As we get into the new year, the press will as usual have increasing coverage with articles, advertisements, and letters related to Carnival. From now to well after Ash Wednesday, we will read and see more and more. Subjects covered will include “pan is the greatest invention,” “Trinidad has the most beautiful women,” “the greatest show on Earth,” “too much wining,” “too much bikini and beads.” This is all well and good, you can criticise the little things. But when you take bold swipes, like Raymond Ramcharitar did in your publication some time ago, and show that Carnival is not a profit-making venture, the majority of our people will brand you a traitor. If you say that a tenor pan is overpriced, and costs as much as a very good guitar, and on two strings you can play more notes than the whole pan has, you are looking to get strung up in the square. Let’s not get into the greatest show, or most beautiful women debate. For me the most irritating argument each year is that soca music, and the people who perform it, would be the most popular in the world, if only we would give it more exposure and support. In December you ran an editorial in support of the soca competitions, groovy and power; groovy, really, even the name is annoying. As you mentioned last year, we the taxpayers, via sponsorship to the promoter, paid for certain celebrities to come down to witness this show, so they could go back and spread the good news. Well I remember a few cuts shown on local TV of these celebrities in action—in an attempt to convince us that they were famous, a failed attempt—some clowns whose names nobody can remember. William Munroe did explain, however, that originally he wanted to bring down P Diddy, or just Diddy, or whatever name he goes by now. Unfortunately, Diddy wanted some ridiculous sum, so he settled for the above unknowns. Had we put out the extra funds for Diddy, and he had gone home impressed with what we had, and at every one of his shows he told the crowd how great we were, what good do you think that would do us?
During the Black Friday and Christmas sales in the US, some shoppers expressed in television interviews their surprise that companies could send advertisements to there smart phones showing the type of items, not just on sale, but things specific to what their perceived taste would be. It also was specific as to what they might have enough money for. It was explained that with all the electronic shopping these days, computer-generated customer profiles are the norm. For example, in its very simplest form, if you have over a period of time ordered music by Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber from Amazon, they won’t send you an advertisement for Pavarotti’s greatest hits. If all the information available to marketing companies was used to split everyone into just two groups, your taste in movies, cloths, food, sporting equipment, cars, music etc will determine which group you go into. If you use a credit card to eat fast foods, order Arnold Schwar-zenegger movies, attend wrestling fights, and so on, you will be put in a different group from someone who uses a card to eat at fancy restaurants, attend Broadway shows, buy golf or ski equipment, or, most importantly, pay for their Caribbean trip. It has been argued that given the exposure in the US our singers could be as popular, and make as much money as Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Jay Z, or any of the other hip hop “artists,” and I believe this is entirely possible. The people who like rap and hip hop will quite likely go for soca, but almost without exception they will all come from the first of the two groups indicated above. A holiday in the Caribbean will be a dream well beyond their means.
At any rate, we have no business spending good money to help promote those who profess to be professionals, be it singer or boxer. Professionals make it on their own, if they are good enough. Heather Headley, the Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway singer, made it and gave a first-rate benefit concert last December. A few days into Lent last year, I was grocery shopping and the background music was Tiny Winey. One of the two shoppers in line asked the other why that wasn’t played over the Carnival. This visitor was told it was an old tune, and out of date, but pro-tested that it had a good beat, and he could understand the words, and proceeded to do a little chip while singing, “Tiny winey in she bam bam,” much to the delight of other shoppers. I am old enough to have faint memories of Happy Wonderer and Valerie, being hit tunes put to a calypso beat, and winning the Road March in the fifties. I don’t even want us to go back to Tiny Winey, far less to Valerie Valara, so every year I hold out hope, listen carefully to new releases, try to analyse the chord structure, and pay attention to the so-called lyrics, and each year can do little more than stueps. It also seems to me that the music we call soca, started by Shorty in the sixties, is now little more than Jamaican dancehall. The singers even put on a Jamaican accent, and “girl” is now pronounced “gyal.” Like most sane people, I hate dancehall, and usually only hear it when some fool is showing off a car stereo in traffic. But I bit both the bullet and an ibprofin and just listened to some Jamaican dancehall online, someone called Sean Paul, singing “watch the gyal dem roll.” It sounded a lot like what our soca has become. I think it was the multi-talented Keith Anderson who said that if old iron fell off a truck on the Beetham Highway, Trinis would jump up. I know if someone got a decent beat, whether or not it is plagiarised from a past Road March, or music from Bonanza “sampled” into it, and screamed into the mike, “tata tata tata tata,” over and over, some of us would jump to that and be as happy as pigs in tata. We deserve better, because we are better.