Dancehall vs Soca

There’s a conversation that takes place in Jamaica about Dancehall versus Soca very regularly. And that conversation gets very heated around Jamaica Carnival.

It’s a hard conversation for me to listen to, because having lived in Jamaica – I studied at UWI, Mona – I hear the xenophobia in the comments. Too often when Jamaican talk about soca, there’s shade and there’s the blatant attacks. The Jamaican who likes Soca isn’t in the majority. And this upsets me, because Trinidad plays Dancehall like if it’s we ting on radio. Local DJs love to talk in pseudo-Jamaican accents on the radio, but where the music we love is getting made, they scorning Soca. And why shoudn’t they, when we don’t love it enough ourselves.

I think it’s worthy of note that Jamaicans don’t seem to be as threatened by or condescending of Rap and Hip Hop, as they are of Soca.

Having said that, I think that it is funny that if you switch the accents and location, this is a very similar to the conversations we’ve had about Dancehall. Not as heated, but I am both amused and shocked to see Soca being spoken of as though it is a threat to Dancehall. And that has me wondering if something else is at play.

I want you to look at the current affairs show All Angles. Dionne Jackson-Miller hosted a panel that included Dr. Kai Baratt, Marlon Campbell and Dr. Donna Hope. At some point, while watching it, I started to realise that the way Soca was introduced to Jamaica was completely at odds with it’s origins. And that disconnect is jarring. I find Jamaica Carnival’s positioning as an elitist festival very disturbing. Always have. While Trinidad Carnival has created the all-inclusive model that contributes to it’s increasingly upper class tone, because it’s “we ting”, our lower classes feel entitled to it in ways lower class Jamaicans do not. So while there are attempts to make Carnival “all-inclusive” with the view to exclude; the Jamettes, the Saga boys and the Bwa Men who created de ting have the real ownership of the mas, and will find a space, always.

I think that Jamaica needs to re-visit it’s relationship with Carnival. They have to find a way to make it true to them, in a positive way. And that positive has to be more than benefits it may add to it’s tourism model.

That said, I’m way more interested in Trinidad Carnival and fixing what ails us. And for me, that’s such a difficult question to answer, I guess because it’s emotional.

 

The Caribbean Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Robert Young’s band Vulgar Fraction’s presentation for 2017 is called the Caribbean Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

The models were people Robert selected from the crowd. He dressed them and they began twirling. The band has a loose structure, but I was surprised by how I was warming to it. The costumes, the concept, the possibility of playing mas with the band.

The mas camp is based at Propaganda Space, 24 Erthig Road in Belmont. Check them out there or virtually via their Facebook page.

See you (maybe) on the road.

New T&T Tourism Site

The Tourism Development Company Limited has a new destination website: www.gotrinidadandtobago.com.

It’s meant to be attractive to vacation planners and has information about events, food and shopping.

Most interestingly, you can book trips from the website.

This follows the launch of a German-language site which is targeted to travellers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland: www.gotrinidadtobago.de  That site went live in July

At the Helm with K2K

One of my favourite bands to watch for Carnival has been K2K Alliance. Twins Kathy and Karen Norman bring so much artistry to their fashion meets mas band. That they both work in finance in New York and can bring out an award winning band is madness, but I am grateful for their passion for this industry.

Their presentation for 2017 is At the Helm. I spoke to them as they were preparing for their launch about their vision for their band the business of Carnival.

I got to attend the launch and I have one word, “Wow!” Visually stunning presentation. I went with a friend of mine and she said that she wished that she could create something that beautiful.

I’m one of the persons interviewed in the video below about my thoughts on their costumes.

Still can’t pick one. And you can peep their lookbook here

TT Film Fest Preview

Yesterday, I got to see Sanskara, a local film noir that’s going to be screened this year at the TT Film Festival.

Let me tell you, I enjoyed it. To be fair acting isn’t our forte, and Lord does it ever show in this piece, but there’s so much thought behind this film that shines though. Plus there’s some very surprising elements in the film that added positively to the presentation.

The story is cliched, and not always believable, but not so much that you can’t become invested in the storyline.

Christopher Liard’s short doc on the  The Dying Swan King costume from Carnival 2016 was lovely in it’s starkness. Set to music, no voiceover was required for this piece that reminds that sometimes less is more.

I’m supposed to return today to preview some of the other films in the festival. Stay tuned for that blog post.

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Second Call for Papers – Caribbean Carnival Conference, May 2017

I’m actually finding this very intriguing:

The Centre for Culture and the Arts at Leeds Beckett University in partnership with Leeds West Indian Carnival will be hosting an international conference on Caribbean Carnival Cultures on 19 – 21 …

Source: Second Call for Papers – Caribbean Carnival Conference, May 2017

A Caribbean Culture Reader

Meagan Sylvester shared this on her page last September 2nd. It popped up in my Facebook reminder and I thought, that this is the best place to post it, because it’s such a great list of papers and essays on our music and Carnival customs etc. So without further adieu:

Mason, Peter. 1998. Bacchanal? The Carnival Culture of Trinidad. London; Philadelphia: Latin American Bureau; Temple University Press.

Liverpool, Hollis Urban. 1998. Origins of rituals and customs in the Trinidad Carnival: African or European?. TDR/The Drama Review 42, no. 3: 24-37.

Liverpool, Hollis. 2001. Rituals of Power and Rebellion: The Carnival Tradition in Trinidad and Tobago, 1763 – 1962. Chicago, Trinidad and Tobago: Research Associates School Times; Frontline Distribution.

Stolzoff, Norman C. 2000. Wake the Town and Tell the People; DanceHall Culture in Jamaica. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Rouse, Marilyn A. 2000. Jamaican Folk Music: A Synthesis of Many Cultures. Studies in the History and Interpretation of Music. Vol. 66. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.

Regis, Louis. 1999. The Political Calypso: True Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago, 1962 – 1987. Barbados; Gainesville: Press University of the West Indies; University Press of Florida

Besson, Gerard, and Angostura Bitters Limited. 2001. The Angostura Historical Digest of Trinidad and Tobago. Cascade, Trinidad and Tobago: Paria Pub.: Angostura.

Cowley, John. 1996. Carnival and Calypso: Traditions in the Making. Cambridge; New York, NY: Cambidge University Press.

Dudley, Shannon. 2008.Music from Behind the Bridge: Steelband Spirit and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Dudley, Shannon. 2004. Carnival Music in Trinidad: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. Global Music Series. New York: Oxford University Press.

Elder, J.D. 1972. From Congo Drum to Steelband: A Socio-Historical Account of the Emergence and Evolution of the Trinidad Steel Orchestra. St. Augustine, Trinidad: The University of the West Indies.

Feld, Steven. 1984. Sound Structure as Social structure. Ethnomusicology 28 (3): 383-409.

Frith, Simon. 1996. Performing Rites: On the value of popular music. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Gibbons, Rawle. 1994. No Surrender: A biography of the Growling Tiger. Tunapuna, Pantheon Books.

Guilbault, Jocelyne. 2007. Governing Sound: the cultural politics of Trinidad’s carnival musics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hill, Donald R. 1993. Calypso Callaloo : Early carnival music in Trinidad. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Lipsitz, George. 2007. Footsteps in the Dark: The Hidden Histories of Popular Music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Liverpool, Hollis. 1990. Kaiso and Society. Diego Martin, Trinidad, W.I.: Juba Publications.

Nettleford, Rex M. 1995; 2002. Calypso monograph. Caribbean Quarterly Monograph. Mona, Jamaica: Caribbean Quarterly.

Rausert,Wilifried. 2000. Negotiating Temporal Differences: blues, jazz and Narrativity in African American Culture. Heidelberg, Germany: Heidelberg.

Rohlehr, Gordon. 1990. Calypso & Society in Pre-Independence Trinidad. Port-of-Spain, Trinidad: G. Rohlehr.

Ryan, Selwyn D., Gloria Gordon. 1988. Trinidad and Tobago: The Independence Experience, 1962-1987. The University of the West Indies. Institute of Social and Economic Research St. Augustine, Trinidad: Institute of Social and Economic Research, The University of the West Indies.

Stone, Ruth M., Verlon L. Stone. 1981. Event, Feedback and Analysis: Research Media in the Study of Music Events. Ethnomusicology. Vol 25 (2): 215-225.

Williams, Eric Eustace. 1984. From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492-1969. 1st Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books.

Williams, Eric Eustace. 1964. History of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. New York: Praeger.

Alleyne, Mike. 2009. Globalisation and Commercialisation of Caribbean Music. World Music Roots and Routes. Collegium. Tuulikki Pietila. (ed). Studies across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences 6. Helsinki: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. 76–101.

Hope, Donna. 2006. Inna De DanceHall: Popular Culture and the Politics of Identity. Kingston: Jamaica. The University of the West Indies Press.

Howard, Dennis. 2012. Rantin from Inside the Dancehall. Jamaica: Jahmento Publishers

A Place for Birdsong Academy

On August 15th the Marshal of the High Court had the authority to return possession of the property on the corner of Connel and St. Vincent Streets in Tunapuna to the landlord. When I visited Birdsong on D-day they were defiant in the face of eviction.

When the Marshal arrived, it was very early on Monday 29th August to remove Birdsong’s belonging from the land, and put up a fence.

The Academy’s directors are now trying to find an alternative space for the school to hold it’s acclaimed after school programme this September. At the Town Hall meeting they held at Friends Recreational Club, mere steps away from their former home and obliquely opposite their proposed new site, Birdsong assured the community that this was not a wake, but a hurdle to cross.

This is a developing story, and I’ll keep you abreast as the news comes to hand.

To help put this story in further context here’s my report from the press conference Birdsong held on the 8th August to make public their plight.