Photo : Mighty Chalkdust

The reaction to Carnival 2018 is that it is in crisis; even described as a tragedy in culture. The calypso tents, the Dimanche Gras, the Grand Stand with empty seats, are emerging to provide a watershed to define as aspect of culture – even the official culture.

 Robert Elias has described the situation has reached a crisis in culture:  “Calypso …has been all over the place and has been losing its audience…calypso is suffering. When I go on a stage now and I see the audience and six people, it really hurts.”  The Dimanche Gras: “I look into the North Stand …everything except people.” And then “he looked into the Grand Stand and at least 50 per cent of the people there were on complementary tickets.” (Mighty Trini Hits Treatment For Culture Newsday 23/02/2018 p 11). Another correspondent said “I was given a free ticket to the Grand Stand on Carnival Tuesday and willingly accepted…What I realised only a third of the Stand was occupied,  and that the North Stand had about 100 people…”  (Rethink Bands Urgent Matter Custom. St Llood, Express 14/02/2018 p. 14)

The reality is that events have taken a turn.  What is typical of these carnival events is to follow the routine over the years.  Over the years only PNM administration dominated the carnival and defined the official culture in the country from 1956 to 1986. The administration of ANR Robinson from 1986 to 1991 continued that cultural policy. The Panday administration upheld the Carnival culture and funded carnival functions.  And the Kamla Persad-Bissessar (2010 – 2015) administration funded carnival, surpassingprevious administrations. Prizes went to millions! And despite her administration renaming of the Ministry of Culture to Ministry of Multiculturism! Other than the change in designation the reality was the same. The culture of carnival is entrenched for years.  Now carnival has collapsed, and it may carry on for a few years, and the government will continue to plough millions of dollars with no accountability.

The Calypso and Calypso Tent

One aspect of the carnival is the calypso. The Kalypso Revue Tent closed its doors for a short season “due to lack of funding.” Calypsonian Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osuna “forced to close its doors due to lack of funding.” The Ministry of Arts and Culture had given $150,000 to the Revue but it was not enough to meet expenditure.  The crime situation has also deterred patrons to the Revue.  But Sugar Aloes and other calypsonians wanted to lobby the Minister of Culture to fund the Revue with $400,000 but this was rejected – other tents also received funding.  What is clear is that the tents are funded by millions of dollars annually. Yet they are not able to be relevant to the people.

One aspect of the closure of the Revue is the Indian factor in the boycott of shows over the years. Sugar Aloes “rubbish the suggestion that calypsos targeting East Indian are at the heart of the decline in support for the Kalypso Revue Tent…The fact of the matter is that they have their own forum.”  (Aloes: Indian Bashing Not Behind Revue Demise Guardian 2/02/2018 p5). The Soca Chutney is now a new type of music for a few years – for many years calypsonians campaign on the theme of an anti-Indian bashing.   If Indian is now a forum then the calypso tent is an ethnic cultural black entity which no longer attracts the young black creole.

One example of black creole racism in the tent is the experience of a Sunday Express columnist ( Don Soca  by Sophia Chote  11/02/2018  p 14.):

“This year much has been said about the “Indians” shunning the tents.  As one of East Indian ancestry, I can say that I stopped going to the tents, which I used to attend faithfully, for reasons. They were not well-organised, you generally sat in seats and listened to performer after performer of varying quality, and of course there were those calypsonians who made disparaging generalisations about persons of Indian ancestry…  I am   not pay to witness this kind self-flagellation. I am also not paying money to attend a show to be insulted, full stop.

Many persons I know who are not of East Indian ancestry were similarly offended or simple offended or simply did not want to  pay to listen to people singing   to  lyrics which were divisive or which diminished  people for not coming from the right place… “

      Sugar Aloes has to revise information with the tents and the experience of patrons.  But then the Dimanche Gras also carry lyrics of afrocentric world – the only reality is that the creole carnival has run its course.

In the midst of the collapse of creole culture and its millions in expenditure annually we have Keith Subero wanting to define the black creole culture as the national culture.  He wants the state/government to promulgate a media policy:  “Will it eventually recognise that pan, kaiso and soca are national products and it should mandate that all T&T radio-TV stations play music year round?” (Keith Subero, In The Midst of It, Express 12/02/2018 p.12). The columnist is thinking “about the crisis which is facing T&T.” After more than sixty years Subero wants to “recognise the pan, kaiso and soca,”all black creole cultural products. There is no room for other cultures and “mandate” local stations to play pan, kaiso and soca “ year round.”  This is a black hegemony!

The editor of Sunshine weekly has analysed the carnival phenomenon.  Mr Jack Warner in an article (A Requiem Mass For Calypso 23/02/2018 p. 7)  wrote that “ year after year Government forks out money to appease a minority group  who wishes to convince us that it is contributing to the development of our culture…calypso today is nothing more than a parasite.”  He added that “too many citizens of significance have been advising us to pull the plug on calypso...there is no hope for calypso… the truth is that people are no longer interested in calypso…” The “minority” is but the black creole culture which monopolises the state resources and project it as the official culture.  The pseudo-culture has expired after sixty years.  The future is a cultural pluralism which is reflective of the society.


The state/government has to withdraw from culture and allow the society’s interests to foster.  The state has distorted the black creole culture by discrimination and preference, by supporting an official version of culture.  Millions of dollars are spent on black nationalism which has now collapsed.

Carnival of the future is already apparent with elements of culture of songs and music – of youth and entertainment and entrepreneurs. Cultural pluralism would be the dominant tendency.

Conservative people must be reckoned since they are strong constituency and in fact they are the majority.  All types of songs and music of the society must be embraced.