Saturday, February 13, 2016

Carnival on the Ropes

If its one thing I learnt from Carnival 2016, is that rope is the new symbol of the national festival. Sure colour, creativity and the occasional glass bottle fight are all the usual things we associate Carnival with. But nothing truly captures the sprint of the modern festival than the image of a yard of rope. Take for example:

The Security Rope

As we all know one of the pitfalls of jumping up in a public road among thousands of other drunken revelers is that some complete stranger will have the audacity to think he or she can invade your personal space. 

That’s why trendy all-inclusive bands offer a premium Carnival experience with an emphasis on security. Nothing symbolizes premium security more than a rope around the band. Especially if that rope is being held by a group of big, burly intimidating black men, who otherwise wouldn’t be allowed in the band themselves.

Recently the security rope has come in for some criticism.  This Carnival an incident occurred in the band YUMA where the YUMA “extraction team” viscously beat a man from another band while “extracting him’.  If you’re wondering what an “extraction team” is, it’s a premium version of what is otherwise known as a gang. The extraction team is tasked with putting down an all-inclusive beating on any outsider who crosses their turf.  

This is why the security rope and the extraction team are a great metaphor for the modern carnival.  Telling people to stay out and senselessly beating someone up for no reason is what Carnival is about these days; and it requires the same level of imagination it takes to design the typical bikini and feathers costume.

The Dragging rope

Imagine a burnt out car being dragged with a rope along a deserted highway, by another barely functioning car that doesn’t seem to know where it’s going.  Got it? Good, now you know what Dimanche Gras looks like. The Panorama finals are a close resemblance.

Dimanche Gras is one of the premium events of every carnival season that nobody goes too or cares about. But for some reason Carnival organizers love dragging out every year, just because the Government gives them the rope to do it.

At Dimanche Gras, a calypso king or Queen is crowned, usually after singing hard hitting social commentary; mercilessly castigating the United National Congress while mindlessly singing the praises of the People’s National Movement.

This year Calysonian ‘Skatie’ sang a particularly inventive song called “Chinese invasion”.  It highlighted the serious problem of Chinese immigrants coming to T&T, setting up shops, and selling us goods we need. Amazingly Skatie didn’t win though; perhaps he needed some more racist verses.

The Imagination Lynching rope

Carnival 2016 will forever be remembered for when those in the Mas fraternity made it clear to veteran Mas Man Peter Minshal that they don’t like his kind around here. His kind being people who think Mas should have imaginative ideas and originality.

The Imagination lynching rope is similar to the Jump rope-which says Soca should only be about repeating childish rhymes people Jump to.

Mr. Minshal came out his retirement to create a Carnival King for the band K2K entitled, “The Dying Swan, Ras Nijinsky in drag as Pavloa”. The public were captivated by its simplicity yet complex story telling. Many proclaimed Minshal’s King as the best thing in Carnival in decades.

Yet others dismissed it as nothing more than a sexually confused Moko Jumbie, asking what does high concepts, ideas and storytelling have to do with real Mas?

Though the Dying Swan placed third in the competition,  Marcus Eustace, the designer of the winning King, ‘Psychedelic Nightmares, threw a rope around the swan’s  neck saying because other costumes were more expensive to create they deserved to place higher. Proving that it’s possible to win and still sound like a loser.

The Noose

The noose is the ultimate symbol of Carnival, because it should be obvious to anyone with his or her faculties intact that the national festival is pretty much dead. It may have once claimed to be the greatest show on earth, but these days Carnival isn’t even the greatest show in Trinidad and Tobago. ‘Beyond the Tape’ claims that title.

The main characteristic of a great show is that people actually bother to look at it. Judging by the empty stands and sparse streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, it’s clear Trinbagonains regard watching the Parade of the Bands with as much importance as watching their cholesterol or observing the highway speed limit.

Though we can take some consolation I suppose; we appear to have the greatest rope on earth.

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