Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
By Kevin Baldeosingh
February 7, 2013
Is Carnival a popular event? The answer might seem an obvious Yes, given the massive crowds which go to the fetes and the manner in which the festival occupies centre stage in the country for several weeks. But popularity has to be defined and measured before a proper answer can be given to this query.
Let's start with Cro Cro. If, as conventional wisdom claims, the calypsonian is the voice of "the people", then someone like Cro Cro should by definition be popular—ie, representative of majority opinion. But, in a news report in last Tuesday's Express, Cro Cro sounded like he'd changed his sobriquet to Cry Cry: "I was left out of the competition by the (People's) Partnership's choice," he said. "The Government funds all the calypso tents. Last year they didn't give me any funding for my tent. Sugar Aloes and Massive Gosine got money for their tent, and I was left in limbo and out in the rain."
But what Cro Cro is inadvertently revealing is that he is not popular enough to attract sufficient people to his tent to make a profit, which is why he needs the State to give him money. So the business model on which he and Sugar Aloes and other PNM-oriented calypsonians made their money was not an entertainment model (where profits come from patrons and advertisers), but a political one—that is, money earned from the State through acting as propagandist for a political party.
This is why Sugar Aloes' claim that he appeared on a UNC platform only as an entertainer didn't fool anyone. The roti pelters' over-reaction at Skinner Park last week was based on their naive belief that propagandists provide their pabulum for principle rather than for money. (I try to avoid obscure words, but "pabulum" is the exactly appropriate term here—it means "bland intellectual matter or entertainment" and comes from a root word that means "food".)
The wider implication of Cro Cro's remarks, however, is that commentary calypso is now a minority cultural artefact.
The same is true of the national instrument, pan, inasmuch as steelband concerts also rely on State funding. Were they popular, then they could make money from ticket sales and corporate sponsors.
Which brings me to the soca stars. American musicologist Jocelyne Guilbault, in her book Governing Sound, says that in 1998, the top performers were earning between $18,000 and $90,000 a night. Last Monday, Machel Montano reportedly drew over 20,000 people to his show. Machel, therefore, can make his money from the standard business model for entertainers. But even Machel cannot by himself attract such massive crowds—his event featured about 15 other acts.
Moreover, not only has Machel earned State monies from particular projects, but the Soca Monarch, a private sector venture, now depends on the Government for its prize money. Yet why should this be so, when all the top soca stars are so popular?
Much of the answer has to do with politics. This injection of State funding indicates the politicians perceive there is some electoral benefit to be derived from supporting the events. Hence the reason the ads for Soca Monarch list about three or four ministries and, of course, the Prime Minister. Moreover, since the UNC depends mainly on Indo voters, the huge purses are seen by that party as a necessary tactic to win over the Afro votes required for victory at the polls. And, when the PNM returns to power, even though their base is already Afro, they will find it necessary to continue funding to the same or greater amounts.
This does not mean the political rationale doesn't also have an economic justification. In a 1998 study, UWI economist Keith Nurse calculated that Carnival generated a sevenfold profit, with the State investing about $12 million and visitors spending almost $90 million.
National Carnival Commission head Allison Demas, in a radio interview some weeks ago, said the NCC will be updating Nurse's study so that they can justify future budget demands to the Government. (Other persons have argued, however, that when State expenditure such as security, health care, and productivity losses are taken into account, Carnival is really a loss-making event: but Demas apparently didn't consider this a possible outcome of the planned survey.)
The only other empirical data on Carnival is equally outdated: a 1994 survey by UWI sociologist Roy McCree, who found that two-thirds of the populace listened to soca and calypso music, with about the same proportion being involved in Carnival either by playing mas or by watching it.
While these studies need to be updated, it is unlikely that the pattern has changed very much in the past 15 years. But, while it seems clear that Carnival does generate profits, what needs to be analysed is whether these profits benefit the overall economy, or just the small minority of performers, band-leaders and their crews directly involved in the festival.
Well said, if the government invest money and other resources in carnival then all the people should benefit from profits derived. There is no reason why an average person should have to pay almost a week's salary, if not more, to attend one of these events. Why should public money be used to provide guaranteed profits to private promoters. Government involvement should be limited to the providence of public safety. Lets leave all other aspects of carnival to private investors.
It all comes down to allocations for scarce and scarcer national resources. The research needs to be broadened to include all the other 'national' events that are dependent on state funds. to survive.
"In a 1998 study, UWI economist Keith Nurse calculated that Carnival generated a sevenfold profit, with the State investing about $12 million and visitors spending almost $90 million."
Many who read this article will miss the most important point, in their rush to criticize government spending on Carnival.
Could it be that a bigger, wiser investment may yield even greater profits to the nation's coffers?
IS HE CRO CRO WHO HAS CALYPSO TENTS SUFFERING TODAY//// HE RUN ALL THE INDIANS FROM COMING TO CALYPSO/// BY INSULTING THEM/// I HEARD SOME INDIANS SAY IN 1995 IN THE REVUE, WHERE CRO CRO USED TO SING SAY /// NOT ME COMING BACK HERE AGAIN/// AND THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE DEATH OF TENTS/////I AM A CALYPSOIAN WHO SANG IN CRO CRO'S TENT (ICONS CALYPSO TENT) FOR 2 YEARS IN AMBASSADOR HOTEL IN POS.... GOV. I UNDERSTAND USE TO GIVE CRO CRO $500,000.00TT DOLLARS EVERY YEAR (ALOES) & OTHER TENT OWNERS TO RUN THEIR TENTS.... MOST OF THE CALYPSOIANS IN CRO CRO TENT ALWAYS COMPLAIN INCLUDING MYSELF OF NOT GETTING PAID... CRO CRO IS A BAD PAY.... I DONT KNOW WHAT CRO CRO'S MANAGER, A WOMAN NAME CRYSTAL, WHOM I UNDERSTAND IS CRO CRO OUTSIDE WOMAN DOES WITH ALL THAT MONEY/// CRO CRO IS A RIP OFF, AND I HEARD HIM BLAMING THE GOV FOR NOT GIVING HIM FUNDS//// WHY ROWLEY & IMPSBERT DONT HELP HIM... IS HE CRO CRO WHO HAS CALYPSO TENTS SUFFERING TODAY... AND ALWAYS BOASTING THAT HE IS PNM TILL HE DEAD//// LET HIM SUFFER NOW/// HE TOO WICKED... HE GO BURN IN HELL
Why is tax payers monies involved in the Carnival promotions?
If the event is so widely popular, it should be self-sustaining.
Let the promoters take the risk and reap any rewards as they run it as an Enterprise - is this asking too much?
Gov't should be involved in making sure the infrastructure is in place to support the events - like providing improved roads, traffic control, security, drainage control etc etc......