Does anyone really read newspaper columns on J'Ouvert morning? Well maybe, probably, people who neither play nor watch the enjoyable spectacles of Trinis totally losing themselves in the predawn madness of mud, mas', and music?
As beautiful as our Carnival is—represented by the presentations of Pretty Mas in so many centres, but most notably in the capital city—it is J'Ouvert, and the pseudo-political depictions portrayed and presented in our pre-dawn darkness, which create a unique form of political criticism and commentary, and one which apparently can attract no legal criticism or challenge. A bit like Kaiso, Calypso, used to be, where one could sing, or “play” any lyrics and any scandals currently known, or even suspected of being in the public domain. And one carries no risk of being sued or charged for libel or defamation for what one sings or portrays in the streets. And largely I suppose, this is because no one really remembers.
Last year's Old Mas', and last season's scandalously revealing calypsoes are not archived, and therefore quickly forgotten by everyone. One personal note though, most current calypso renditions are worth forgetting, carrying no rhyme, hardly any reason, and certainly without wit, satire or any redeeming feature. Do you know of any rendition this year for which audiences might have shouted “Kaiso! Kaiso!” and called the artiste back on stage?
Truth to tell, Carnival is remembered now for the big, pretty mas', and the Road March beat, not the road march lyrics, so no wonder the calypsoes and the J'Ouvert mas' are quickly forgotten.
Therefore, I ponder what “marks to buss” this J'Ouvert morning, on the grounds that a columnist might have “carnival rights” for opinions which may not (as yet?) be provable. I am also aware that what one writes in a newspaper does not have the same literary protections as kaiso or mud mas' placards! So I intend to run through a few issues (verses without rhyming?), that have irritated me recently, but none of which merit a full column or song.
First I want to touch the memory of which Kes the Band sings this year—Savannah Grass. It might well become the Road March, and all of that is great. However, I would like to use the song, and all the joy, to make us realise that we must actually save the Savannah grass. Because it has nearly all disappeared. What we see there are weeds and ti-marie, no longer grass, and this threatened dry season may leave us, finally, with a dust bowl where the Savannah used to be. And this will lead to an acceleration of the ongoing paving of the Savannah. So let us save our Savannah, with thanks to Kes, for highlighting its existence and its joys!
And we need to replant and nurture until grown, the many trees we have felled on our savannah over the past few years
But while in the Savannah area, can I ask what are we doing in our Botanic Gardens and at the bandstand in front of President's House?
The bandstand is now covered in black sackcloth and walled-in with bright blue metal sheeting. OK, it needed a little upgrade, but right now? Now in the Carnival and cruise ship season, we “uglify” (sic) the iconic structure instead of having artistes perform there? And deeper inside the Gardens we have another galvanise fence next to the mausoleum-inspired concrete and glass structure intended to be an information centre? Last week, a truckload of poison was being sprayed into the trenches dug for its extension. This structure, with its artificial Greco Columns, belongs more in Lapeyrouse than in our gardens. Why did we build this concrete tomb instead of using our beautiful local lumber in an architectural style fitting our heritage and our climate? But do we so love ole mas mimicry that we cannot see the attractions in our own real style…the style our visitors come to enjoy?
And, as we sing and write about our magnificent Savannah this Carnival, may we continue the meaningful restoration of the historic buildings, from Queen's Royal College all the way to the President's House, while we build new and modern structures along Queens Park East creating, with our Savannah, the meeting of our future with our history. And as we re-beautify this area, we need to stop dumping dredged garbage from the St Ann's River (the “Dry River”) into the empty lot of land where Belmont Circular Road meets Queen's Park East. We do not need a materials dump at the only attractive entrance to our capital city.
My apologies for ending this piece so far from where it began—a little bit like following the wrong band back to where you thought your car was parked this J'Ouvert morning?