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TONI THORNE: The Trini influence on Crop Over


TONI THORNE

TONI THORNE: The Trini influence on Crop Over

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“De Trinis tekking over and soon from now ’bout hay gonna look like a mini Carnival!”

THIS WAS A WHATSAPP message received from a friend as a schedule of must-attend events for the Crop Over season was being posted across Twitter and other social media platforms.

There are two views to this sentiment. Many agree with the forementioned WhatsApp message. I recall last year, an entity discontinuing a particular flier after a fellow Instagrammer stated that “taking over Crop Over” was not a flattering promotional marketing message. For me, it was catchy but there are Barbadians who believe the infiltration of Trinidadian brands is overwhelming – especially for 2015.

The use of the language in our promotion is also a reflection of this “Trinidadianisation” as well. Foreday is often referred to as Jouvert and Crop Over in some quarters continues to be referred to as Carnival. Many Barbadian calypsonians in their Crop Over offerings speak of Carnival as opposed to Crop Over.

Alternatively, we cannot speak about regional integration and be hypocritical about it. We cannot denounce efforts of our regional brothers and sisters to penetrate and dominate the Barbadian market whilst referring to ourselves as integrationists when local entities are seeking to do the same across the region. 

Roast (also the management of the new Kadooment band Xhosa) hosts a sold-out cruise annually in Trinidad. UV Vibe, which started as Barbados’ premier breakfast party, has since successfully branched out to Trinidad and is now penetrating the St Vincent market for Vincy Mas this year. Mojito Jouvert and Island Fusion are also penetrating the Vincentian market this year as well.

What is to be respected about Roast and UV is that they are not resorting to partnering to penetrate these markets. Whilst partnerships are important and possibly easier with respect to project management, the UV and Roast independent method is better for brand recognition and sustainability in the long run.

Both sides of the coin are convincing and appreciated. No one has ever gained much from being in a comfort zone. Perhaps many Barbadian cultural entrepreneurs have a “wait-and-see approach” to business. We are often too reactionary in our strategies. We need to be more aggressive. That way, when we are faced with strong competition we are not caught with our pants down.

The need for product development is also an issue in this market and more risks can to be taken. One of my favourite Kadooment bands only included premium drinks into their package after it was introduced by their competitors. This did not affect package prices and many pondered why it had not been done before.

“Follow pattern kill Cadogan” and I am looking forward to Barbadian entities crafting concepts that are authentically Barbadian. Inspiration is constantly needed. Imitation is not. We cannot on one hand speak about the potential of the creative industries and then when real competition hits the industry, complain and retreat into defeat.

Foreday Morning has been a discussion point for the last four years and its growth has been viewed as a catch-22. It is quite disheartening that we are only seriously considering alternate routes and venues for event concepts on this night after Trinidadian brands have entered and are doing so. Why are we playing catch-up?

One American peer lamented that she comes to Crop Over for a different experience from Carnival and this is looking less likely for her as the years go by. My rebuttal was that our staple NCF events still exist and many Barbadian promoters are still staging their annual events.

If Barbadians want to lay the blame on a group of people for this “Trinidadianisation” of our culture, let us blame ourselves. We have been playing catch-up on the development and evolution of our very own culture in certain areas. Crop Over just seems to be one.

Toni Thorne is a fashion entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise. 

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