Apr 4, 2013

Can An Honest Politician Save Trinidad & Tobago's Culture?

The following article was written by Sandopc:

Honesty and Politics is like oil and water but what if we can find an honest politician who, after stirring the pot, can cause it all to blend in and create something never seen before. Can we find an honest politician who can harness the creativity of our people and create an environment that would allow our culture to blossom? If this could happen we could very well end up with something special that people would flock to be a part of and even put money in the pockets of our singers, musicians and every creative person who adds to the genius of Trinidad and Tobago's culture... if only?

My introduction was just a dream but now I am awake and have to ask this question, What caught your attention? Is it the juxtaposition of Honesty with politician? I know you are thinking..is there an honest politician anywhere? Particularly in TnT? Well I am sure there is or at least there could be one. It is a long and winding road to find him/her.  We often talk about sweet, sweet TnT, “we culture”, our independence and love up yuh country. But where are the visible signs of this Love? Where are the signs of this love of culture. OK, OK, OK, I know, for one or two weeks, every year, we can find it with the presence of Carnival. The culture comes out of hiding, the love comes out from the nation's bowel and we show the world ...we culture.

Screech, did I say world? Well it may be more like the TnT people living in foreign countries. The friends of these TnT people, out of curiosity, may also tune in to find out what the hype is all about. Do you think that they really get to see the creativity of Trinidadians on display? Hell no! They see Beads and bikinis, disorganized Panorama competitions, delays in Mas Presentation, endless quarrels over cash awards to the participants, incompetent judging and live streaming TV that is often interrupted by technical difficulties - just endless frustrations. That is just a short list of the headaches that compromise the selling of our culture to the World. The list of 'commess” goes on and on until the 2 weeks of feting and celebrating the festival ends and all is forgotten until next year. The next year will arrive with great anticipation and expectation for a grand festival then its  Déjà vu!

If Carnival was historically ascending to the highest highs it is now descending to its lowest level. Too many costume bands have embraced the new concept. That concept is one based on beads, bikinis; the idea is to use less to maximize their profit margin. The result is that creativity is sacrificed. No longer do we see the continuance or amplification of Saldena (Glory that was Greece), or Teddy Eustace''dancing” his spectacular costume on the stage. George Bailey portraying “Back to Africa”. Cito Velasquez playing “Fruits and Flowers”, a fancy sailor bands. The tribal bands of San Fernando with band leader Owen Hinds. People like Horace Lovelace and Jason Griffith from Belmont who produced some of the best fancy sailor mas ever!

Rumor has it that we are taking and utilizing what is considered 'the best' or most sought after of other carnivals around the world. Hence the Bikini and Beads seen on the Samba dancers of Rio de Janiero. Do they know  that the Samba dancers in the “Escola” represent a tiny portion of the 3,000 or more participants in that one band?  Do they know that no one touches the samba dancers except their respective  partners. Only the Samba dancers have the Beads and Bikini that we seem to favor. Of course it is sexy and eye-catching. Most people in Trinidad are unaware that the other participants are divided into groups, each of them depicting a story within the overall presentation? And their costumes are uniform and intricate. Think about that, it is much like what we used to see here in TnT before we went crazy and had our “sexy” costumes mass produced in Asian countries.

We have degenerated into a bikini and a beaded bra. Correct sizes optional. Some masqueraders have white sneakers, some blue, some black. Some have boots, some have flat shoes, and all are “freeing up”. Other Carnivals could appear to be too rigid for the average TnT masquerader however they still have a vision. We don't have to be rigid as the others and parade as they do. We can “free up” and still have the vision. But now, what do we have, we have an absence of any historical relationship between the costume and the presentation. Beads, bikini and two feathers. New Orleans Carnival have intricate floats and individual costumes. We can maintain our own unique style of Carnival without band leaders selling out to the $ bill. We can maintain, promote and amplify our art to the extent that we inherited from the masters. Too few band leaders are willing to do this. I applaud the few that have tried and continue to achieve that lofty goal.

So, what to do? How can this be corrected? Do we even want to correct it or build on our history?  How do we breathe life into a “culture” for more than a meaningful two week period? What if there was one Honest Politician who could dedicate himself to a project. Honest, because the project would require monies to be spent, land to purchase, buildings to erect, people to hire, and professionals to implement the vision. To do all this without falling back on the accepted way of doing business in TnT. The business of “who yuh know”, who getting a share of the money, who getting paid off, who getting a job because they are friends with the “big boys”.
A vision of creating  Academies of Performing Arts, one in the North, one in the South.  Unique schools that promote...”we culture”. An Academy where the History of Carnival, Steel Band Music, conventional Instrumental Music, techniques of Pan Construction, Management and contracts, Mas Presentation, Costume Design, Drawing, Floats and Headpiece construction, Song and Dance, creative writing courses illuminating our history, theater, along with the traditional Math, History and English courses found in regular schools.

A vision of hiring the many gifted people already involved in...”we culture”. The people who we only read about or interact with during the Carnival season. Hire and pay them on a permanent basis to teach, to inspire, to document the history and the “know how” behind these disciplines. Have visiting “Masters” on a paid one week basis to motivate and share their knowledge and experiences. An Academy where there is an Interview process and evaluation. Interview the students who wish to attend this government sponsored institute. Ensure they are dedicated to the goal of the school. Ensure they represent the School in a positive manner. Change the testing where we assign pupils Grades from First to Last. Have them earn an A.B.C.D or F in their individual subject, where they can identify the next level for improvement.  Assist them with planning a curriculum tailored with their desire and the schools' ability to meet those desires. Find an Administrator who understands and shares the vision. Does the current pan in schools satisfy this? It may aspire to achieve those goals but fall way short of the finish line.

So who are the stake-holders in this process? How about the artists and talented people who typically wait for Carnival to demonstrate their abilities only for two weeks. If we can achiever our lofty goals they have a year round  profession. The steel pan players who can instruct, should receive a salary that should help motivate them to make a more meaningful contribution to “we culture”. Then there are the dance and theater professionals who can reach young impressionable minds. The students who drop out of regular schools because they have no interest in traditional subjects and the students who have a burning desire to pursue an art form along with their regular studies. The Local steel bands who can recommend students and receive qualified returning students. Students who can read and write music. Students who now know the intricacies about Mas design and presentation. Students who can compose and perform both Soca, calypso and other musical genres. We should also get the Tourist Board involved in the process and they, in turn, can point out with pride, their involvement in the culture of sweet Trinidad and Tobago.
We can't forget the parents  who can take pride in the enrichment of their children's involvement in the arts. There will be so many shows to attend when these graduates show what they can do throughout the academic year. The same Tourist board who can then market “we culture” to the world and show them that the culture of TnT exists year round, not only the two week period of Carnival. The local TV studios who can have periodic productions of local “Auntie Kay” shows but with a professional slant. The various Businesses that can offer Internship to the senior students within the area of Fine Arts, Drawing and Architecture, or Band performances.

It may sound like a dream but it is possible! We need an honest politician to make this happen. A Politician who would not sell out. A politician who values “we culture” and is patriotic to the country and the culture. A Politician who sees the vision and not the $ sign. A politician who will tell his friends in the business world...not this time. Sorry, this piece of food is strictly for the country and our children. Are you that person? If you are or think that you know someone who can make it happen then don't sit on the side lines get involved and make it happen... you may save a nation!






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