From celebration to observance
People are asking will there be an observance of independence, a national rally or a national parade even after a much-delayed official response on the cancellation of the World Creole Music Festival 2020?
Well, if overseas patrons and crowds pose a risk to the country in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, I guess the same could be advanced for gatherings as it pertains to independence celebrations.
The word celebration suggests some sort of festivity where crowds gather to participate, and since Caribbean people's way of celebration consists of rum, bars, party, socializing and the occasional rowdy behavior, then commonsense would determine that celebration will have to be scaled down to a mere observance.
While it is true that schools have opened and many have not been observing the social distancing protocols promoted by the Ministry of Health in the classroom and assemblies, one can suggest that this all takes place in a control environment where mask and varying levels of sanitization takes place.
The reality is that arts and entertainment will be on lock down for the next two years in my estimation. I would also add to Crazy's 'In time to Come' classic that there will be no need for teachers as face-to-face classrooms like the post office, butterflies, or mountain chicken will become almost obsolete.
Just as we have changed our national dish to Callaloo, Carlene XP, Triple Kay and others are quickly shifting gears and like sports have agreed that no longer can they draw live crowds to their events and so have to resort to on- line performances. But how long can this last before frustration kicks in? Bills mounts and no money or tours are coming in nor can you physically interact with fans which is very important for performers. Really no television, ZOOM, Google Classroom or the like come anywhere close to the real thing.
The scores of musicians who are normally dependent on cruise visitors and employment by the DFC are themselves, like our bands, on lockdown. Reggae sensation Koffee asks a most pertinent question: "Where do we go when that quarantine thing done?".
But I ask, what do we do now that it's on? I cannot share the optimism of Calypso fans who ask me now and again if I am writing. Apart from these articles, as a realist I really don't feel inspired although every writer will tell you it is not because there is a lack of topics, but rather one cannot easily visualize the platform for 2021.
To my mind, a big blow for Calypso next year apart for it's uncertain staging because of the pandemic, is the loss of the services of ace Calypso bassist Franklyn "Refuse" Harris (migrated) whose three decades of experience and creativity with the Stars and calypsonians all over the globe. He has been a foundation of the band's unique sound, and by extension that of Dominican Calypso.
One of his most famous basslines is employed on King NC's Humble Servant. Auditions, I guess, would be the best way forward as I only see a short list of 3-4 musicians on the island who could fill in over time. But this is just a mild pandemic as none is really indispensable. The biggest one the nation has come to terms with is maintaining this traditional celebration which has been staged, organized and celebrated for well over half a century.
The Dominica Calypso Association, the Queen Show Committee and indeed the Festivals Commission will do well to start some sort of planning that is tailored for the television, internet and all forms of social media. They will have to join with the telecom companies to formulate a plan for promotion and packaging of events. This may very well mean Calypso and Queen Shows being pay-per-view items and beamed into our bed and living rooms.
We will be of necessity be forced to change from Mass to Mask; Celebration to Observance.