Peter Minshall on the Commercialization of Carnival


“The Savannah stage has done so much harm,” says Minshall. It has evolved to suit the needs of the bigger Carnival bands (i.e.: commercialism), and in the process, has “cut out the light for anything small to grow.” As the big bands got bigger and made more money, the expression became more shallow, to the point where costumes are now no different from Las Vegas showgirls. “We have sold our soul,” says Minshall sadly, as we pay homage to “the cheapest of the cheap: American standards of entertainment.” T&T Carnival has become a celebrity thing and mas’, in its purest sense, is not about celebrity. In fact, it’s the antithesis of it.

We should take heed. For those of you who don't remember, when Minshall was here, two years ago, he was blown away by the vibrancy of Junkanoo, by the fact that it's a parade created by the participants, by the energy and the people-ness of it all. And for people who don't know, Trinidad and Tobago has closed the Savannah grandstand down for renovation; CARIFESTA was held at the National Stadium, not at the Savannah as a result, and Carnival 2007 will have to find a different venue as well.

In our calls for the "improvement" of Junkanoo, we should look to Trinidad and Tobago not only for inspiration in terms of organization and engineering, design and sound, but also in terms of their mistakes. There's no good reason why we should repeat mistakes that have been made in the past. The reasons will only be bad — powermongering, or selfishness, or greed.