Senior Investigative Reporter
The National Carnival Commission (NCC) has injected “under $2 million” to host tonight’s highly anticipated Dimanche Gras show at the Queen’s Park Savannah (QPS), which will see soca star Machel Montano and popular singer Mical Teja competing for the first time for the coveted Calypso Monarch crown.
NCC’s deputy chairman and artistic director Davlin Thomas promised “a fabulous, fantastic and ecstatic” five-hour-long show which is expected to kick off at 7 pm on the big stage.
“It’s going to be a fierce fight this year for the Calypso Monarch. It’s a battle of all battles. Yeah, it’s going to be insane,” said an upbeat Thomas, during an interview with the Sunday Guardian on Wednesday at the Savannah.
Thomas is the creative mind behind the programme and has extensive knowledge as an artistic director.
Reigning Calypso Monarch Ta’zyah O’Connor will come up against 11 other competitors, each of whom has eight minutes to perform.
“This is the pizazz of the big Sunday of Carnival. It’s not going to be a boring engagement,” he assured.
The theme of this year’s show is “Carnival Come Back–The Ritual.”
Thomas said NCC also expects fierce rivalry in the Kings and Queens of Carnival contest, so they decided to pull out all the stops to get people to buy into the show, which is building momentum.
Having printed 5,000 North and Grand tickets for the big event, Thomas said they are expecting a sell-out crowd with guest performances by top artistes Nadia Batson, Patrice Roberts, Ravi B, Raymond Ramnarine, Neval Chatelal, Alison Hinds, De Voice and Skinny Fabulous to name a few.
“We are expecting a young crowd this year because of the lineup of Calypso Monarch finalists. We know there are increases in ticket sales. We had some discussions about making accommodations for some of the additional people (patrons) who will be coming because it’s not just Machel they want to see and hear.”
Thomas said Teja, Kurt Allen, Karene Asche, and Helon Francis are some of the hot favourites.
“Because of the new entrants and the intensity of the competition itself, this show will be fundamentally different.”
He said in the opening presentation of the show, “Batson would pay tribute to deceased calypsonian Denyse Plummer by singing her famous Nah leaving kaiso.
“If you are a lover of Denyse Plummer you are going to cry. Of course, it is going to be subtle.”
More than 100 dancers will also perform against the backdrop of pyrotechnic, smoke effects and coloured lighting while guests will be entertained with T&T’s national instrument, the steelpan.
Two brass bands–The A-Team and Brass 2 the World–are in the lineup.
NCC will also host a pre-show beginning at 5 pm for early patrons to enjoy themselves.
Following the results, Thomas is hoping patrons stick around in the Savannah for the “jamming” and later join the J’Ouvert celebrations.
On the cost to stage a show of this magnitude?
Thomas said that question is often nebulous, so he sought to provide context.
He explained a lot of infrastructure is already in place for the show, but additional infrastructure would be needed “in terms of screens and lighting and so on. Then you’re really looking at under $2 million. That is for performers.”
This money does not include payments to the winners of the competition.
The Calypso Monarch champ will collect $500,000 and a Grand Vitara car.
On Thursday, the Sunday Guardian contacted the president of the T&T Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA) Mark Ayen to find out the first prize for the King and Queen of Carnival.
However, Ayen advised that we reach out to former TTCBA president Rosalind Gabriel to get a response. In a telephone interview yesterday, Gabriel said she would not be able to reveal the prize structure for the winners of the Kings and Queens in the senior category.
“I am afraid I would not be able to disclose that because the Kings and Queens really don’t like to see the prizes advertised in this age of crime. Really and truly a lot of them have asked that the prize structure not be disclosed.”
NCC has been allocated $141 million to manage this year’s Carnival.
This figure represented $6 million less than what the NCC received in 2023.
Thomas said NCC expects significant revenue from the hosting of Carnival 2024.
In 2022, NCC generated $1.3 billion in revenue from Carnival events.
Last year, Thomas said, there was a five per cent increase in revenue, and they are projecting for this year’s festival a further ten per cent increase.
Thomas also disclosed NCC recently formulated a health, safety and disaster response committee and more than 100 janitors have been retained to clean the stage for the two-day festival.