St. Kitts and Nevis has at least 10 festivals squeezed into each calendar year. There is Carnival, Green Valley Festival, Sandy Point Bangalang, Music Festival, Nevis Jazz Festival, Winfest, Gingerama, Latinfest, Labour fest, PAM fest. With so many festivals, and with each festival having a queen pageant, it is little wonder that Culturama 42 had difficulty finding delegates for its Ms. Culture Queen competition.
In the early years, there was a distinct African and cultural theme to the Culture Queen pageant. This is perhaps the area of greatest departure from the concept of culture on display. Today, there is no pretence; the pageant is all glitz and glamour, beads, strings and feathers; plunging necklines and backlines and lots of daring.
The food fair is always a crowd pleaser. It is less about food and more about re-unions and nostalgia. You can find cultural delicacies and comfort foods of your childhood. You can catch up with friends from far flung corners of the globe and local persons who you haven’t seen for a long time. It is also a time of great entrepreneurship and of economic activity.
The Calypso show (now called Kaiso) has witnessed some keen rivalries over the years. These created intense discussion points and revved up the hype for the night of the show. Not so now. The guard should be changing but nobody is emerging, so the Calypsonians are being recycled. The young performers are opting for soca which is a one or two-liner, repeated over and over again, often at frenzied speed. Calypso, on the other hand requires lyrics, verses, a refrain and actual singing. Soca is the future, and there is money in it!
Musically it was Freeman of Rawlins vs Neale of Mount Lily/Fountain vs Hamilton of Barnes Ghaut for the band clash. Close your eyes now, and listen and you cannot tell where you are as the music has become universal and generic. Mind you, it is still creative, just not unique anymore.
In the beginning, it was almost exclusively cultural troupes. Rawlins Masquerade vs Hanleys Road Masquerade vs Cotton Ground masquerade. Not so anymore. Now only two of the cultural troupes have survived, Masquerade and Clowns. Cowboys & Indians, Giant Despair, Johnny Walker, Neigabisnes, Bull, Minstrells, Red Cross have all disappeared with the death or retirement of many of our cultural icons. No more pan-around-the neck either; instead it is the long jam from Gingerland to Charlestown, ending up with a clash of bands. This 4 mile long jam is not for the faint of heart!
Yes Ginger. This is Culturama time, so leh we wine – but safely!