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The ‘least greatest’ show on Earth
When red-hot Fay-Ann emerged from that smoldering volcano on the Dimanche Gras stage, struck a stunning Beyonce pose...and then twisted, squatted and had to climb down the platform like a cat making his great escape, I knew the thing buss.
Actually I knew it long before as I waited long hours for the thing to start. And I knew it long after when the thing ran long hours into the next day. I knew it when SuperBlue and Drupatee put their mouths to the mics and sounded like they just woke up. I knew it when the highlight of the grande dame of T&T Carnival shows was two boys beating pans.
That Dimanche Gras was again a flop was no surprise. It would have been a surprise had it been a stellar event.
Year after year Carnival repeats itself with such predictability you’d swear it was the first time the country was putting on its self-proclaimed greatest show on earth. The bandleaders complain; bands get “blocked”; the costumes become smaller, costlier, less creative versions of their previous selves; the King and Queen prize money too small; the Parade of the Bands money too small; Machel is king no matter what.
And yet we brand this thing as “The Greatest Show on Earth?” Planet Earth? Clearly the common “e” in “earth” in the Dimanche Gras programme book was no error.
Three million dollars is no big deal when putting on a major show. It is a big deal when the show is a major disaster.
The producers sought to do something artsy in the NCC’s “re-engineering” thrust. In the programme book there was incomprehensible prose (“The ‘I WAS’ and evolution into the ‘I AM’”) and embarrassing errors (“experience born from the truism…pan was borne from”). But it did have a letter from, photo of and bio of the National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Allison Demas.
The commentators did not know what was going on on the stage, who was next or what the costume was named. Performers had immoderate blocks of time no matter how uninspiring their performances were. And it would do them some good if they know their vocal limits; if Beyonce could lip-sync the US National Anthem at a presidential inauguration in front of a million spectators, who is Blue Boy and Drupatee?
Speaking of the foreign, it stands to reason that despite having access to the world on their smartphones, the people in charge of Carnival still have an extremely myopic view of their tasks. How can one brand T&T Carnival as “The Greatest Show on Earth” when:
• The programme for Dimanche Gras was available only as a huge PDF file 6.5MB in size that itemised not a single performer or costume or pan side.
• Finding the programme book meant navigating an NCC site where to get beyond the opening page you’d have to be a hacker. (Ironically, you have to click on the image of a smartphone to get to the actual NCC homepage.)
• Even weeks after Carnival, the “Gallery” section comprises solely amateurish photos of the Carnival launch featuring mostly Allison Demas.
• The video clips available on the site are still of pan semis.
• The “Board Members” section contains a big photo of, you guessed it, “Ms Allison Demas” but “Info coming soon” for every other, unnamed board member.
• The live stream of mas turned into an unnecessary “fiasco” showing how immature we are when it comes to today’s communication technologies.
And then there was the copyright bacchanal perpetrated by the T&T Copyright Organisation’s Richard Cornwall that made as much international news as Carnival itself. How in Anansi’s name does one promote a festival as “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 2013 when you so gravely restrict Earth-wide coverage?
Let’s be clear (and also redundant). Most people get their news from social media. Smartphones are like bodily appendages to many people today. Taking a photo of the mas you’re seeing is akin to wining on a bam-bam: it just comes naturally at Carnival time.
And, please, if TTCO wants to clamp down on copyright infringement, here’s some fodder. For years now, people on those same terrifying social media have made graphics of local costumes next to foreign, most often Brazilian costumes. Which came first? The answer would be something for Cott to investigate.
Hell, we’re so dreadfully devoid of originality—despite the proclamations of the TTCO head and others that we are some kind of wellspring of creativity on which the world is waiting to pounce— that we’re even copying our own mas. Anyone want to create a side-by-side graphic of Peter Minshall’s “Bird of Paradise” and 2013’s Queen of Carnival costume “Joy of Paradise?”
T&T is not the centre of the “Earth.” T&T Carnival is known by no one else as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” In fact, most people don’t even know what language we speak or that we even have a Carnival. Either we get with the programme, shape up and really “re-engineer” this national festival or we consider rebranding it “The Greatest Show in T&T.”
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