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Jamaican Carnival POSTPONED

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

“I have a real carnival tabanca, hard carnival tabanca. As soon as carnival done this year well I just start catching fever, when the doctor come diagnose me, tell meh wife me well is not dengue. Is just delusions and illusions have me thinking soca can help me…” (Bunji Garlin, 2014).

Jamaica Carnival 2020 is postponed. I can’t imagine the disappointment that Jamaica carnival promoters feel about the postponement of Jamaica Carnival 2020. This decision, though late, is the right decision for the security and safety of our visitors and Jamaicans. I think it is a mistake to say it is postponed and not cancelled. Maybe postponement will allow for Jamaica Carnival to be held on Saturday and Sunday for the first time in 2021. With that said, I do not think there will be a Jamaica Carnival in 2021. COVID-19 has severely damaged the entertainment industry in many countries for 2020 and its impact will continue beyond 2021. The Government of Jamaica may have to come to the rescue of the local entertainment industry, which is a vital brand-builder, employer and money-making sector, especially to help resolve the present issues carnival patrons are having.

Many loyal carnival patrons are disappointed and irritated by the postponement of Jamaica Carnival. This disappointment is reflected in the comments made by patrons on the Instagram pages of Xamayca, Xodus and Bachannal. Here are some of these comments:

  • Xamayca – “Tek ppl fi eediat”, “Call your banks people and dispute the transaction”, “So we still can’t get our money back?”, “Scammers”, “Just refund our money”, …

  • Xodus – “Its not postponed, its an annual event, it’s cancelled for this year!”, “There will be no carnival in 2021…people need to be realistic”, “Give ma fxxking money jeds”, …

  • Bachannal – “How do I get back my money?”, “So is the same old costumes for next year?”, “Yes lord I see it coming one refund deh please and thanks”, “Great news”, …

This situation is understandably a difficult one for all parties involved. The promoters of Jamaica Carnival 2020 would have been in the advanced stages of planning and execution. They would have made full or advance payments to service providers involved in the execution of the various events. I understand this very well, being a promoter myself. Our promotion of Soleil Boat Cruise “Suntan and Soca” on September 28, 2019 was an important eye opener for us, and for that reason we took a very conservative approach heading into 2020. Many of our service providers required deposits upfront for the boat, DJs, sound system, food, ice, utensils, toiletries, equipment, transportation, furniture and decorations. The hard liquor/refreshments were provided on consignment. The marketing and printing companies who provided design and printing services for tickets, banners, flags, flyers, cups, shirts, hats, etc. were all paid in full upfront. The online ticketing company that provided ticketing services were paid upfront from each ticket sold. The Directors of Soleil provided their investment funds upfront. Additionally, in the marketing and execution of the event there were many unforeseen operating expenses that were deemed sunken costs. The sponsors contributed to the success of the event and achieved a return on their investments from pre- and post-marketing activities.

Therefore, I commiserate with the promoters, sponsors and patrons alike for the fall out that has been caused by the postponement of this grand production. Our team decided to add our event to the annual calendar of soca events in the Americas because we believe that our Caribbean culture, music and people is one of the best worldwide. Jamaica is more than just a destination; it is a brand unlike any other, fueled by its amazing people, beverages, food, music, culture, sports and yes, our amazing temperature and tourist attractions. If you have ever been to this paradise you would know about our beautiful beaches, rivers, waterfalls, hills, valleys, farms, hotels, villas, etc.

Jamaica carnival’s dramatic growth over the last 3 years is directly tied to its unique brand and the economic strength of the growing Caribbean diaspora around the world. For this reason, Caribbean governments should align themselves with and give direct support to this fast-growing entertainment industry. The Jamaican government’s support is needed even more now than ever as the industry has faced a total lock down over the last six months. The Government will have to look at waivers, a moratorium on taxes and government fees, provision of low interest loans through Developmental Bank of Jamaica and EXIM Bank of Jamaica and a constant review of the COVID-19 protocols for the industry. However, I must warn the promoters against taking the patrons for granted. COVID-19 has impacted the economic viability of everyone and a strategy must be developed to address the concerns of the thousands of revelers who have in good faith spent their hard earned money to come ‘a wi yaad’ seeking to enjoy the Jamaica carnival experience. The decisions on refunding patron’s monies and the cancellation of Jamaica carnival 2020, is now a pending public relations disaster for the organizers of Jamaica carnival. Urgent intervention is needed from all parties involved so as to not hurt the brand of Jamaica.

At the start of 2020, my soca chasing plans would have begun in Trinidad in February, see me making my way back home to Jamaica Carnival, then on to Notting Hill Carnival in London, Labour Day Parade in New York and Miami Carnival in Florida. Notting Hill Carnival was the new addition for 2020. Last year I was told by many friends that London was the place to be. They said the parties and road march were amazing. ‘Rona’ has left us all with an ‘extreme tabanca’, with no carnival since February. Those of us who traveled to Trinidad in February are very lucky. It provided us the last opportunity to revel and party. On the other hand, soca chasers have saved tremendously from staying home, but our mental and physical health have been impaired.

I am a soca addict. This addiction began in 2012 with my first trip to Trinidad carnival. Since then it has been an experience of euphoria. In February, because of work commitments, I opted not to do the road march; instead I did 9 parties in 9 days.

TT 2020 Day 1 No matter what time I ‘touch dung’ in Trinidad, after 9 years of soca chasing, I always go to ‘di Avenue’ (Ariapita Avenue) on my first night to be bitten by the ‘soca bug’. This year I landed on the night of Friday, February 14, 2020 with lots of love in my heart for my second home. I quickly dressed with enthusiasm and by 1 a.m. I was in front of Frankie’s drinking Guinness on the sidewalk and liming with my Trini Famalay. Trinis are the best limers in the world. They are so free-spirited that they are the life of party – ‘dem lit’. I love landing early before the international crowd ‘touch dung’ to change the mood of the parties. I just love partying with my Trini locals. On the Avenue many limers had their small coolers, hard liquors and chasers resting on the back of their vans, cars and even on the sidewalk.

Up and down the Avenue there were lots of people liming in groups. Some were moving between the many night clubs and bars that line both sides of the Avenue as far as the eyes could see. The vehicles moving up and down the Avenue were also a part of the vibes; the drivers were blowing their horns rhythmically to the loud soca beats filling the charged night air. After being saturated with alcohol we walked to purchase corn soup, chicken and fries on the sidewalk. Trini fries with ketchup are the sweetest fries I have ever eaten. Later in the night, we also went to two Latin clubs to vibe to pulsating Latin music with a dancehall and soca flavour.

My first party for the TT2020 season was a boat cruise on Saturday evening, Soca Raff Up. After visiting Barbados, many years ago and doing Roast, Candy Coated and Limers boat cruises, boat parties became my top thing to do when I go soca chasing. The Saturday evening was so beautiful. My heart was sparkling and bubbling with excitement. As I boarded the boat I saw and hugged many familiar soca friends. It was clear that this cruise was filled with many hardcore soca party people. As the boat sailed off from the Anchorage out into the open Caribbean Sea, the selector turned up the music, Voice’s – “Cheers to Life” was on the turn table. The evening sun was hot and brilliant. I stood in admiration of the energy, desire and beauty of the many patrons, especially the lovely ladies in their varied designer outfits of different colours, styles and degree of coverage. Soca enhances the sex appeal, laughter, smiles and happiness of soca people. This was all complemented by the backdrop of the distant horizon of the Caribbean Sea, the glittering ripples of waves gently hitting the side of the boat and the beautifully shaped green Northern ranges and coastline towering in the distance, displaying the wealth of the upper-class residents of Port of Spain.

Little did I know that this boat party was a trio of soca boat cruises that were meeting up on the outskirts of Point Gourde tip to party alongside each other. As the sky became golden with the sunset and the igloos became emptier, the party energy and fun soared…‘it tun up’. My crew had packed food and multiple igloos with a variety of top-shelf liquors which we all conquered. By nightfall, it was obvious that one of the boats could not handle the stress of the hundreds of soca people jamming and wining. It left and sailed back to shore. I was given a cigar by my Trini friend so I could look the part. I don’t smoke, and before I knew it, I had lit the cigar at the wrong end. It took a seasoned cigar smoker to identify my issue. As I clumsily observed my cigar, he cut and lit it correctly for me. I detached myself from my crew and moved to the center of the dance floor where the flames of madness were burning and the temperature soared to explosive levels.

Boating back to shore always heightens the fun for me. This is no different from knowing that it is the last lap on the last night of mas on carnival Tuesday on ‘St. James Avenue or Ariapita Avenue’. Whatever energy I had left in my body, I mustered it up to maximize my enjoyment. As we got back to the dock and waited to the leave the boat, I said to myself “Soca Raff Up 2020 delivered”. From now on it will be a fixture on my future party list. In the car we decided that the after-party would be in St. James, at an authentic little roadside food stall. If you have ever travelled from Chaguaramas after a party, you would know that an 8 minutes’ drive to St. James could easily take 40 minutes during soca season. My crew were all asleep when we arrived in St. James; the party did its job. I ordered a chicken sandwich which was cooked right there and then on a mobile grill. My mouth was filled with saliva as the sweet fragrance of the roasting of the spicy seasoned meat massaged my nostrils. I quickly destroyed the sandwich and drank a Stag to settle my stomach.

I promise to continue my reflections on Trinidad Carnival 2020 in a future blog.

Soca has been a change agent in my life. It has helped me achieve my health and wellness goals. It has exposed me to a fraternity of likeminded, free spirited and happy people. It has brought me to multiple countries to engage with the different cultures, especially those of the Caribbean diaspora. When ‘Rona’ exit the scene, I expect that we will continue to conquer many other soca and party destinations in exotic places across the world.

Jamaica carnival, like all other carnival destinations, will soon be back!! As difficult as it seems today, the many issues caused by ‘Rona’ will soon be resolved.

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