Letters & Opinion

Mas Confusion

By  Earl Bousquet
By Earl Bousquet

I don’t want to come to too much of an early conclusion on Carnival 2015. I don’t want to judge this year’s entire carnival on just what I saw on Tuesday – or on what you saw on Monday and Tuesday. But from what I saw Monday and from what I saw, heard and read before that about this year’s Calypso (tents and competition), the King and Queen of the Bands, Kiddies Carnival, Panorama and other aspects of this year’s carnival/calypso/steelband celebrations, I think I have enough for an early comment — or two…

On Tuesday evening (after the first day parade of the bands), I heard many locals say this year’s carnival was “lappo”. Some even said “the most lappo” while others simply said “Last year was better.” A charitable lady from a faraway land (but who’s been living here for as long as I know her) said this year was “the most friendly Lucian Mas” she’d ever seen.

One guy I don’t quite know said to a friend next to me, “From what I see here, this year’s Lucian Carnival is not all that hot at all…” And my normally sarcastic friends retorted, “I don’t know where you saw it, but I haven’t seen ‘Kannaval’ yet, at all!”

Standing aloft with my usual bird’s eye view from the upper deck of another local friend’s cabin cruiser alongside the Castries Waterfront, I waited (seemingly forever) for the large bands to pass; and when they did, I was not that impressed. They had the numbers – but just too many for our small streets and roadways, in my simple view.

I saw bands like ten miles long with a million people competing with bands with more music than members. Right before my very eyes, never mind the best efforts of traffic police on bikes and ATVs, or policemen (and women) in khaki or regular uniform, I saw bands end-up in serious traffic jam right before my very eyes.

If you can imagine ‘a carnival-band traffic jam’, then I saw several on Tuesday. I saw the larger bands take over an hour to get their people in line, each man-on-the-mike announcing, appealing and pleading with revellers to “Stay in your section!” By the time the early large bands made their rounds and started heading back home along the same route they came down to town, it was simply more mass confusion.

The small bands, still on their way to being judged, had to squeeze aside to make way for large bands that had already been judged. The larger bands leaving town kept their louder music at full blast, drowning the lesser sounds of the smaller bands trying to get their few sections in order. It looked and sounded at times that the larger bands were telling their minion competitors: ‘Today is ours. Might is right!’.

The last ‘Mas Band Traffic Jam’ took place as afternoon neared dusk, when two of the larger bands collided on the recently strengthened Sans Souci bridge.

Looking down from above, I saw lots of photographers taking just about anyone’s photo — some asking (others actually begging) tipsy revellers to pose for them, others simply snapping or shooting women as they “hold onto something and push back”.

From my vantage point, over time, I noticed something else: no cameraman took any photos of men jumping, singing or making merry in any way. As if there’s a gender bias to carnival portrayals worth shooting, the cameramen (and women) seemed solely interested in recording posterior gyrations and other rhythmic waistline movements by women – and girls, black and white, young and old, fat and thin, flabby or flapping.

Me? I had i-Phone and i-Pad on hand, but both remained in my light electronics-laden back pack. I always take lots of carnival photos every year, but this year I just didn’t. (No, correction: actually, I did take one set of photos — of a drone! Yes, I did see something looking like a remote-controlled toy plane with a camera floating over the bands. I’d seen it enough on TV to know it was taking snapshots from up high — and that was perhaps my only ‘Wow’ moment I had all day on Tuesday.)

But it was not only me… A lady on board also found herself in the same boat. She had arrived just hours earlier from Boston and lamented, “Hey, I’m finding it difficult to get good images on my i-Pad to take back to Boston with me.” I urged her to “Keep on looking…”

There were a few ‘news’ items to note: there was one new band — with a very unlikely name, at that ‘Insanity’; and one of the older bands offered revellers the opportunity to create their own costumes. (I actually ended-up congratulating an English-born Saint Lucian colleague on having been able to take up that challenge in a way that took my eye(s)…)

Despite all the carbuncles that daunted carnival this year, however, as far as my eyes could see, all was not lost.

I did see – and take due notice of — some very noticeable things. Like how and the number of times the MP named Guy featured – again this year – in the ‘Ole Mas’ and ‘Kaiso’ categories.

Last year’s ‘Ole Mas’ winner – by overwhelming People’s Choice – was ‘Guy Two Teef’ – of course, the emphasis being on two large teeth; this year it was ‘Mama-Guy in the House’ and reference to ‘Guy de Indian’ something… Some of the parading bands also played ‘Since when dat is your role’ and another called ‘Dat is my roll’ – each version offering vivid and thought-provoking ‘mepuis’ type of commentary on the recent parliamentary exchange between the Speaker and the MP named ‘Guy’.

I couldn’t figure out whether it was MP Guy Joseph, MP Richard Frederick or the SLP that had been behind the virtual cottage industry that has emerged online, on air, on the streets – and in carnival – with mugs, T-shirts and now videos on TV and online, calypsos and carnival costumes. Nor can I say whether it’s all good or bad for the guy called ‘Guy’. But from what I saw, that same guy was once again in line to win both the ‘Ole Mas’ and the ‘Road March’ titles for Carnival 2K15.

I was tempted to conclude that the ‘Ole Mas’ and ‘Road March’ sections had taken over the social commentary aspect from the calypsonians. But I recalled the few songs that caught my ears this year and I felt all was not fully lost in the local calypso Kingdom or Queendom, insofar as bringing the truth to light in song.

So, I don’t think social commentary is really dead in local calypso or carnival. After all, another very telling ‘Ole Mas‘ entry noted that one lady minister had ‘held on to the PM’s post’ for quite some time – obviously referring to the time the said minister acted in the PM’s position – or post – while both he and the Deputy Prime Minister were away on state business.

But again I say, never mind all what people have said and may say, never mind all the ‘Mas Confusion’ I saw on Monday, never mind what you’ll say when all the results are out, never mind that ‘Chairman Bingo’ still can’t remember not to forget his lines, never mind so many calypsonians are asking the START Chairman ‘Where de money gone?’

Never mind all that, I still say – between me and you — there’s still hope.

Never mind your parents or grandparents (or people my age and older) will or may tell you ‘Hope is a motor boat’; never mind the elderly folk may also tell you (in Kweyol) that that ‘Hope’ is like ‘Abraham kamoutermorne, bicycle san brakes’, I still think there’s still some hope.

In my book, all the carnival and calypso planners have to do is to start to ‘Think outside the box’ and – most importantly – to also ‘Act outside (of) the season.’ That done and with proper reasoning behind every new move, I’m sure we’ll all be able to watch and ‘Play Mas’, ‘season’ or no season — and smile with good reason!

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