My thoughts on how to make carnival in Jamaica more….Jamaican!
Over the last few days I have seen some comments on IG and Twitter where a few Trinis have taken exception to Jamaica carnival essentially “stealing” a product they see as belonging ONLY to Trinidad.
Carnival in Jamaica is immediately after lent and lies next in line as a major carnival after Trinidad. We have the same Trini music, bikini beads and feathers formula and party bands that makes the similarity obvious. That party formula is what WE enjoy here.
But it’s not so simple. Carnival has been here since 1989 and in fact according to stalwarts in the industry, many common amenities of the party bands such as wee wee trucks and well organised lunch stops were here in Jamaica first. Our focus has always been on having a good time on the road. Things like story telling through playing mas have not been a strong point in Jamaica, that is the strength that will always be Trinidad’s in my eyes along with the fact that its embedded deep in the DNA of almost the entire population. It’s just like Japan having a thriving dancehall culture…as good and interesting as that may be, Jamaica will always be the original source!
Our focus on those amenities and the masquerader having a good time at a reasonable price is part of what’s driving growth here. Delivering a premium experience. BBF Carnival everywhere is about costumes and road and drinks and amenities. I don’t think anyone can claim sovereignty over those things any more.
In my opinion, the thing that’s stopping carnival here from becoming truly unique to Jamaica is the wholesale transfer of music from Trinidad to here. Jamaica is a musical powerhouse producing some of the most influential music in the Caribbean. It is also extremely prolific and varied producer of music. Why oh WHY are we not making music specifically for our carnival. Sure there were local hits but it’s just whatever was popular at the time was adopted by carnival. I think a concerted effort to make carnival appropriate music should be a focus here.
In my opinion MUSIC made specifically for carnival here is the last thing we need to make carnival finally take a path of its own. And don’t get it twisted. It doesn’t and i think SHOULDN’T sound like Trini soca. It’s uncharted territory and can sound like anything(EDM/SKA/MENTO), once it brings that same happy vibe and is made specifically for our carnival.
We already have blossoming local designers such as Broadtail and Aura by Annaixe. Costume production partly takes part locally and having the local culture supply the music would be something that could help bring the common man into the joy on the road and to give Jamaica a definitively unique flavor in the same way cropovers music gives that carnival its own flavour. It’s the inclusion of the majority that brings the rapid changes and talent needed to bring proper quality to the things we need to do here. Thats why dancehall culture, fashion and music are unparalleled here and always will be. I think its time for Carnival here to grab a little pinch of that culture….on purpose….in order to make a unique product and to allow it to grow to that next level; beyond a curiosity to a force in the carnival world.
Of course it’s not quite as simple as this and I’m sure many of you have quite different opinions.