Fetein’ is we name, we doan play.
We goin’ night and day,
No fete can tire we.
We coming again every day,
We full o’ energy,
is fete they calling we.
– Mr Fete
MACHEL-MANIA could easily have been the theme of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival this year, for the dominance of artiste Machel Montano emphatically signalled a changing of the old guard in terms of carnival’s three main elements: soca, kaiso and masquerade.
And this emergence of a new guard was clearly evident in the calypso finals on the night of Dimanche Gras last Sunday at the Queen’s Park Savannah, when the art form’s young practitioners, led by this year’s Young Kings winner, beat the old bards into sixth place and below – including nine-time monarch Dr Hollis Chalkdust Liverpool who finished sixth.
The new calypso king Duane O’Connor, 32, left a buzz at the end of the show’s first half that was felt throughout the break, with his crime-oriented The Hunt Is On. After this song, which climaxed with props of uniformed police officers “arresting” and whisking him offstage, O’Connor merely had to add his “feel good” piece in the form of Long Live Calypso, to capture the 2012 crown.
Of the 12 finalists, those immediately following O’Connor were also young calypsonians: Kurt Allen was second, 2011 queen Karene Asche, third; Devon Seale, fourth; and Heather MacIntosh fifth. The “also rans” included four former monarchs: Chalkdust, sixth; Michael Sugar Aloes Osouna, seventh; Sandra Singing Sandra Des Vignes-Millington, tenth and Weston Cro Cro Rawlins, last.
In mas’ too the days of the old guard are over, since the bowing out of Peter Minshall just under a decade ago. In his place has been the consistent Brian MacFarlane – the son of a Trinidadian father and Barbadian mother – who came to the fore in 2006 and was commissioned by Trinidad and Tobago’s government to create the cultural presentation for the Fifth Summit Of The Americas attended by United States’ President Barack Obama in 2009.
MacFarlane, whose exhaustive research had featured topics spanning the history of Africa, India and the ecological abuse of planet Earth, portrayed in 2012 the thought-provoking Sanctification – In Search Of on the road and before the judges at the Savannah. It featured sections such as Lecherous, Enlightenment, Benevolence, Hades and Sheol, in his aim to show mankind’s various states and his quest for the ever elusive “light”.
Significantly, the award-winning MacFarlane – who copped this year’s Band Of The Year title by beating the impressive Trini Revellers’ depiction of Carnival The Golden Years and “Big” Mike Antoine’s Legacy subtitled Flight – will also design 2 500 costumes for this summer’s Olympics in London.
Some of the other attention-grabbing masquerade portrayals this year were in the kings and queens’ display at Sunday night’s Dimanche Gras. These included Queen Of Carnival and Sanctification’s band queen Charisse Bovell with the haunting and bloody Mother of Humanity – The Weeping Madonna and second-placed Roxanne Omalo with Last Dance Of The Enchanted Witches, as well as King Of Carnival Roland St George portraying the tragi-comic Ralliez-Vous A Mon Panache Blanche (Follow My White Plume), Gerard Weekes of Sanctification with the Praying Mantis, the elaborate Curtis Eustace-designed Midnight Messenger and Adrian Young’s simple but effective The Crow.
Trinidadians continue to take Carnival creativity to almost unimaginable limits; and this year’s 20th International Soca Monarch event, dubbed Fantastic Friday, proved it.
According to that show’s founding promoter William Munro, artistes produced sophisticated and elaborate productions, some spending over $500 000 on pyrotechnics and state-of-the-art technology; while the soca music itself showed a noticeable emphasis on melody.
“The artistes, the arrangers and all their musical producers [went] back in the archives and came up with some beautiful pieces,” Munro told the WEEKEND NATION; while top Barbadian bandleader Richard Haynes, who has collaborated with Trinidad and Tobago mas’ and music producers for several years, noted the return to melody.
“I hope Bajan producers this year will take a leaf out of Carnival’s book. This year’s soca artistes actually went back to the old forms, to melody, and you realized it as the bands played songs like Machel’s Mr Fete and Benjai’s People’s Champion live and on the road.”
The Bajan presence was felt in Carnival 2k12, with our 2011 Junior Monarch Samantha Sammi G Greaves performing at T&T’s Junior Monarch finals, Mikey’s Pavement Anticipation copping a place in the Soca March finals, and Li’l Rick performing at one of the largest shows, entitled Lara Monday, staged by former West Indies captain Brian Lara at the Hilton before hundreds paying TT$1 200 (BDS$400) per head.
With keen competition in the Groovy and Power Soca contests, meanwhile, Montano flew to the top – astronaut suit and all – with technological gimmicks and, yes, sweet rhythms in his songs Pump Yuh Flag and Mr Fete.
If Montano was not the crowd favourite at Fantastic Friday, by the next day everything had changed and his songs were being played to the tune of thousands of children chipping through downtown Port-of-Spain.
When the adults took over the streets on Monday and Tuesday, therefore, Machel’s dominance was glaringly obvious as Pump Yuh Flag surpassed hits like Kerwin Dubois’ Bacchanalist and Iwer George’s No Pain.
According to Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism Winston Gypsy Peters, entities like the Trinidad Unified Calypsonians Organization, Pan Trinbago and the National Carnival Bands Association may not be getting any more subsidies from government and will therefore have to raise much of their own funds to facilitate events and provide some of the prizes.
We await next year with bated breath.