A GUY'S VIEW
Another Crop Over festival is in the bag and from all reports it was a good one. Crop Over has become an important event in our pantheon of tourism offerings and we must do all that is necessary to improve it where this is necessary.
It seems that there are still some aspects of this important festival with which we continue to tinker every year. This may all be part of the effort to keep improving it and ensure that its value is optimised.
Maybe my circle of friends is changing but it seems that too many people with whom I spoke this season were not feeling the music, and when the music is flat so too will be the festival. Music is the carrying oil of the entire festival.
However, this was not the prevailing view by the time events were winding up. It is usually difficult not to be caught up in the euphoria once you put your toe in. Those who escape make a conscious decision not to participate.
There are still groups, like churches, that organise activities for their young people to coincide with the more ebullient aspects of the festival. Consequently, while some are jumping in the streets or spectating at this exercise, there are church camps and other activities going on in remote places in the country.
These campers neither jump nor watch this action on television. It is all a battle for the minds of people.
The Kadooment street parade is the culmination of the festival, after what could be as much as two months of various activities. Although the parade may have long lost its spectacular costumes, it is still the most colourful part of the festivities.
The use of colour makes the panties, brassieres, beads and feathers an attractive feature of the day.
The colour aside, the most attractive part of the Kadooment for many are the female bodies on display. There is nowhere else on this island where such an unabashed exposure of bodies and body parts takes place. And it is tantalising to many palates.
Those who wish to see the bands without being too close to the action are usually offered this privilege through television coverage by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Television coverage usually begins in time for the very first band to be shown passing through the stadium and it continues until the final band exits the stadium stage. This year was no different.
Without having firsthand information, one is never certain what drives the decisions that are taken by the entities with responsibility for providing the Barbadian public with the services they wish to access. It is, therefore, impossible to explain the rationale for the limited coverage of the festival when so much more can be done. Maybe, there is a view that it is mature enough not to need the assistance of the increased coverage from which it may still benefit.
In the earlier days of the festival, CBC brought recordings from the tents. This ceased a long time ago. One suspects that this may have something to do with some calypsonians misleading their colleagues into thinking that this free broadcast of their work was of a greater benefit to CBC than to them. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. With hindsight, it seems that taking away this coverage has done more harm than good to the tents,
and especially emerging artistes.
The CBC coverage of Kadooment ends with the costume bands leaving the stadium. This year, the viewing public with access to Caribvision had the benefit of that station’s coverage along the route. That was an excellent idea. Unhappily, one had to switch to another station to witness extended coverage of a Barbadian national festival. Maybe one day the concept of coverage beyond the stadium will find favour with the CBC.
One must assume that the decision to broadcast the bands going through the stadium was motivated by the need to share this experience with the thousands of Barbadians, and visitors, who, for one reason or another, will not make it to the stadium. This is an important showcase of the true quality of the bands, for they never maintain their formation or the integrity of their costumes once they hit the road. The stadium, therefore, is the best look one will have of the best of the bands.
The road procession, however, is a different experience. While the costumes lose their pristine condition, the partying and abandonment of restraints will not be seen in the stadium and has no parallel at any other point of the parade.
The road experience also lends itself to the opportunity for audience participation. It is possible to conduct light-hearted interviews with band members who could not speak during the stadium parade, as well as bystanders who form an important part of the Kadooment experience. Were it not for the thousands of persons who line the route, the festive atmosphere would be lost to a great extent. The coverage of the parade along Black Rock road was a fantastic fillip to the coverage of the day’s activities.
It is hoped that one year coming soon, the coverage could be extended to include the Spring Garden Highway. As different as the road experience is from that of the stadium, the melting pot of Spring Garden, where all rules cease to exist as everything culminates, is unique. This too would be of interest to viewers.
At the end of the parade, bands disband, persons in partial costume mix and mingle with persons who leave home only to go to Spring Garden to take in the atmosphere there, as well as others who would have spent much of the day there, using it as a Bridgetown Market. There, they eat, drink and spend the day with friends while awaiting the arrival of the bands. This is the closest we come now to a Cohobblopot.
At this stage, one would not be looking for the colour of costumes, but the colour of interaction among races, sexes, classes and everything else. Honestly, we know that many of these interactions will end when these persons depart from Spring Garden, never to be rekindled until the following year.
Although Kadooment is intended to be a carefree fete, its location is Barbados, and even there the nature of our society is laid bare before our eyes. The first band on the road each year is the largely all-white Blue Box Cart Band, followed in descending order of class by the other bands. The rear is brought up by the unattached masses who cannot afford to pay to join a band but want to be part of the action nonetheless. Television coverage of the Spring Garden Highway may also help to shed some light on the character of the parade when the formal structures are removed.
Congratulations are in order for the many actors who made this year’s festival the success that it was. I am still trying to understand how Betty West did not sweep all the costume band prizes.