Europeans coming for mas? why? You thiink tourist would come to see 12 hrs of bikini. I went to Cro Cro in concert las night which featured Mudada and Cardinal. As usual a mature crowd, Every calyspso told a story. Is it that bandleaders have no vision and its just capitalism. Mc Farlane brouha over his ‘black boy and white madam costume (which was dropped) led me to a project for my Caribbean Studies class on the role of the French in Caribbean history. I had to do research and Ilearnt so much. How difficult was that.? There are so much history and stories to be told. History is not even been taught in many schools. wer as a people are responsbile for our own demise. in poltics, Arts and Cuture, Music. its aownward spiral into emptiness. Bandleaders today are lazy and inept, A caller said to JW & Blaze , wire benders, seamstress, shoemakers etc their jobs have been eroded and insome cases extinct and replaced with a bikini in a plastic bag for $7000.00. whay should anyone leave their homes and pay money to see nothing? the citizenry have also gotten smart. they watch cable or fly out o go to camps. inadian mas , blue devils and jab jab are being retained by a few. Touris take photos of that. whet else is there?Who do you think is killing the mas?. yet people fooling themselve and try to justify that CARNIVAL Is the greatest show in earth Where, not even in T&T. the government’s role is another story.

  12. I just had a mind somebody would have said something about d government…

  13. Did martin daly actually write an article, or just a series of one liners/ random observations with no structure / conclusion / suggestions or strategy for improvement?

  14. The powers care nothing for Carnival. Everything is money.

    If is a marketing ploy is a claim. And if is not the paradise we is, is that we have the greatest show on earth. The working class tout them advertising ideas like is ah mantra, motto, watch word for they life.

    Pappy Show…

    You seemed to describe it. Carnival is not, anymore, aimed at the people. Is a hotel industry though there is no must see band. Is ah everybody wa some ah that carnival money but it ain have nothing to see!

    Artists and actors are disrespected. Singers like crab in barrel. The production value of events remain makeshift at best whilst the government struggle to keep up to de technological times.

    The most help kaiso gets is year round bad behaviour that becomes fodder for the next half assed production with wonky judging, uninspired performances, and a killing steadfastness to all the things that DON’T work.

    Carnival has NOT changed. This it has lost relevancy. In coping with it’s loss of relevancy as a cultural national expression, the people have cynically kept a relationship with the thing by knowing is the time to make a little extra from the new petit bourgeoisie of the Carnival…

    The masquerader, the band leaders, the soca artiste, the promoter…

    Government subvention … me ain we get into this nah


  15. Yup Lasana Liburd. We create the masterpiece, and content to allow the more ambitious to take our product and plan and market it better to ensure profitability. Interestingly we created state enterprises for everything else except to plan and promote culture lol.

  16. Don’t forget the Immigration Department in the mecca of carnival didn’t realize that the traffic in airline flights and visitors would increase the week leading up to carnival eh!

  17. So not greatest show on earth but greatest show in the Caribbean then? Lol

  18. There was a time families would go into town to look at mas, guess that doesn’t happen again. There may be many different reasons for the loss of spectators but some how I don’t think the masquerading masses care too much one way or the other.

    • Doesn’t bother me one bit

    • A masquerader goes to a band launch in July/August, selects a costume, makes a down payment with their money, pays the balance in January( also with their money), may or may not select a MUA, goes to the appointment from as early as 3AM in some cases, goes home to carefully catch a few zzzzzz, wake up and get dressed to go on the road and in alllllll that time the thought of a spectator watching the costume enters their head?! Alrighty then…..

    • This masquerader selects a costume based on what the designer is seeking to portray or what they think they can bring to the portrayal: What kind of dance will make those carefully crafted and engineered wings or fins move to the fullest effect? Can I get that effect on a broad stage only or can this be portrayed on the road? Does the portrayal harken back to an older form of mas – sailor, bat, robber, dragon? Is there a dance for that? Does it help me express how I feel about myself and the world I live in today? How can I play this mas so that it brings joy to myself as well as to those who may see it? Can I bring the same sense of wonder to a child on the street that I felt when my own parents brought me out on the road to see people play mas? I understand the allure of the road party, but from a holistic view, if that’s all it boils down to, why bother with road parade and stage and tax dollars to pay for infrastructure, police etc? Why even bother have it at what is traditionally carnival time? We could and do party anywhere and any time so what is left to make this different and worth it?

    • Every single thing I just mentioned applies to EVERY masquerader…regardless of the portrayal…but you’re free to make judgements or assumptions as you see fit…smh

    • Perhaps average but not every. Have a good one.

    • Methinks the spectator is replaced by the camera, because the masquerading masses certainly want to be seen by the camera . Social Media is where the new spectators reside.

    • Really. Everyone doesn’t decide on a costume…pay a down payment…pay off for it in the new year…get makeup done/not get makeup done..then portray said costume?! ???? ok then…not well and carefully…I never used a criteria for costume selection eh…I was as general as general can be….but ???

    • Nicole Huggins-Boucaud, Nicole Ulerie, I can see where the disconnect is, if you were playing traditional mas entertaining spectators would be high point of your experience. On the other hand playing pretty mas partying and drinking with friends might be your high point.

    • If I was playing stark naked or in the highest of “marse” my only thought EVER would be MY experience…considering I made ALL the effort…..

    • I agree with Nicole here. I do it every year and I don’t give two figs whether or not there were people in POS to ‘see me’ on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Hell, I’d jump on the old tarmac in Piarco if the send the band there!

    • No doubt the masses feel the same way.

    • The first year the SocaDrome was introduced it was empty. That didn’t stop the 5000+ masqueraders in Tribe from coming back each year to play with Tribe knowing they were parading to an empty SocaDrome. I really don’t think it matters to most masqueraders. It should be of more concern to the government who spends millions to construct the QPS and other stages.

    • I get that things have changed, the mas has changed, band leaders are in for profit but remember there was a time it was different and the spectators mattered.
      Sailors would dance, not for themselves, midnight Robbers would talk , not to themselves, Old mas is portrayed, not only for judges. Times have changed and as it is with a lot in this time, it’s about self.
      Some people just yearn for the times when they could have taken their children to town to see mas as they knew it but, alas, times have changed.
      BTW I have played with Tribe, Yuma and Paparazzi and frankly, ‘Me doh bizness’ as long as my cup full. But I understand the other side of it.

    • Yup. Days for “watching mas” long gone. I took my daughter to the Socadrome this year. She was interested in the entertainment, the traditional mas and the big costumes. She was a little disappointed that the only one that passed was Bliss’ king. Watching the band pass on the stage was uninteresting. For me seeing people prance across the stage in their pretty costumes is really boring..especially if you already know what the experience is. Watching and when you NOT playing mas just shows you what yuh missing?. The carnival parade is just not a spectator sport. People will watch the shows, kings and queens etc. But with the exception of a few bands that try something different like K2K or Lost Tribe…there is no audience for the generic mass of bikini and beeds.

    • But how many people went to the QPS for the King & Queen shows Rose-Marie? I was up there for one of those shows and there were no large crowds

    • Hmmm Mel. You right. Those shows empty too. I still feel there might be things an experienced promoter can do to make the show interesting and people will come. Because the costumes are worth seeing. But they have to find a way to make people want to come out and see it. But the watching mas on the road dead for sure.

    • Exactly! and that’s no fault of the masquerader. They need to select the right people for the right jobs

    • Well I played mas for over 20 years up until a few years ago when I stopped and the spectators never ever once entered my mind

    • Yup Nicole Ulerie. People play mas to have a time. Once yuh cup full they doh business like Darren said. Watching the bands pass is boring..I don’t even know why tv stations bring it live …nobody watching tv either. The sooner the govt realise is just a longer version of a fete the better. They will stop spending money putting up stands etc.

    • Precisely. Even the competitions ate useless. The shows are boring and badly produced. And as far as I’m concerned in living memory they’ve always been.

    • Lol! My difficulty really was with the assumption that there is only one type of masquerader. No one is blaming the masquerader – designers and band leaders are not off the hook tho. But y’all proving the larger point about the product that is Carnival today. I have been taking my daughter to see traditional mas in what is now UWI’s Ole Yard for years, but this year she came into POS with me for the first time – not to watch but to play (Monday only. Tuesday is mine.) precisely because there is nothing to see. A “parade” complete with stages and cameras implies that there is something to be seen. All I am asking is that we look at this thing we call Carnival and see how we can preserve all that make it unique to make the most of it, both culturally and economically (e.g. spectators in the main feed vendors and their families) Pretty much everything offered by most of the major bands on the road now can be exported anywhere – an empty tarmac or another country. What do we want our carnival to be? And if it currently attracts support from or engages a small minority of people, what is its future?

    • You raise a good point Nicole. The lack of spectators is a real concern because that literally takes bread from people mouth. I feel so bad when you leave a fete or a sporting event that buss and you see vendors outside frustrated because all that corn soup and bake and shark remain on their hands. The people who being paid by taxpayers to manage the carnival better start working for their money yes!

      • Earl Best

        Take a bow, ladies (And Darren too). Thjis long exchange of views is the most refreshing, the most revealing, the most insightful discussion of where the carvnival is and where it is going that I have seen anywhere this eyar – and I read everything you put in front of me.

        If I were Lasana, I would find some way to package this and sell it to Dr Gadsby-Dolly, who might use it as the white paper for the discussion that quite obviously HAS TO START in Cabinet.

        But with this govt, anything goes so there is no guarantee that there’ll be anything other than an attempt to paper over the cracks so truth may not be deemed useful (Ask “crime free” Dillon and “successful Carnival” Gadsby-Dolly.)

  19. According to the article the only pappyshow was the police commissioner parading at venues. Maybe the culture of the spectator looking on at the gladiators is an old paradigm that needs to be reviewed. There was no space on the green space in front of numerous concession stands next to the babergreen entrance to the stage where people had set up picnic chairs and come with stocked coolers to view and listen to steel bands before they went on stage. The greatest show on earth is participatory and people fly in from all over the world to participate in everything from fetes to panorama and mas. Rather than a spectating paradigm perhaps we need an interactive paradigm that allows for an up close experience of the artform which is participatory in the same vein as the call and response of the chantuelle.

  20. attack the indo/hindu &u guratee the calypso title!! real nice folks!!

  21. Show will go on long after Daly is gone. Wanna bet?

  22. To be fair, carnival’s true appeal is I participation

  23. Oh for the days of Harold Saldenha, George Bailey, StephenLe Heung, Wayne Berkeley, Peter Minshall and others when design, creativity, production and presentation was a joy to behold and where the paying viewing public got value for their money.

  24. “I saw what looked to me…” Too many assumptions in this article to conclude that trini carnival is a pappyshow.

  25. TT carnival isn’t even marketed properly to the world ?

  26. Did agree what data did these use to draw a conclusion. You have to look at hotel attends which was filled also show plus event arrivals at the airpot

  27. How can he say that when the major hotels were all booked out at $800 US per night??
    I will never understand why some people always look for the negative in everything.
    Our biggest cultural show and he wants to sell it to the foreigbers as being a waste of time.
    Trinis eh.

  28. Nowadays carnival is less about storytelling and more about show and telling.

  29. Carnival has broken into niche markets with celebrating in thier own way. It maybe no amount marketing can bring back those numbers

  30. If the government can run down de carnival the will run down any thing in the country.

  31. The only constant is change. The carnival that I knew as a child has changed and so the carnival at present will also. What will be, will be.

  32. I think the only events that television stations are willing to pay for is the Soca Monarch and maybe Panorama. Isn’t that a clue of what locals see as the value though?
    I also think people would go to town to watch Mas in the old days.

    • I stopped going into town to see the bands since 1987. My maxi taxi money was better spent buying fictitious bridges.

    • At its heart, carnival is about storytelling – pan, kaiso, mas and soca. You could be telling your own story or someone else’s. But it is about engaging someone else’s mind about something – big, small, serious or funny. Somewhere along the line, someone sold us another story about ourselves that we don’t want to think and we don’t want to be engaged beyond the most basic sensations. So instead of encouraging people to express themselves as part of a show (to say something) we encourage them to experience the “luxuries” of life. In fact I think I heard one band leader say this year that there are no more stories to tell! Wow … anyway … That said, who wants to waste time and money simply watching other people party? Or sermonise in the case of Dimanche Gras? At least with pan there is still a level of artistry over which to marvel. ISM may be the next to fall tho.

    • That’s an interesting point in terms of our mas, Nicole. I didn’t think of it that way.

    • Or at least I hadn’t thought of it that way for some time! Lol.

    • There is a dichotomy where the storytelling and spectators have dwindled while the commercial aspects have seemingly flourished. Daly’s point about spectators ignores the fact that people from all over the world came to play in bands at high cost that never crossed the stage.

      There remain smaller bands that have presentations based on a story but the large commercial bands moved away from that a long time ago. The preponderance of expensive all inclusive fetes seems to contra-indicate a dying event but rather herald a shift from a cultural heritage base to a commercially driven ethos.

    • Of course, whether or not that is a good thing is another matter altogether but I would wager that carnival’s revenue generation has been increasing rather than declining as the commercialisation rises.

      • Earl Best

        In constant dollars or as a gross figure, Kendall? if we correct for inflation, do you still think there’s more money going around?

        • Earl – the gross figures have increased from 2004 to 2010 based on a Central Bank document which I will post in the Facebook thread. Not seeing how to post it here offhand.

          I am not certain if the rate of inflation exceeds the growth in real terms but the figures are in US $ so the TT $ equivalent is also increasing due to exchange rate fluctuations.

    • Earl – the gross figures have increased from 2004 to 2010 based on a Central Bank document which I will post in the Facebook thread. Not seeing how to post it here offhand.

      I am not certain if the rate of inflation exceeds the growth in real terms but the figures are in US $ so the TT $ equivalent is also increasing due to exchange rate fluctuations.

  33. He has a point. If there is virtually nothing to see, instead of the greatest “show”, what we have now is the “greatest” party.

  34. Daly is becoming that old uncle who see nothing of worth in the present. I don’t know anyone who claims Carnival is the Greatest Show On Earth. That is a marketing ploy that is more gimmick than gumption.
    The reality is Carnival was never a national pastime. Probably, just 10% of the population actually engage in it; the rest just look on, look away or look down on it. So any argument about primetime and whatnot, just appears more sensible than it really is. If AllStars played at 9pm; there wouldn’t be that much of a difference because the same people who care will care whether it’s 9pm, 9am or 3am.
    As for the mas and the grandstand. Which family wants to go see that? There is nothing to see. There are no stars; there are no must-see bands. No one wants to see other people enjoy themselves when there is no vicarious graft to it.

  35. Ppl been offering solutions for years doh lol

  36. I like how every year everybody complains but nobody offers solutions. I think we just like to hear ourselves yes…

  37. In the not-too-distant future, the only people to be seen at Carnival celebrations will be the masqueraders. Oh, and the poor food vendors who painstakingly peddle their goods.

  38. How people suppose to see carnival when we allow it to be controlled by upper class mascaraders who don’t want to be seen??

  39. Sooooo. How is more spectators than masquerades better?! I’m lost. That’s why people enjoy our style of carnival over any other as every one has the ability to participate!! Talk about clueless

  40. Greatest show on earth has always been self praise.

  41. Earl Best

    Nuff said! All we getting is mamaguy from on high and pappyshow from below.

  42. Wouldn’t be a problem if there were more spectators than masqueraders??

  43. Where to start…
    Who really cares? Why we so as a people