The Sweet-and-Sour After-Taste of T+T Carnival 2020

Unlike the usual Carnival Tuesday mornings  we have come to  know, Trinidad and Tobago is not currently a scene of constant reverberations of positive celebrations  under a warm Caribbean sky.

There are no hordes of Mas players and musicians pumping on trucks in quiet sensual frenzy, waiting impatiently  to break out into  prancing and dancing to the rhythm of Calypso on the world’s biggest stage. 

Instead, the landscape is overwhelmed by a sombre mood which seeps into every nook and cranny of the nation, even into the bands and masqueraders summoning up the muster to come out this Tuesday for the last grand Taste of Carnival hastily devised by the authorities this year.

Reminders of the tragic deaths of four divers at Pointe-a-Pierre on the night of Friday February 25, still linger in the air everywhere in an environment where – despite their natural tendency to have fun, all Trinis have been thrown into a  state of bewilderment at the unfortunate incident and are filled with concern for the families of these men who never saw what was coming. 

So Carnival Tuesday is  tame. As National Commission Chairman Winston Gypsy Peters had stated, this Carnival Tuesday “is a normal working day. There will be no street parades”

Wherever the parties and shows have been taking place, however, it’s obvious that people had their fair share of fun, however muted it might have been – and despite visits by the police in some cases.

Former Carnival King  Peter Samuel echoed the sentiments of many with his post on Facebook which said:

Merry Carnival One and All….

Let me be the first to admit, that after watching/listening to the single and small bands last week for seven hours, I was very skeptical that the medium/ large bands would not finish before 3.a.m seeing that they were playing two selections. 

But boi… Pantrinbago surely proved me wrong.

CONGRATULATIONS

To the executive and everyone who were involved in the production. Big BIG shout outs to the Arrangers; Drill Masters; Tuners; Players: Band management: Welders; Painters; Pan pushers; Truck drivers: Designers; Decorators; Seamstresses/Taylors: Banner Bearers: Flag Wavers; Printers, for making this ALL possible.

Kudos to EVERYONE for making this event the success that it was, in this short space of time. Pure music; Pure entertainment; Pure fire. No arguments the next day about who the judges tief. As far as I am concerned, the BIG WINNER last night was “PAN

“Pan Trinbago’s President Beverley Ramsey-Moore was “ecstatic” at Saturday’s Musical Showdown in De Big Yard, the pan event held during the Taste of Carnival.”, Newsday reported.

“For Ramsey-Moore, the Pan community truly showed up and showed out with its support for the scaled down Carnival event and for the chance to play after two years of no Panorama because of the Covid19 pandemic”.

The showcase event at the Queen’s Park Savannah, along with its earlier Pan in De Sancoche, replaced the annual Panorama.

Ramsey-Moore, along with Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randal Mitchell and National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters, said the event ran smoothly.

There was a heavy police and security presence to ensure adherence to Covid19 protocols and guidelines.

“I am lost for words,” Ramsey-Moore said to Newsday. “Ecstatic is the best way I can describe this feeling. The steel-band movement – the community rose to the occasion despite the shortness of time to prepare.

“If you would have noticed, we would have given the bomb tune, the classical and calypso-style and the Panorama-arranged tune, so the mixture of the various genres…Wow! That is all I can say.”

Mitchell referenced Denyse Plummer’s 1988 hit Woman is Boss, saying Ramsey-Moore and her team showed that woman is boss. He also congratulated Gypsy.

“We all recognised that the decision to host A Taste of Carnival was done a little late, but I have to commend Pan Trinbago and NCC with the planning of the event. It shows some innovation with respect to the pods, and shows an evolving kind of Carnival.”

 “I see a tremendous partnership and opportunities, and we can only make this thing bigger and better in 2023.”

There were 11 bands in the medium category and 12 in the large category.Not everyone felt the Taste of Carnival was a booming success. The Trinidad Express editorial made its position clear on February 14 – just one week before the event – that the paper was not happy with the direction into which NCC Chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters was taking the project.

In its editorial headlined “Sour Taste of Carnival, the paper stated:

“It is becoming more evident by the day that the National Carnival Commission severely underestimated the national appetite for its “Taste of Carnival”.

Last weekend’s calypso tent events had more performers than audience members. The NCC was forced to postpone last night’s National Extempo preliminaries without giving reasons in its press release.

“On top of that, the National Calypso Monarch final is now in a state of abeyance pending the resolution of funding issues.

Too much about the details of staging the several events making up this experiment with the country’s premier national event hang on funding challenges”, the Express added.

 Apart from this, the length of time it took before the Government itself settled on whether or not there would be any Carnival “taste” or otherwise was a major factor”.Newsday writer Paolo Kernahan found that :

“Much of this ill-defined ‘taste of carnival’ has the distinct flavour of a cultural URP (Unemployed Relief Programme) – run some money and let some people like deyself”.

“In that respect, it truly is just a taste of Carnival, which, under normal circumstances is a sprawling, inexcusably crass smorgasbord of waste propagated by a welfare state under the guise of nourishing cultural patrimony”, Kernahan added.

At the time of writing this article (2.56 pm), the suburb of St James in the capital city of Port of Spain, is very cool with, for sure, a fair number of regulars having fun bars on the Western main Road where  music is being played  from wide open business places.

Of course,  many people are dancing and singing while sporting  their version of the costume they would’ve  worn at the street parade, while a touch of sweet nostalgia has been introduced with the playing of many old calypsos.

For the seniors who are now so easily shunted aside, this is a source of great delight while, for the youngsters, it would hopefully serve as a medium of enlightenment  and  exciting discovery.

Let’s hope that the Taste of Carnival 2022 will not leave a taste of bitterness in our mouths but rather – like the unfortunate death of the four Paria divers – the lasting impact of an experience which we can both learn a great deal  from, and also be chastened by.It’s on this basis therefore, that we can expect to move  forward with positive vibes in our quest  to fashion a brighter Tomorrow, in our own unique Trini style.

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