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

THE EDITOR,
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.

*posted as received


9 comments:

natty says:
at: July 29, 2010 at 7:46 AM said...

WOW WOW WOW... what an exceptional post. I just had the never ending discussions about St. Lucia's carnival and actually got chastised and was told I'm a sell out because I went TT carnival and don't go St. Lucia so basically that didn't entitle me to have an opinion. The only peace (Not that I really want to call it peace) was the delusion that RED wasn't a competing Band so I was stunned upon hearing that they place second, having the inferior quality costumes of a band that just had that portrayal a few months ago is not only shameful but speaks of the lack of care to Lucian revellers . What I have however learned is the lack of concern by ST. Lucians b/c while arguing about Lucian standard and they lack of local talent usage , the most frequent answer is "as long as I get a costume and rum I'm good" so it honestly made me question why I feel so strongly about something that most St. Lucians don't care about. SO reading those 2 letters have truly renewed my faith that there are still others out there that respect and want to see the true aspect of Marse kept alive and it be as much a local product as possible. The Monopoly called REd is ridiculous and we as People need to wake up and realize b/c its sparkling doesn't make it a real diamond!!!
I won't even comment on the music aspect b/c the sham they called OECS soca monarch is down right appalling when St. Lucians can sing anything ( including RIcky T's GARBAGE THEY CAH STOP ME/WE - who cares the name I don't) and win the entire competition. Why have these other compete if Ricky T will just be handed the title every single time? Makes we wonder why JW and blaze never showed up that Sunday when they were in Lucia the Friday. WE need changes and we need them very soon!!!!

Anonymous
at: July 29, 2010 at 4:49 PM said...

Natty..I'm agreeing with your comment to some extent. First and foremost the main organization responsible for carnival must clearly state and implement the requirements and measures for carnival bands..Why?? it has alot to do with 1) time and or age and most importantly ones desire when playing mas. I say so because mas is more appealing to the younger generation who believe in having fun and being somewhat sexy in the process on the other hand you have the more mature crowd who actually enjoy a band's theme and going ahead with the PORTRAYAL with a full costume. If the powers that be can differentiate and dissect these issues and class them we'll have a properly judged portrayal of the bands in Slu.
As far as the other letter is concerned I think some of the content is poorly supported as to peoples names,people and their involvement with particular parties, the payola most of all. Caribbean Soca Monarch is nonsense and is the same as T&T's Int'l Soca Monarch. Titles are MOSTLY given to that of the host country's involvement...oh yes.. the prize money or part of it stays in the host country. Finally I know for a fact the this thing with RED ain't no monopoly..we need to differentiate influence and impact.RED's influence is making an Impact..bring the best to be the best and give the best..In RED's debut.. they hired Onyan and the Baygon Band who sang their own songs and RED was damn near 500 revelers who were all satisfied at the end. RED in 2006 then hired Spectacle in which PENN is the drummer and programmer..his ability as a musical director has clearly been seen from then til now. As far as I see it...it's a business relationship..you keep it locked..it will be successful

Lyla says:
at: July 29, 2010 at 7:55 PM said...

Natty you making noise but about the wrong things!

I agree with anon' in that Red is a business and it is their right to satisfy THEIR bottom line weda it be using which ever music team they want on the road or getting costumes from TT China India or SLU (I dont know where they do it I not their broker)they have their modus operandi and it works!

With that said Red's portrayal was spectacular! The costumes were well made and well appreciated by the revellers!! (Duplicated or not duplicated : see earlier sweet 7 post about 2010 similarities) The experience is a great one! The issue however is the Red (assuming that they do import costumes, like I said I am not the broker) cannot be allowed to compete in the same category "HOME GROWN" bands. That is namely the Spirits, Rituals, Mas Action and XS.

I thought! ( you know what they say about assuming) that to address this issue, the issue being that bands like Red J4F etc need to compete ... the category of Mas on the Move was created. I agree its not fair that they should be dismissed from the competition completely but categories should be created to allow them to shine in their category. We cannot allow bands who put in hard work and spend the money with in (ie local persons!!build these costumes) not be at the fore front of wining the good prize money which allows their home made costumes to remain significantly cheaper than $600.

Band of the year is important!! Unlike most people who are not privy to how a carnival band functions (think that its just the rum and costume that are important)! Winning band of the year facilitates the continuity of many bands the following year! Red and J4F(who doesnt try to compete) maybe able to function with out the prize money that comes along with placing in all aspects of the carnival season!

With that said my issue is not with Red and their executives! But rather with the organizers and judges or rather person putting in the criteria! Its ridiculous that every year the same thing is hear "well be going back to the drawing back and learn from our mistakes"

Honestly I think that if some of the Band leaders were allowed to manage carnival instead of CDF ie the Thaddius' the Hinkson, the McLean... Carnival would be more successful, organized and their would have be some form of accountability with funds that delayed and canceled events!!

Its kinda like queen show... the population has lost its interest in a show that use to be prestigious, not only becuse the persons organizing it have not changed in 20 years, (no problem with older folks) but NO NEW IDEAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lyla says:
at: July 29, 2010 at 7:56 PM said...

Natty you making noise but about the wrong things!

I agree with anon' in that Red is a business and it is their right to satisfy THEIR bottom line weda it be using which ever music team they want on the road or getting costumes from TT China India or SLU (I dont know where they do it I not their broker)they have their modus operandi and it works!

With that said Red's portrayal was spectacular! The costumes were well made and well appreciated by the revellers!! (Duplicated or not duplicated : see earlier sweet 7 post about 2010 similarities) The experience is a great one! The issue however is the Red (assuming that they do import costumes, like I said I am not the broker) cannot be allowed to compete in the same category "HOME GROWN" bands. That is namely the Spirits, Rituals, Mas Action and XS.

I thought! ( you know what they say about assuming) that to address this issue, the issue being that bands like Red J4F etc need to compete ... the category of Mas on the Move was created. I agree its not fair that they should be dismissed from the competition completely but categories should be created to allow them to shine in their category. We cannot allow bands who put in hard work and spend the money with in (ie local persons!!build these costumes) not be at the fore front of wining the good prize money which allows their home made costumes to remain significantly cheaper than $600.

Band of the year is important!! Unlike most people who are not privy to how a carnival band functions (think that its just the rum and costume that are important)! Winning band of the year facilitates the continuity of many bands the following year! Red and J4F(who doesnt try to compete) maybe able to function with out the prize money that comes along with placing in all aspects of the carnival season!

With that said my issue is not with Red and their executives! But rather with the organizers and judges or rather person putting in the criteria! Its ridiculous that every year the same thing is hear "well be going back to the drawing back and learn from our mistakes"

Honestly I think that if some of the Band leaders were allowed to manage carnival instead of CDF ie the Thaddius' the Hinkson, the McLean... Carnival would be more successful, organized and their would have be some form of accountability with funds that delayed and canceled events!!

Its kinda like queen show... the population has lost its interest in a show that use to be prestigious, not only becuse the persons organizing it have not changed in 20 years, (no problem with older folks) but NO NEW IDEAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lyla says:
at: July 29, 2010 at 7:58 PM said...

Natty you making noise but about the wrong things!

I agree with anon' in that Red is a business and it is their right to satisfy THEIR bottom line weda it be using which ever music team they want on the road or getting costumes from TT China India or SLU (I dont know where they do it I not their broker)they have their modus operandi and it works!

With that said Red's portrayal was spectacular! The costumes were well made and well appreciated by the revellers!! (Duplicated or not duplicated : see earlier sweet 7 post about 2010 similarities) The experience is a great one! The issue however is the Red (assuming that they do import costumes, like I said I am not the broker) cannot be allowed to compete in the same category "HOME GROWN" bands. That is namely the Spirits, Rituals, Mas Action and XS.

I thought! ( you know what they say about assuming) that to address this issue, the issue being that bands like Red J4F etc need to compete ... the category of Mas on the Move was created. I agree its not fair that they should be dismissed from the competition completely but categories should be created to allow them to shine in their category. We cannot allow bands who put in hard work and spend the money with in (ie local persons!!build these costumes) not be at the fore front of wining the good prize money which allows their home made costumes to remain significantly cheaper than $600.

Band of the year is important!! Unlike most people who are not privy to how a carnival band functions (think that its just the rum and costume that are important)! Winning band of the year facilitates the continuity of many bands the following year! Red and J4F(who doesnt try to compete) maybe able to function with out the prize money that comes along with placing in all aspects of the carnival season!

With that said my issue is not with Red and their executives! But rather with the organizers and judges or rather person putting in the criteria! Its ridiculous that every year the same thing is hear "well be going back to the drawing back and learn from our mistakes"

Honestly I think that if some of the Band leaders were allowed to manage carnival instead of CDF ie the Thaddius' the Hinkson, the McLean... Carnival would be more successful, organized and their would have be some form of accountability with funds that delayed and canceled events!!

Its kinda like queen show... the population has lost its interest in a show that use to be prestigious, not only becuse the persons organizing it have not changed in 20 years, (no problem with older folks) but NO NEW IDEAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lyla says:
at: July 29, 2010 at 7:59 PM said...

Natty you making noise but about the wrong things!
I agree with anon' in that Red is a business and it is their right to satisfy THEIR bottom line weda it be using which ever music team they want on the road or getting costumes from TT China India or SLU (I dont know where they do it I not their broker)they have their modus operandi and it works!
With that said Red's portrayal was spectacular! The costumes were well made and well appreciated by the revellers!! (Duplicated or not duplicated : see earlier sweet 7 post about 2010 similarities) The experience is a great one! The issue however is the Red (assuming that they do import costumes, like I said I am not the broker) cannot be allowed to compete in the same category "HOME GROWN" bands. That is namely the Spirits, Rituals, Mas Action and XS.
I thought! ( you know what they say about assuming) that to address this issue, the issue being that bands like Red J4F etc need to compete ... the category of Mas on the Move was created. I agree its not fair that they should be dismissed from the competition completely but categories should be created to allow them to shine in their category. We cannot allow bands who put in hard work and spend the money with in (ie local persons!!build these costumes) not be at the fore front of wining the good prize money which allows their home made costumes to remain significantly cheaper than $600.

Lyla says:
at: July 29, 2010 at 7:59 PM said...

Band of the year is important!! Unlike most people who are not privy to how a carnival band functions (think that its just the rum and costume that are important)! Winning band of the year facilitates the continuity of many bands the following year! Red and J4F(who doesnt try to compete) maybe able to function with out the prize money that comes along with placing in all aspects of the carnival season!
With that said my issue is not with Red and their executives! But rather with the organizers and judges or rather person putting in the criteria! Its ridiculous that every year the same thing is hear "well be going back to the drawing back and learn from our mistakes"
Honestly I think that if some of the Band leaders were allowed to manage carnival instead of CDF ie the Thaddius' the Hinkson, the McLean... Carnival would be more successful, organized and their would have be some form of accountability with funds that delayed and canceled events!!
Its kinda like queen show... the population has lost its interest in a show that use to be prestigious, not only becuse the persons organizing it have not changed in 20 years, (no problem with older folks) but NO NEW IDEAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lyla says:
at: July 29, 2010 at 8:01 PM said...

PS only addressing the first letter with the carnival bands issue... as for the second letter ... "maka twavye la"

People need to obtain the facts before they agree to what ever comes out... You cannot accuse the people of all those things and not have any evidence to back it and do it anonymously...

natty says:
at: July 30, 2010 at 12:03 AM said...

I view myself as young and still want to show off what I have while I still can and so I can truly appreciate a wonderful bikini costume, however I can also appreciate the beauty the more mature and covered Mas brings...Its carnival and we can have the balance or lets say a marriage of the two types.

Like Lyla stated bandleaders who worked very hard needs to see the fruits of their labor and depend on it for band longevity, many revellers may not truly be aware of the effort, commitment, and dedication it takes to bring out a band and to satisfy your consumers. So should there be enforcement by who judges/carnival committee of a clear difference in categories-absolutely. There is no reason a Band that just opens their container from customs should be able to enjoy the same luxuries and rewards as others who've worked months to bring out a product.

Was Red Spectacular - YES , but sorry to say as someone who just saw those costumes In February it was more embarrassing for me to watch, I think we should be way beyond this point and this is not restricted to RED.. J4 fun was just lazy this year and didn't do a thing creatively. Bikini mas can have a theme and it can be portrayed and have a story.

There are a number of issues and its not just the judges, bands but also revellers as someone watching carnival online I was appalled to see 90% of the masqueraders interviewed knew nothing about their band's theme or even their section and this is why I guess they wouldn't even care about Importation b/c they don't even care enough to know what their depicting. I would love see and be able to talk about a costume and have an actual name to call it, and like I said to someone that entire viewing left me very jaded b/c just came across like we in Lucia truly PAMALEE!!!!