What we gonna do after de party?
The above is the title refrain of Lugar's 1st rendition of the Calypso Finals in 2011 when he presented the popular "Internet Children" in the second round. The judges and many fans did not absorb the composition and the metaphorical use of "party" to represent lethargy and lack of direction after the Carnival activities. Today, as writer of the song, I wish to repeat Val Cuffy's call for more marketing of our carnival.
I am quite aware that there are financial constraints and quite frequently the vision and will power to do something about it. Yes, we may spend, from the Discover Dominica Authority, a couple hundred thousand dollars to marketing the two biggest festival activities on island to lure visitors to our shores. However, Val's concern had more had to do with what happens after Carnival.
During the years of 2000-2004 I was president of the Dominica Calypso Association and took the opportunity to travel to the Windward and Leeward islands to market and expose that region to Dominica's music. To my greatest surprise after going to several radio stations promoting and being interviewed, I found out that most DJs and radio personalities were oblivious to our popular Kings at the time- Hurricane, Brakes and Scrunter. Apart from the Swinging Stars, Grammax and WCK, they only could identify King Hunter.
Why, you may ask. It's not rocket science. Hunter was very prolific in marketing himself throughout the region and North America by producing, distributing and performing at many shows in those territories.
It all started for him with the 'Brotherly Brothers' project where he and Scrunter teamed up to do several recordings before going on his own. This may be something that King Dice may want to consider since it is fair to say that Dice is the biggest Calypso name in Dominica having won eight crowns but Hunter is the man when we speak of Calypso in Dominica on a global level. In fact apart from Dominicans in the diaspora and through the promotional efforts of Ann- Marie Clarke in the US, the Monarch has little regional recognition which to my mind is pretty ironical.
While I recognise that the King has a management team or a Camp, some responsibility must be placed on the private sector and government institutions, such as the DFC, to put together a formidable team representing the best Dominica has to offer to promote Carnival in the region. It is no secret that Dominica has various organizations and a large population in places like Antigua, St. Thomas, the USVI and the French Antilles where our Carnival could be showcased. The spill-over effect in future years would be tremendous. So you see, it's not so much the date of Carnival which needs to be change but our tardy and lackadaisical approach in planning and presentation of the product.
This could be done, say, bi- annually or ever five years at least to keep the country relevant and impact the tourism sector. The question is do we have the vision beyond just having two days of street jump up, beyond building Carnival costumes and 'mashing down' time, money, effort and creativity within a few days, beyond waiting for Miss Caraval or Miss Caribbean to send our Queen to compete in.
We should embrace King Dice and seek ways to convert his local success to regional acclaim; then we have Triple Kay, Bouyon Pioneers or WCK who are regional brands having made their mark with Conch Shell and Balance Batty; we also have the Swinging Stars whom we boast is the world best dance band (that 'best' is known only unto ourselves). Then there is our national and Carnival Queens, some aspects of our Old Mas as the Black Devils, Sensay, all have marketing prospects. The Real Mas as Mr Cuffy suggested also needs some real class in the way we market to the outside world and to those who come to our shores. The best must be on display. One should not have any show, especially the greatest national cultural event, Calypso, without dress rehearsals, sound checks (or having half a sound check as was so comically hinted by the manager). Nor should one tolerate squeaking microphones, muffled sound systems or seemingly inadequate rehearsal as some acts of some queen contestants seem to suggest.
After all has been said and done, one must compliment the management team of Mas Camp led this year by Dr. Valda Henry ( a breath of fresh air) where no less than three regional calypso giants- Mighty Sparrow, Gabby and Short Shirt- graced the stage. The calypsonians who were in the Finals from that Camp all placed; I dare say that was a reflection of the spirit and camaraderie in the Camp, where they look out for each other.
The efficiency which allowed them to settle all their bills within 10 days after Carnival and organise regional promotional arrangements for King Dice and other members of the Camp as well as plans for workshops and other shows throughout the year, is the way to go....vision! The DCA and the DFC should do well to take note now that the 'party' is over.
Yes, the stage, light and set design, a place where we could store and promote our customs in exchange for the tourist dollar, are all part and parcel of a good product and should be looked into for the future. I compliment the Sisserou Singers and New Dimension Theatre, two of the most professional cultural groups in Dominica who show respect for time and quality through dedicated rehearsals and execution in spite of the substandard theatrical amenities at the Arawak.
Now that the DFC has its prize giving ceremony it cannot and must not stop here, till next year. During the ensuing review we must seek to consider the points that I mentioned.