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While Carnival stakeholders are saying that Carnival 2017 was a resounding success, veteran calypsonian and former Minister of Arts and Culture Winston “Gypsy” Peters has an opposing view-it's dying, and fast.
Gypsy, 1997 Calypso Monarch winner and who successfully defended his national Extempo title at this year's Kaisorama extravaganza, said that Carnival has not only lost its appeal, but also its creativity.
Speaking with Express on Thursday, he said: “Carnival is dying!
“We may make excuses or say whatever we want to say, but those of us who want to be frank and truthful, those of us who knew Carnival for a very long time and those of us who know Carnival around the world would share this sentiment I'm expressing here.
“Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is dying. We have inadvertently diminished our own Carnival and by so doing, we are virtually killing Carnival.”
He said the country has exported its brand of Carnival to almost every major city in the world since just about every one of them has a Trinidad and Tobago-styled Carnival.
Trinidad is no longer appealing because the same Carnival we have here you could get it in Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, or any other Caribbean island. Added to that, North America also have Trinidad type Carnival, so people who want to come to Trinidad no longer feel the urge to do so.
He said that's just one aspect as to why Carnival has diminished and continues to diminish.
“Secondly, even though we record the least amount of violent activities around Carnival, all during the year Trinidad is portrayed to the rest of the world as a violent country, and rightly so, because it is in fact a violent place. It has become that.
“Therefore, when people are thinking about coming to our Carnival, the first thing they think is why should I go to a place where my chances of being hurt or killed is real. So they don't want to come. In the meantime, when they go to Toronto or New York or England or any one of the other Carnivals they don't have that fear.
“When you go to New York Carnival you would see people wearing jewellery of any kind on the streets without fear. In Trinidad and Tobago you can't do that anymore. You have on a little piece of costume jewellery and people want to rob you and take it. It has become unattractive.”
Gypsy said another drawback is that the people who really cared about Carnival, in terms of the artistic side of it, have either migrated, become too old, or they have died.
“So the people who are the driving forces, which is the economical part of Carnival, are only interested in the monetary side of things. All they looking at is the amount of money they could make and they're looking to do whatever it takes to make this money. And they're not thinking about the product itself and how palatable this product is to the eyes of the people who really matters, those who want to come and look at it, because without spectators and without the people who are spending money to come here to our Carnival, Carnival is nothing, and that's what it has become.”
He said that while the government has to have a monetary input in some way, he doesn't believe it should solely be dependent on the government.
“The government has to put up the infrastructure for Carnival so they have a role to play, however, I believe the various interest groups must become self-sustaining.
“If they cannot become self-sustaining and the government has to continue to pump this amount of money they've been pumping into Carnival, if the interest groups cannot do what they are supposed to do in terms of becoming self-sufficient, then the government should fully do it, because they're doing it anyway.
“And if f the returns to the Exchequer is not there, the something is wrong. We have to make some corrections. Carnival needs a lot of introspection,” he said.
Stating that he knows what Carnival is because he has seen Carnival all over the world, and being one of the person responsible for the starting of Miami Carnival, he understands its culture, he said: “That's why I can continue to talk and I will continue to talk about it because unless you have people like me who talk about it, then everybody believes that things are honky dory.
“They'll talk in their backrooms and their backyards, and it will do no good unless you bring it out to the public where the awareness could be heightened and we could all start to do something about it, because Trinidad is supposed to be the mecca of that kind of Carnival.”
He added that instead of being the benchmark, Trinidad has become copycats.
“We are copycats because we have taken the bikini aspect out of Brazil's Carnival and that is what we are stuck with now.”
He said that though Brazil has a Carnival that may be littered with bikini mas, because of the influence of the samba schools, it also has creativity that is depicted by beautiful costumes and pretty mas.
“Brazil's Carnival is not just about bikini and beads, but we have taken that aspect out of it and made it the main focus of our Carnival, and by doing that we have diminished our own creativity, and have gotten into something that is not really palatable to people,” Gypsy said.