Wednesday, February 29, 2012

DEAR GYPSY ( ....or how to take Carnival to the next level)

You have said that you want to take our Carnival "to the next level". This is a noble and highly commendable objective, and, if truth be known, something that could be done with a little "out of the box" thinking. On the basis that Einstein's theory of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result) is correct, and on the evidence before us that nothing really new has been proposed to take us to this "next level", I thought that you might like some ideas to mull over. So here goes:

1) One of the great things about the Rio Carnival is that it is geared not only for the paticipants, but for the spectators as well. While it is true (and a good thing) that our carnival is more participant oriented, we really are not paying attention to the viewing enjoyment (if that is the correct phrase) of the thousands that do not participate but come down to see the Mas'.
Now, there are two basic problems here and both are probably equal, so it doesn't matter which is mentioned first. One problem is that there is always a back log or log jam of bands in the Savannah with it being not uncommon for the masqueraders in the various bands to be forced to wait for several hours before they can get a chance to cross over. The result is that the spectators often have to wait for long periods to see the various bands.
The other problem is that on Carnival Monday (Lundi Gras) most big bands are hardly ever up to strength and their masqueraders almost without exception do not wear their full costumes. The result is that the show on the streets and even on the stage on Monday is never quite what it should be. Visitors often express disappointment with Carnival Monday's presentations.
What about doing the following which would fix both of these problems. There are "X" number of bands who cross the Savannah stage ... let's say for the sake of argument and to make the point that there are ten such bands. Well, in order to prevent the "traffic jams" that build up at the Savannah why not give each band a number. Bands numbered one to five cross the stage on Carnival Mondays and bands numbered six to ten cross on Carnival Tuesdays. The log jams are seriously lessened and the visitors/viewers get "pretty mas' " on both days. Everybody wins and now you have a more attractive product.

2) The next problem has to do with the perennial complaint that the original idea of the Carnival costumes is slowly dieing with the modern bands being not much more than skimpy bikinis and glass beads. The jefes of the Rio de Janiero were faced with the same type of complaints ... and we have all seen the pictures of the even skimpier bikinis that pervade the Rio scene!! In any case, they came up with a rather ingenious idea: There is/was a type of old Carnival costume emanating from Bahia (yes, the same place as the girl in David Rudder's famous calypso) where the ladies would wear these huge hooped skirts. Now, every Carnival band in Rio has to have at its head a section of revellers dressed in these old fashioned skirts. Why not make it a rule that every single band that wants to go across any of the stages has to have a section at its front of old time mas' that they can fit into the particular band's theme, followed by the bikinis and beads. It would be one way of keeping the true mas' alive, and again would be very appealing for the viewers/visitors.

3) Then there is the problem that Peter Minshall complained about ... Carnival is street theatre. But it is degenerating into not-so-soft core pornography. I am the last person to be prudish about anything, but quite frankly, some of the pictures of revellers that were in the newspapers and some of the images that flashed across our television screens this year were outright lewd, vulgar and totally out of place for what is supposed to be a major tourist attraction. There are not a few tourists or potential tourists who will want to come with their children. The raw and vulgar gyrations that took place on stage left absolutely nothing to the imagination and really ought to be discouraged. Perhaps one way of doing this is to announce that if such vulgarity takes place on stage that the band in which it is allowed to happen will be fined a hefty amount. We must try and lift the mas' up rather than allow it wallow in the vulgarity that seems so regretably to be allowed to be taking over.

The short point of all this is that it wouldn't take a lot to turn our Carnival into a world class product. But we ain't there yet! And if truth be known, unless we do something soon we could see such a real deterioration in standards that we will soon lose our place in the Carnival world and the competition certainly is not standing still. Put another way, this is the twenty-first century. Isn't it time that we applied a little twenty-first century thinking to modernise our twentieth century festival?

P.S. I know that Carnival started a lot earlier than the twentieth century. But it really became a "big" or people's celebration in the last hundred years or so which is why I referred to it as 'our twentieth century festival'.


  1. I agree with you, I hope your suggestions are well received and put in practice. I attended Rio Carnival and I absolutely loved it, if Trinidad's carnival was like that I will definitely enjoy it more.

  2. Excellent Blog..
    some fine tuning...
    ref Savannah and delays:
    On both days, there were long periods of time (20 minutes or so.... I was there on Monday ) when NO band was on stage while several bands remained motionless for hours waiting to get in to the Savannah.

    Savannah/Stage Management was very poor... with no effort being made to keep the bands moving.. so, like the lone driver who causes a traffic jam by stopping to pick up a passenger or driving way below the speed limit, bad flow management exacerbates any queuing problem. (examples abound in triniwonderland... you always comment on KFC not being fast food because they are so slow... the savannah is simply a bigger example).

    Ref splitting days on the Savannah stage.
    Given that:
    1. Tradition will definitely give a preference to crossing d stage on Tuesday.. so the 'Monday' bands will not enjoy this.
    2. Everyone wants to be on stage.

    So, what about more than one stage..not judging points, but actual stages... ramps and stages... definite places to jump and wine.

    The Disney Parks handle more than 100,000 visitors a day...
    Look up Queuing Theory on line

    other suggestions ref inclusion of 'traditional mas' excellent...... no 'traditional costumes, no stage etc etc.

    Ref Dimache Gras:
    TV interviewer asked how it would be possible to have X number of acts and not finish after 03:00 am.
    The organizers kept insisting that they had brought in Mr. Y to solve that problem so the show would not run that long.

    Interviewer said he was not interested in Mr Y.. just do the math.. X number of acts multiplied by the time for each act (calypsonians, costumes etc etc) would give a run time for the show.... simple math.
    The organizers kept insisting.. Mr Y knew his stuff and would fix that.
    Yes.. but YOU said X number of acts and gave run time of each act... simple math

    you get the picture... brains not capable of dealing with simple concepts... They also vote... they run the country.