I have been busy and I traveled back home to Virginia after a couple of weeks in St.Lucia, for Carnival 2010. Yet within the last 24 hours, two letters have come to my attention about RED Unlimited. The very band mentioned in the following letters was the carnival band, I played mas with for the very first time, this year. Both letters have struck a chord that I feel it necessary to share.
Sad Day for Carnival
Written by Joan Hinkson (Band Leader of St.Lucian Spirit)
To: The Voice .... Letters & Opinion
24th July 2010
It is indeed a sad day for Carnival in St .Lucia when a carnival band with imported completed costumes from China and India arriving in St. Lucia in containers to simply be distributed to revellers, can place ahead of Bands whose costumes are made in St. Lucia, bands who toil in Mas Camps night after night using local talent, seamstresses, local craftsmen and women and rent Mas camps all in the interest of keeping the real Mas alive in St. Lucia. Band Leaders with creative themes that are part of our inheritance from past band leaders. It is ironic that while St. Lucian Spirit carnival is lauding our geniuses of yester year in our Portrayal for 2010 carnival that kudos are given to Mas bands who have taken the easier route. Where is the creative purpose of the Mas? Where is the creativity and skill? What we have are bikinis and beads at the expense of creativity and craftsmanship. According to the criteria for judging, 55 points are allocated to creativity and craftsmanship. Would that be creativity and craftsmanship from China or should that not mean creativity and craftsmanship of our local artists.
It is even sadder to realise that a band with prefabricated costumes coming out of China can come within six points of winning the title of band of the year. One is left to wonder what has become of our Carnival. We need to spur band leaders to even higher levels of creativity not to discourage them. If we do not do this we will indeed have no creative purpose in our carnival. Is this where we want the Mas to go? Or do we want a product that is in keeping with our inheritance and talents, a product that reflects the true meaning of carnival,-talent, genius, costumery, creativity, a national cultural expression reflective of our society.
Our carnival has to be brought back on track. As another Band Leader said “It is never too late. The trend must be arrested now or the true Mas Women and Men will be marginalised forever”. Trinidad the Mecca of carnival has taken drastic steps to put some sense of control in the importation of finished costumes thus preserving the art form which is carnival. We have to do likewise and put measures in place to ensure that the results for 2010 will never be repeated again.
MAMA DIS IS NOT MAS!!!!!!!They Killing De Carnival
Written by: Stacey Gomez
Last year when the media broke the news about payola in Saint Lucia, the story was good but did not go far enough. Since it broke though the people engaged in “pay for play” have consolidated their positions – growing stronger by spreading their tentacles into the major radio stations ensuring they no longer paid to be played – they controlled what was played by paying the salary of those who played the music.
We live in a society where people whisper what everyone knows – nobody says anything, especially if it might hurt them out loud because let’s face it, you don’t know who to trust since all of us talk so damn much.
But it is time for us to face up to some unmistakable facts.
Fact – a song is not a hit except for the fact it gets the most airplay. And this is one sure fire reason the 758 crew owns their own station where they employ the DJ’s that play at every fete from Dj Play to HP. It is also the reason they have Pringles to cover their interest on the Wave and Iwer who not only backs them on the air at RCI as does Levi Chin – he also writes some of their material.
But that wasn’t enough for them – oh no – the triplet mafia – Dwayne, Penn and Ace – also forged an alliance with Red Unlimited thereby ensuring the cooperation of that band as well as prominent attorney Thaddeus Antoine, the top management of RCI led by Program Manager Mc Naughton McLean and other well placed Redheads who judge and are the movers and shakers of the music – especially the Carnival music industry.
You don’t believe me? Picture this scenario – Two of the judges that judged this year soca monarch were leaders of Red Unlimited – Cameron Joseph and Thaddeus Antoine.
It is also from their mas camp that HP – the eventual winner – designed and constructed his costumes. And it is their sponsor – Digicel – who supported him.
I see you are starting to see the light – starting to open your mind to the possibility.
Yes, the 758 artistes have the biggest stations to push their music in primetime – Blazin, RCI and the Wave. And they have a band to push their agenda and a sponsor to fund it all.
You may not have realized it because they do their vibe real smart. No listener can say they don’t hear all types of music because they play all – but which songs do they play and at what time?
Is HP better than Ricky T or did he just get Pah Mele played so much you believed it?
How many artistes were in the final of the groovy and power monarch and you had never heard their song before? And how many artistes like Q-Pid performed two songs on final night you may have heard only once maybe twice? You see they pushed the songs they knew would not be used in competition in the case of Q-Pid or they just ignored the artiste completely in Louis Dan’s case.
And artistes don’t want to talk because they need radio time, they need to have the same DJ’s who are on the radio to play their songs in fetes – they also need to get booked for shows because not only does Red have Red Ignites and Colour Me Red – they have also branched out so that this year they got the contract to entertain at Cricket World Cup.
And producers can’t talk because they need their music played too. Without that they will lose artistes and fans because if people don’t hear your music, they sure as hell cannot guarantee your artistes or you will make money.
Think about it…all the producers in this country – why are you only hearing about 758? Where is Leebo who just made Alpha win his second consecutive Groovy title or Dutch Productions who led Nicole whose career everybody said was dead to a third place finish in Groovy with Dean Dough or Dupes who with Mecca just won the People’s Choice award at an award show in Bermuda?
Second fact – it’s not just the radio – they dominate shows too.
If you were at Wet Fete this year you saw Ricky T almost cry leaving the stage when the band refused to play his intro key for Caan Stop Me. This after Penn on samples refused to sample for him because the song targets 758 and what they tried to do to Ricky T and his career. You see, because Penn is acknowledged as the best sampler on island who plays with TEM and Spectacle – he was at EVERY show held this year. And he used his position to ensure only the 758 artistes sounded good – giving them volume and samples that send the crowd and the artiste mad. The only exception was Platinum George whose Cigawette ek wom was produced by Sam – another member of their camp. He also ensured he sound checked for all the 758 songs ahead of the Soca Monarch where Kakal says he doesn’t know what the band was playing for him on competition night because on the first verse especially, it was not Bomb Song. Penn and his merry men including Sam the leader of the TEM band played badly for every artiste they played for except for their artistes. But they slick – they didn’t do it for every song and they did it in such a way you had to be paying attention to notice.
Third fact – not all artistes are created the same on competition night.
When Kakal asked to string a wire from the stage to the pavilion, he was told it was impossible. Imagine his surprise when he showed up on the Mindoo Phillip Park to see Superman practicing the very move he was told he could not do – perhaps its fitting he almost died in the air during his performance – karma can be a real bitch sometimes. And for artistes who used to be told they could not bring props only to reach on the field and see them there ,– this is a reality that says this 758 mafia is bigger even than CDF. Because if Dwayne Mendes was able to convince Boots Ricky T had a shot in hell of winning or placing in Trinidad Soca Monarch with Wheel and Come Again when that song was crap and the year was Fay-Ann’s – it doesn’t say much for his sense, does it?
But these facts are enough to start with for now and I am telling them to you because you need to start connecting the dots yourself and stop burying your head in the sand. This music industry has potential but it cannot grow if one set of people want to have everything for themselves. And they moving so dirty that soon all the artistes will stop singing and then all you will be stuck with is the 758 artistes and given the way they do business that list is not long – right now its down to HP, Superman and Teddyson John. So if all you want to hear is Rags, Pah Mele and Ready for Dem then you good but recognize that this is what you’re getting now…and unless you fight for variety and the chance to hear some other riddim as Agostina in that famous Jamaican poem say…then we all go stick in that.