Grenada carnival has increased events of bacchanal affiliated with politics and cultural activities. The street-celebration festival is no more an event of entertainment for people who only come out on the street to dance to the music and have fun in a celebration atmosphere.
It is nothing like five decades ago, when the two-days street festival was a time when food and drinks were almost free, and the government and other interest groups were not involved in the activities of the celebration for political and financial gains. Carnival was just the people celebration with no strings attached.
Today’s carnival events are corrupted with all kinds of opportunists looking to gain something personal from the celebration. It is no longer a community-based event with villagers participating in activities within their individual villages. Masqueraders are now attracted to big money prizes to participate in events at the national stadium in the capital city, St George’s.
Now we have Spice Mas’ Corporation (SMC) which is the governing body of the celebration. The SMC is not an independent body free from politics and it does not matter which political party that is in power governing the country, the SMC will be driven by political values of the ruling party and their friendly interest groups.
Then again, we have a fast-growing tourism industry with an increase in numbers of large luxurious hotels recently constructed in the southern part of the island. These hotel owners have an interest in the carnival celebration events, due to the high volume of visitors coming to the country for the festival. Their sole interest is to make money from the celebration by providing top class accommodation for the visitors at the highest at most secured standard.
In addition, for the past two decades or so, calypsonians and soca artists are involved in the political bacchanal of carnival due to tribal politics. Presently, there are two different active calypso associations led by some influential calypsonians with opposite political interest. Therefore, the calypso fraternity is divided, and politicians are the ones who are benefiting from the divides.
It is speculated that the two different calypso associations are aligned to the two major opposing political parties. So, presently calypsonians are openly involved in party politics and those calypsonians who sing negative songs about the government are not likable by the government supporters, while the opposing party supporters show them love and application. And if there is a new government in the next general election, the conflict will continue. Nothing much will change because of the mindset of the people.
In terms of persons selected as judges to judge the various competitions such as soca monarch, groovy soca monarch, calypso monarch, and queen show contests, it is speculated that most of the time, the judges make bias decisions based on their political affiliations and liking for some contestants.
The only good thing I see happening in the pre-carnival events is that, villagers are given the privilege and opportunity to practice mas’ on the streets in the rural community villages, as it used to be traditionally many years ago before some religious converts and a new bourgeois class became anti carnival, by complaining about noise pollution.
Furthermore, even though our local jab-jab music artists are making new waves on the international entertainment market, some critics are still opposed to the indigenous genre of music. And whenever they are asked for another alternative, they cannot explain what they are complaining about because they are just addicted to opposing popular things.
Anyway, it is expected that this year carnival celebration will be bigger than in previous years. And it is expected that some of the critics will attend the J’ouvert mas’ parade in the various parishes just to find fault and excuses to criticise.
(Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers)