Carnival 2k6 in Jamaica
One thing that I noticed that may be a recurrent theme in our Carnival that sets it apart is the level of service.
We Jamaicans are truly an innovative bunch, and while our population at large does not have the widespread appetite for soca music and Carnival activities, it was interesting to observe where we have taken the basic carnival formula and improved on it dramatically.
For example, in all my years of playing mas with Harts, Poison and Tribe, I have never witnessed “waiter-style” service. Yet, there it was on the road with the Bacchanal Jamaica band (which in Trini terms is more like a large section.) Men and women were walking around with plates of sandwiches, chips, freshly cut slices of watermelon and cantaloupe, water, juices, and probably a whole bunch of other treats that I did not get to myself.
I thought this was a unique touch that was a far cry from the sullen service one gets in Trini carnival bands on the food and drink trucks.
I also had the chance to attend my third or fourth Frenchmen’s Fete, and as usual the standard was amazing. The ticket system they have put together involves purchasing a ticket in a sealed envelope, the outside of which is printed the message: DO NOT OPEN.
Only when I got the fete did they actually open the envelope, where there was not only the usual integrity lamp, but also a remote bar-code reading system that just blew me away.
Also, upon entering the party there were women handing out champagne and wine (albeit in fluted plastic glasses) to all the entrants. It was a wonderfully sweet touch that set off an evening of music that was just perfect (without live performances,) and food that was also excellent.
The usual fare in Trini fetes around Carnival time is quite pedestrian, with the usual choices: Creole, Indian, Arab, etc. The food at the Frenchmen Jamaican fetes is simply outstanding, and makes the evening well worth the money (which worked out to about US$70.) From the shrimp soup, to the sushi, to the desserts, to the _very_ wide variety of choices… I thought it way above any fete I have ever been to in Trinidad.
And the servers were doing their jobs with the usual good humour that comes with superior Jamaican service.
In these respects, Trinidad has a great deal to learn from us Jamaicans.
On the other hand, on essential element of Carnival everywhere has been taken out of ours and never restored – a stage. The whole idea of playing mas revolves around the concept of building up energy for that 20 or so minutes that are spent on stage, on television, showing off to the world the costumes, joy and excitement at “letting go.” At the moment, we have no stage, or even a judging point, which strikes me as a big ingredient that needs to be restored.
I remember more than once rushing to cross the stage with my band in Trinidad, knowing that that was the high point.
Without a high point to the day, the result was a sort of muted energy without a focal point in time (at least in our band.)
It would not take much to make this correction as there are several points that are natural judging spots that could be converted to “stages” like the judging points around Port of Spain away from the Savannah.
I believe this would give the experience of playing mas the kind of zip that it has in playing mas in Trinidad, and be a match for the excellent service and food that we are so good at providing.