Time for self-expression
In 2009, I called for the Crop-Over Festival to be “shut down” for two years while the planners strategised about the best way to return this “multimillion-dollar” festival to its philosophical moorings. I was taken to task and called “crazy”. I deliberately kept out of any public discussion about the festival this year. I literally stayed on the sidelines and watched the continued “deterioration” of the festival during 2010. I even had reservations as to whether I should write about a festival that has deteriorated into a virtual “mob rule” scenario, that if it remains unchecked, “one day coming soon” we will wake up and find ourselves engulfed in a mess whose origins stared us more clearly in the face this year. What were my options? I could have continued the excellent discourse that I moderated on Starcom network’s Brass Tacks Sunday during the third in a series of programmes that pays tribute to our literary icons. Interestingly, the programme was broadcast on Emancipation Day which passed almost unnoticed, as Kadooment Day and the Crop-Over Festival continue to blur the significance of the 1834 decree. My fear is that should this continue, our youth will be cut farther adrift and their lives will reflect the disconnect that exists between 300 years of slavery, exploitation and ultimate emancipation and our 21st century “cultural expressions”. We explored the creative mastery of the late Timothy Callender, who evidently left us far too soon. I had another option. I had the unique opportunity to be at Sunbury House in St Philip on Emancipation Day. The occasion was the wedding of the Miss Barbados World franchise holder and her Canadian six-foot charmer. I could have spoken about the beautiful setting against whose backdrop the bride walked up the red-carpeted aisle wooing and serenading him finally into the knot that they tied in a way that challenged the matrimonial traditions with which her parents’ generation had a love affair. I could have spoken about the ease with which the couple bestrode the grounds of a plantation house whose history reflects the painful ravages of a dying era of enslavement, prejudice and racial and cultural subjugation. But having not obtained permission to turn the private passion of the Yateses into public bait, I would simply settle for wishing them heartiest congratulations and many years of marital bliss.Apart from that glimmer of hope that speaks to our limitless creative potential, this year’s Crop-Over festival was another exercise in uncertainty and confusion as the masqueraders wandered from route to route and the events shifted from location to location. Having listened to the various incidents of controversy that beset this year’s festival, the remarks of Aja that “fabricated controversy can do damage to our international image”, again I call for a serious review of the festival. Changing and extending the route have done nothing to enhance the overall quality of the festival. Finding a home for the Pic-O-De-Crop Semi-Finals still remains a distant and apparently elusive dream. From the National Stadium to the Gymnasium to the East Coast Road and back – we are yet to anchor that important event by giving it a home. In our quest to please the diverse connoisseurs of the various genres of music we now have a competition for every constituency and as such, support for the festival overall has been diluted and compartmentalised. We could hardly fill two stands at the Stadium for the Semi-finals and the desertion by the youth was glaringly obvious. Not even the new venue at Bushy Park could avert the massive decline in numbers from 30 000 to 15 000 this year. While it is acknowledged that the festival is evolving, confusion brews over the structure of the Party and Sweet Soca monarch competitions and we are yet to arrive at a model to decide the overall champion. TC’s rejection by a section of the crowd, her no-show onstage and the subsequent failure of the face-off are signs of strange times for the premier festival. Of even greater concern is the desire of some among us to reduce the Pic-O-De-Crop to a popularity contest and their blatant failure to remember that it is essentially a singing competition. The gross disrespect shown for the judging process, the wanton desire to cast aside criteria and the vocal rejection through the booing of this year’s monarch are worrisome signs of the times and it is clear where they are leading and pointing. For Ras Iley, this is “time for self-expression” and for TC, “the whole damn country is out of control”. It is certainly not in our interest, that without prompting from Li’l Rick, we are allowing our premier festival to “guh down, guh down, guh down”. It is my fear that it may very well “stop down dey”. Matthew D. Farley is a secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum On Education, and a social commentator.