Note: This post ends with an archive of articles published on the debate surrounding the Catholic Church Carnival Band.
A Catholic Church sanctioned Carnival Band was recently launched by The Word and Associates on January 3, 2010 in Trinidad and Tobago. The band is titled Genesis I - The Creation. The Word and Associates Chairman Derek Walcott, said "while the move is expected to raise eyebrows and spark debate, the aim is to erase the vulgarity associated with Carnival and replace it with creativity and family." Judging by the responses, both for and against, by online readers, the announcement has indeed raised eyebrows and sparked debate.
It is Trinidad and Tobago so there were a few who preferred to find the humour in the situation and there were quips about how long it would take for the faithful to cave in and buss a wine, about if the priest could play who is me, about anticipating the ludicrous appearance of a non-wining Carnival band crossing the stage.
Supporters' comments ranged from expressing relief at not having to choose between the faith and cultural heritage, their appreciation that God can be praised in any setting, the expectation that over time the Church's presence will raise the bar in terms of the overall quality of costumes and bring some respectability to the celebration. I am not sure if "respectability" was ever a defining characteristic of Carnival but there you have it.
Critics were more numerous than supporters and asked, "What Would Jesus Do?" I've asked that question many times [and pompously answered it too] without admitting that no one really knows what Jesus would do in many situations because He was a maverick and the fact is that He usually sorely disappointed, if not enraged, the cocksure. Undeterred by such wishy-washiness, the critics pronounced that God hates compromise and is not fooled by the Church's antics. If Carnival equals vulgarity, how can Christians be a part of that? Maybe Roman Catholics are not reeeeeeal Christians? The critics suggested that the move is simply a money-making endeavour, that it is a desperate measure to make the Church more popular and to reverse the decline in membership. Among the critics were also the defenders of bacchanalia who thought it unrealistic, if not a downright travesty, to remove alcohol and "dutty" dancing from Carnival. Carnival, after all, was invented for blowing off steam and for excess. And on the subject of blowing off steam, it was suggested that the costumes are not at all practical for dancing in the heat as they are too heavy on the fabric. Some critics feared that the self-righteous prudes would ensure the death of Carnival as we have come to know it.
Personally, I have no problem with this latest move by the Catholic Church, their religion having been the one that brought our Carnival to Trinidad and Tobago. If this is their way of reclaiming for themselves a "safe" space in the midst of what has become a national festival very much unhinged from any one religion, then this is their right. Maybe Gypsy's threat to start sharing carnivals like peas in this country compelled them to publicly reserve a prominent place in the Roman based Carnival for the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever the motives, you can be sure that they would have discussed this move with, and sought the green light from their highest earthly authority, so detractors will only become RC canon fodder if they have the temerity to preach to the choir.
Some Roman Catholics avoid Carnival because they prefer not to be bombarded by dust, crowds and deafening music. They will continue to stay away whether or not the Catholic Church has a band. There are other Roman Catholics though, maybe especially among the young, who look forward to these feasts of music, dance and revelry, amplified and made richer by immersion in hordes of fellow celebrants. How are they receiving this move by the Church? Are they welcoming it and rushing to join or are some of them resenting it as something of an intrusion by an older and musty aunt trying subtly to cramp their style by inviting herself to their extra-religious activities? For those Roman Catholics who cannot even contemplate a state of extra-religiousity, whose lives are thoroughly seasoned by their faith and who do not know what to make of this latest turn of events, let not your hearts be troubled. The Roman Catholic Church is with you, not like a police boot on your corn, but like your rod and staff. If it can guide you through the valley of death then why not through Carnival?
If you still cannot shake that uneasy feeling in the pits of your stomachs, I found the following article interesting and it may provide you, if not with courage then certainly with some ideas to bring to the many discussions that I suspect you will be having on the subject.
"Inviting Jesus to the Party. John 2:1-12
Chaplydia's blog | 2009-02-26
"The first miracle of Jesus was performed at a surprising place, a wedding. It was apparently a pretty big party because before the end of the party, the wine ran out. Mary approached Jesus to remedy the problem and while He did admonish her for trying to interfere with the program of God, He still acquiesced to her request.
There are several observations that one could make from this story.
The first is that even in our celebration, if we invite Christ, He will make it better.
When we invite Jesus into the places where we normally exclude Him, we may find that our view of that place changes. When we are not embarrassed or ashamed to take Christ to the party places of our lives we may see Him in a different light, and see how we behave differently as well. Even though Jesus is not a party animal, he did not spend His entire life in the synagogue. We see in Cana and other instances in Scripture that Jesus liked people and their celebrations. The Pharisees, in an attempt to discredit Him called Him a "winebibber" and gave the impression that He was not religious enough. That did not stop Him. He saw celebrations as part of human life. Our goal is not to stop celebrating, but rather bring Christ into the mix.
Second, Jesus did not promote asceticism. The idea that Jesus would turn water into wine and that He would party with his friends, tells us that monastic piety is not what the Christian life is all about. We do not have to abstain from all worldly pleasures; what we have to do is to maintain our loyalty to Christ in the midst of being human. This is much more difficult that avoiding anything that might be difficult to handle. Paul tells us that we can do "all things" through Christ who strengthens us" Php 4:13. Taking Jesus to the party, instead of avoiding it altogether, would be a better plan.
Third, we must include Christ in everything we do in order to live a fulfilled life. When we take Jesus with us to the party, we should also realize that He should be with us always. Taking Him to the places where we would not normally take Him enables us to begin to take Him everywhere. After all, if we are to become like Him, we cannot exclude Him from any part of our lives.
What party are you going to without Him? Where are the places in your life that you would ban Him from? Start thinking about that, and plan to take Him with you in the very places that you would never have Him go...just see what happens."
You are free to use this study on your website or blog as long as you include the following:
Rev Dr. Cheryl A Durham, Biblical Counselor, Discipleship Coach, Above and Beyond Discipleship Ministries, provides services for individuals and groups online and via teleconference.
ARCHIVE Of Articles On The Catholic Carnival Band, Genesis I- Creation - 2011
"No wine or wining in 2011 Catholic mas band
By Rhea-Simone Auguste
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Jan 4, 2011 at 11:43 PM ECT
A Roman Catholic organisation launched its 2011 mas band Genesis 1 —Creation yesterday at the Queen's Park Cricket Centre, Port of Spain.
The Word and Associates chairman, Derek Walcott, said while the move is expected to raise eyebrows and spark debate, the aim is to erase the vulgarity associated with Carnival and replace it with creativity and family.
"While an essence of culture still remains in the 'ole mas', Carnival has become a parade of beads and bikinis. The calypso that once meant something to those who heard it on the streets has been replaced by 'wine and jam' tunes that rise and fall with Carnival… The focus of this band is enjoyment of life without the stereotypical inebriation that goes with Carnival. The Word realises that as Trinbagonians we cannot escape the Carnival atmosphere and we want to enjoy it in a safe environment conducive to fun," noted a release from the organisation.
Monsignor Jason Gordon, speaking on behalf of Archbishop Edward Joseph Gilbert, said at the event: "The thought of a Carnival band launched by the Catholic Church must be boggling the minds of a few people because I'm sure your thoughts might be that we would be in anything but Carnival and you would find us in many other places but not in this terrain…"
Gordon said the Catholic Church fully supports the launch of the band which is planned as an all-inclusive, alcohol-free, decent-dancing, family-friendly venture. "We are about evangelising the culture and that means announcing the good news of Christ through the culture and Carnival is at the very heart of the culture. Genesis 1 is an announcement of the good news, that there can be culture and innocence, there can be culture and the gospel…These things, we knew them at one time to be together and again they will be together in Genesis 1," he explained.
He said the Catholic Church has always been a custodian, patron and supporter of the arts. "This initiative is in the best of the Catholic traditions – it is about the evangelisation of culture," Gordon reiterated.
Costumes for the band were designed by Lisa Bhajan, Tara Bhajan, Mariella Navarro and veteran children's mas band designer Rosalind Gabriel with Wayne Berkeley on board as a mentor. Costumes cost between $1,000 and $2,500 with the band setting a goal to start with at least 1,200 masqueraders spread over 12 sections."
By Leiselle Maraj
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, January 5 2011
THE Word and Associates, a Roman Catholic organisation, yesterday launched its mas band for the upcoming Parade of the Bands, named Genesis 1 — Creation. The band is sanctioned by the head of the local Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Edward Gilbert.
According to the Word and Associates chairman Derek Walcott, the band’s intention is to bring God and creativity back into Carnival.
Monsignor Jason Gordon, who represented Archbishop Gilbert at the band launch at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club said: “There was a time when Carnival was blessed with creativity and we want to go back to this time. We want to show we can take part in Carnival without alcohol and excess.”
Walcott explained that the band will also cater to children and they intend on crossing the stage at the Queens Park Savannah on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. “The Word realises that as Trinbagonians, we cannot escape the Carnival atmosphere and want to enjoy it in a safe environment conducive to fun,” Walcott said.
Parish priest at St Anthony’s RC Church, Petit Valley Father Joe Harris is the inspiration behind the band. Twelve sections will be portrayed using a maximum of 1,200 masqueraders. Costumes will be priced between $1,000 and $2,500 and the all inclusive band will not be serving alcoholic drinks.
The Word was assisted by several veteran mas makers in producing the band including Rosalind Gabriel whose children’s band has won band of the year several years including last year. Wayne Berkeley created the queen of the band, “Eve” while a renowned but unnamed mas maker, will create the King, “Adam”. Walcott said as part of the drive to bring back creativity the band’s music will be provided by three steelbands; Valley Harps, Simple Song of Arima and the Archdiocesan steel band, a rhythm section and one DJ but dependant on the size of the band, they may include more DJs.
Harris will be deciding the playlist for the band which will include calypsos from over the years. He hinted at songs sung by David Rudder and last year’s Road March and Soca Monarch champions, JW and Blaze with their hit, Palance. Some of the designs were paraded for media at the launch but the Word will be hosting an all inclusive fete on February 20th where they will make a full presentation of the band.
Catholic Church says NO LIKKA (alcohol)
Trinidad Events | Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Catholics to bring out mas band. If the priest could play...
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | Wed, 2011-01-05 21:28
The first mas band produced by the Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago will hit the streets of Port-of-Spain come Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Genesis 1—Creation is being presented by The Word and Associates, a new mas entity made up primarily of parishioners from St Anthony’s RC Church in Petit Valley. Committee members include Derek Walcott, Felix Edinborough, veteran masman Raoul Garib and Carnival bandleader Rosalind Gabriel. The band’s designer is Lisa Bhajan and veteran mas designer Wayne Berkeley is giving guidance on design quality and production.
The band was officially launched yesterday at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC) Banquet Hall at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, with Roman Catholic priests Fr Jason Gordon and Fr Joe Harris among those expressing support for the project. Organisers said the band would provide an opportunity for masqueraders to enjoy Carnival without the vulgarity. It is aimed at people who have “matured beyond the need to be high on alcohol to enjoy Carnival and life.” The band will feature 12 sections with a maximum of 100 masqueraders per section.
There will also be a King and Queen. Costumes will range between $1,200 and $2,500. On the road music will be provided by DJ Rene, Simple Sounds and Valley Harps. There are two mas camps for the band—one located at Stevens Road, Long Circular, obliquely opposite the Church of the Assumption in Maraval for payment and distribution of costumes, and at the production site in Belmont. Registration will take place at the mas camp as well as online.
Outraged by Catholic band.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Jan 5, 2011 at 11:49 PM ECT
My dear Catholic people, I refer to the Express report of January 5 headlined, "No wine or wining in 2011 Catholic mas band''.
"We playin mas dis year in we own ban! No wining, no drinking, no smoking, no sexing up on de odder sex (forget dat — we en know man from 'oman anymore anyway!), no cussing — in other words, no vulgarity! Yuh lissening?! Yeah, we playing mas! Come Carnival Monday and Tuesday we hitting de streets of Port of Spain. We have music, we have pan. We have king and queen too! We eh easy nuh! We have best designers, best wire benders on we committee — we eh wanting fuh a ting nuh! We have two mas camps — we ready fuh all yuh good Catholics.
Bring yuh money and come down and play a mas wid we. We go pray fuh yuh. Is High Mas in yuh ras! We serving holy communion, we drinking only holy wine. Heaven jes around de corner. Doh worry bout dem devil ting and dem. Dah is part ah de carnival too. We ha holy water wid we. Yuh safe! We drinkin dat!
De church fadda, brudda and sistah and modah playing mas too. So yuh ha plenty good company. Ah tell yuh, jes follow de rules — no wining, no drinking, no smoking, no sexing up on de odder sex, no cussing, no vulgarity and yuh go be safe…yuh going to heaven!''
Well, We reach!
All I can say to my fellow Catholics is make the right decision. My personal feeling is one of outrage and disappointment. But I believe in prayers and I pray that the Catholic Church would come to its senses and realise that you cannot join in this festival and hope to remain free from the immorality that embodies it.
IRO boss slams RC mas band.
By Sue-Ann Wayow South Bureau
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Jan 6, 2011 at 11:47 PM ECT
A mockery of religion.
That's how president of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Imam Hajji Abzal Mohammed has described the launch of a Roman Catholic Carnival band by The Word and Associates, called Genesis 1—Creation.
The band was launched on Tuesday at the Queen's Park Cricket Centre in Port of Spain.
The Word and Associates chairman Derek Walcott admitted the move was expected to raise eyebrows and spark debate, but the aim was to erase the vulgarity associated with Carnival and replace it with creativity and family.
Monsignor Jason Gordon, who spoke at the event on behalf of Archbishop Edward Gilbert, said the Catholic Church supported the band, which was planned as an all-inclusive, alcohol-free, decent-dancing, family-friendly venture.
Imam Mohammed said as president of the IRO, representing different religious beliefs, "I cannot tell members what to do, but we can certainly tell them how we feel."
He said, "Catholics come together on Ash Wednesday, put on ashes to cleanse themselves and ask for forgiveness for what they have done. They fast and pray for some time, and then they go back and do the usual thing for the rest of the year. That is a mockery of religion."
Pastor Mark David, a board member of the Open Bible Standard Churches, said his views were personal and did not represent the board.
"I don't really have any issues with the band, conceptually. However, I am concerned with what type of music they are going to be playing because that could disconnect all that they are saying. We are aghast at the vulgarity and promiscuity that is usually seen at Carnival, but persons are free to have artistic expressions."
Pundit Mukesh Maharaj, a member of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), said Carnival has become "more of a negative nature".
"I don't like the whole idea of jumping up in a band, whether you are half-naked or fully clothed. This is my view and not that of the SDMS; other persons may have different views.
"I don't know how they could play Carnival without dancing and wining though because that is what Carnival has become. What are they going to do, walk through the streets?" he asked.
‘Genesis 1: Creation’
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Thursday, January 6 2011
In the Old Testament, there is a story told of King David dancing through the streets of the City of David in a procession filled with musicians, elders and other officials, celebrating the placement of the ark of God in a special place he prepared for the holy object.
Parish priest of the St Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church, Petit Valley, Joe Harris, used this example to explain the concept behind the decision to launch the Word and Associates Roman Catholic mas band for Carnival 2011.
Entitled Genesis 1: Creation, the 12 sections of the band will tell the story of how the world was created according to first chapter of the Bible. But Carnival and the Catholic Church have been inextricably linked for as the festival traditionally takes place in the days immediately preceding the Lenten period of fasting, prayer and reflection.
Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating certain foods, including meat. The 40 days of Lent, recalling the biblical account of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, serve to mark an annual time of turning. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of. The consumption of this, in a giant party that involved the whole community is thought by some to be the origin of Carnival.
However, even before the rise of Christianity, there have been practices that are similar to Carnival. In the Ancient Greece, for instance, in honour of the Dionysus (the god of fructiferous forces of the earth, vegetation, wine-making and the patron of a theatrical act), it was a large religious festival – the Dionysia, which included: merry dances, an execution of joking songs, competitions of poets and awards for victorious actors, and also the masquerade procession, where in front of it always had been the funny “ship” with a costume group. Authors of the Ancient Rome named it “carrus navalis”, what means “sea chariot”.
In Rome it was the heathen holiday, named the Saturnalia and initiated to Saturn, god of grain, vegetation and wine. The general idea of the feast consists to invert the ordinary motion of life in time.
During two weeks all class boundaries was erased by the nonpublic law of festival: the rich and poor were equalised in rights, children headed families, slaves could sit freely with their masters at the table and demand from them a subordination, and for reason to not spoil the merriment – everybody hid their faces behind masks.
Also, a pseudo-king was chosen at the time of the holiday and in the end of Saturnalias he must die in some way: to be burned, hanged, etc. After Christianity became popularity, all heathen feasts were forgotten. Thousands of years later, in the Venice of Italy, it was created as a merry and motley holiday, which was celebrated every year before the beginning of the traditional Christian fasting of Lent. This Carnival became popular and spread to other Catholic nations in Europe and around the world.
The origin of the name “carnival” is disputed. Variants in Italian dialects suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning “to remove meat”, since meat is prohibited during Lent. A different explanation states that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. Yet another translation depicts carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrations that encourage letting go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival.
At the launch of Genesis 1 held on Tuesday at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Father Harris said, “There is no need for alcohol and lewd dancing for people to enjoy themselves on the road for Carnival.”
The Word is a Roman Catholic organisation, chaired by one of Harris’ parishioners, Derek Walcott. Speaking to Newsday at the launch Walcott explained, Father Joe Harris had the vision six to seven years ago and he said to me, ‘Derek we have got to get to involved in Carnival.’ He said we’ve got to bring God back into Carnival and make his presence felt there because when good people do nothing, bad things happen.”
Already, the band launch garnered attention with persons on social networking sites like Facebook commenting on the irony of the situation: a Church whose higher ups have spoken out against the “ungodly behaviour” displayed during the Carnival season is now taking an active part in the festival.
The same type of attention, albeit without the technology, was probably received be Anglican priest, Father Clifford Hendey, when he announced to the country over 40 years ago that he played mas. This spawned the 1967 calypso “If The Priest Could Play” by Cypher. Years later Canon Winston Joseph, who was the priest at All Saints Church also regularly played Carnival, first with Garib, then with Harts.
Walcott explained, Genesis 1's aim is to recreate the values and creativity which Carnival lacks at present. Although the concept of a Roman Catholic band was discussed years ago, the two men left the country at different points to pursue their studies. When Walcott returned, preparations to launch the band took full effect.
The idea of a Roman Catholic mas band is not a new one. The Antiguan band, Vitus, has been in existence for 17 years and has regularly won the band of the year title in that island. It was created by the then bishop of the diocese, Archbishop Donald Reece.
“Father Joe shared with us that the Church led by Bishop Reese of Antigua was doing this already. We got in touch with him and he shared with us why he started this thing. He saw values going down, he saw creativity going down.
Where were the steelbands? Where were the moko jumbies, where was the mas? Every year you see the same thing over and over just in different colour beads and bikinis. He shared what was being done in Antigua and we said it was time to get on board,” Walcott explained.
Genesis 1 will be competing in the large band category during the Parade of the Bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. “This band is going on stage for people to see. We are bringing the message of God and his relationship with his people in ‘d Mas’,” Walcott said.
The Word intends on placing a limit of 1,200 masqueraders to ensure that those playing with the band fully understand the message portrayed. Walcott said however, there is mounting enthusiasm and excitement surrounding Genesis with persons from other Caribbean islands already expressing a desire to play mas with the band.
"So many people have been calling and are enthusiastic about getting on board. Grenada say they are coming to play mas and they want a whole section. There has been a lot of enthusiasm, even outside of Trinidad and Tobago so we do not know if we will be able to stick to our limit,” he said adding marketing for the band will not take full effect until after the Christmas season ends for Catholics this Sunday.
All inclusive packages range between $1,000 and $2,500 and include costumes, non alcoholic drinks, security and music on the road. In keeping with their intentions of re-introducing culture to Carnival, the band will be accompanied by three steel bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
“We have the Valley Harps, Simple Song of Arima and the Archdiocesan steel band, rhythm sections and one DJ. We will be playing all beautiful music produced over the years because we want to remind people what good calypso is,” Walcott said.
The band already has the blessing of Archbishop Edward Gilbert, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We went to him and shared what we are trying to do and he said, ‘Derek this is something that I want to encourage you in, to bring the message. Do not worry if it is not a great success in the first year, continue to bring the message’ he told us,” Walcott said.
Iconic mas makers have also come on board to provide their expertise towards producing Genesis 1. Walcott said Rosalind Gabriel, who is known for her winning children’s band looked over designs produced by the band’s designer, Lisa Bhajan, to ensure what was on paper could become reality. Also on board is mas man Wayne Berkeley who is producing the band’s Queen, Eve and another “surprise” popular mas man creating the King, Adam.
Raoul Garib, Augustine Chin, Francis Woon Sam and other experienced mas men will also be contributing to the band's sections.
Will they be serving mauby? Devant questions RC mas band:
By Sue-Ann Wayow South Bureau
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Jan 7, 2011 at 11:49 PM ECT
NOTHING is wrong with the Roman Catholic Carnival band Genesis 1-Creation, according to Rev Elvis Elahie, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago.
"If an institution, religious or non-religious, can put together groups of people enjoying themselves as they refrain from mind- altering substances, avoid vulgarity and ensure the absence of violence, what is wrong with that?" he asked yesterday.
The band, launched on Tuesday at the Queen's Park Cricket Club in Port of Spain, has drawn both praise and condemnation, with president of the Inter-Religious Organisation Imam Hajji Abzal Mohammed, describing it as a "mockery of religion".
The band is supposed to be an all-inclusive, alcohol-free, decent dancing, family-friendly venture.
Devant Maharaj, assistant secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), said of the band, "They are a minuscule band in a sea of bikini and beads. Are they going to come out with their own road march and soca songs, because most of the songs associated with Carnival is the wine and jam and rum songs? Will they be serving mauby in the band and will they be conducting a virtual Mass?"
Maharaj added, "We don't really know what they hope to achieve. If it is to become part of the popular culture it's too early to judge. We just have to wait and see if it works."
Maharaj said he did not get much feedback from other members of the SDMS. He said Carnival was not associated with religion or church and persons were more concerned with "feting and going to parties to be bothered too much by issues like these".
Another Presbyterian church member said if there were 3000 people in the Roman Catholic band it could make a difference.
"For too long the church has been rather laid back and allowed society to move in a particular way.
"In this age of liberalisation and modernisation, religious bodies have to examine issues with different lenses."
He said, however, that the church cannot stop its members from participating in Carnival.
"You could have revelry in moderation without going to the extreme."
He said the church's involvement should be an attempt to remind citizens of what "mas ought to be".
The Trinidad Muslim League (TML) and the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association (TIA) declined to comment.
Stop this Catholic Church band.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Friday, January 7 2011
THE EDITOR: I am a fervent Catholic, and it is therefore with a very sad and broken heart that I must let my Archbishop know how quite disappointed I am to see that some elements of the church’s human leadership just do not seem to be reading “the signs of the times.”
Given the critical and moral condition of this country today one would have thought that the church would be calling its members, if not the entire population, to a spirit of repentance and conversion, to a spirit of deep ongoing prayer for deliverance from the moral evil engulfing this nation, and to a very sober reflection on the abyss of iniquity to which we are rapidly descending.
Instead what we are now hearing is the most astonishing announcement that the church is launching an official Carnival band of its own, with the misguided objective of “restoring creativity and clean fun to the festivities.” This is somewhat like encouraging male Catholics to visit brothels with a view to converting the prostitutes there to a more respectable lifestyle. Let us face it, Carnival is essentially about revelling with abandon; and to attempt to change its essential nature is like trying to extract the natural alcohol from wine; it just cannot be done.
To take the situation to absurdity, are we now to expect to see our priests and nuns prancing on the streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, led by a palancing Archbishop? After all if as we are told, the effort is such a noble one, then all good Catholics, from top to bottom, should be rushing to participate in this “sacred” venture.
Look, let us get serious in this country, and in this church, before it is too late. God is not mocked! This nonsense is certainly not what Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ instituted His Church for. This is literally playing the fool! And I do hope that the little remaining remnant of right-thinking Catholics would rise up and shout down this quite misguided and absurd idea of a Catholic Carnival band!
Church finally concedes defeat.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Friday, January 7 2011
THE EDITOR: The Catholic Church has finally conceded defeat to the world and worldliness. By ecclesiastical mandate the road is the place for Catholics to be on Carnival Monday and Tuesday as Satan and God do battle on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago for the souls of men.
For too long agents of Lucifer, have triumphed in the great controversy between good and evil for the souls of men on the streets of this great Republic. The Catholic Church has finally decided that the best way to fight “wire” is with “wire”.
Those ungodly wirebenders who over the years have toiled tirelessly while others slept to create costumes for “mass” queraders carved in the image of his satanic majesty will meet their match on the road as father x et al from Mount St Benedict delve deep into their spiritual imaginations to come up with costumes for Catholics as they cross the big stage and vie for the Band of the Year title.
You gotta be kidding me! Trinidad has to be the comedy central of this planet. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, with the People’s Partnership, Father an dem just jump out ah crocus bag of comic relief for the nation jess so, jess so!
I really thought I had seen it all when I saw Dhanraj wine, Valley cry, and Kamla sing. However I think to see mother superior and dem go dong, go dong, go dong, go dong and come up, come up, come up, come up on Carnival Monday and Tuesday as they lead their sheep by example will beat dem all!
I now see why Manning wanted to build a church papa!
‘Carnival is an RC thing’. Mixed views by churchmen on plans for Catholic band...
By Yvonne Baboolal
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | Fri, 2011-01-07 20:06
The production of a Carnival band by the Catholic Church has opened up a Pandora’s Box of debate on whether a church should be involved in a secular event, generally described as “of the flesh” and “bacchanal”. Some of the religious leaders the T&T Guardian spoke to on the matter condemned the move.
While members of churches have brought out bands in the past, no large church body has ever attempted such a move before.
The Catholic mas band, Genesis 1-Creation, will hit the streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. It’s being presented by The Word and Associates, a new mas entity made primarily of parishioners from St Anthony’s RC Church, Petit Valley. Committee members include Derek Walcott and veteran mas producer Raoul Garib. Organisers said the band would provide an opportunity for masqueraders to enjoy Carnival without the vulgarity.
Below, religious leaders give their views on the matter.
Pastor Winston Cuffie, senior pastor, Miracle Ministries:
“I am not surprised. I do not see anything strange about it as Carnival is part of the Roman Catholic faith.
“Carnival has to do with the freeing of the flesh and on Ash Wednesday you repent and go into the Lenten period. “In principle every Carnival band is a Catholic band as it is a Catholic festival. “My ministry would never be part of Carnival activities. We have always taken a particular moral stance and people have come to respect us for that. “We will not encourage revelry. We are against Carnival and we will influence people to move away from that behaviour. “I’ve heard different reasons why they are bringing out a band. One thought was that they are trying to raise money and to even win the Band of the Year prize money.”
Imtiaz Mohammed, head of the Islamic Missionaries Guild:
“Muslims generally do not support Carnival. There are so many immoral activities involved — the feting, drinking of alcohol, dancing. “Muslims condemn Carnival on the whole. It also goes against every teaching of the scriptures of all religions. “I wouldn’t agree with any church getting involved in it. If you want to reach out to people involved in it, you need to educate them on what it is about.”
Canon Claude Berkley, rector, All Saints parish, Newtown:
“I feel the initiative is something worth exploring. We as a people are not ready to deal with the issue of church participation in Carnival. “I am concerned that the band could attract people who would still engage in vulgar behaviour, thereby defeating the entire purpose. “I remember Father Harcourt Blackett, a Roman Catholic priest from Barbados, who in the early 1990s attempted to bring forth a band for Crop Over. Unfortunately his idea did not see fruiton. “Will the Anglican archdiocese attempt a similar venture in the future? Not in a hurry.”
Ravi Ji, Hindu spiritual leader and community activist:
“I totally agree with it and congratulate the people who conceptualised this. “As a community worker I am thrilled by this initiative. This is how a society tries to deal with the problem of vulgarity. “Criticisms are also important. A society mustn’t accept everything. I do see my own organisation engaging in similar initiatives but not necessarily Carnival. “Should we take religion to the rumshops? To the square at nights? Yes, we should.”
Phillip Reid, Seventh-Day Adventist pastor:
“Carnival has a particular culture. For a Christian church to go into it and tell people how to play mas is an unnecessary compromise. “It’s opening doors for people who are anti-Carnival. If the priest could play mas, who is me? “When you are out there, if the spirit takes control of you... It’s not the right forum for witnessing. It’s not good for the Christian community.”
Bishop Monica Randoo, Spiritual Baptist leader:
“I think they’re up to making some kind of point. I really don’t know... I would not condemn them.
“It’s a really bold thrust. The Catholic Church is very much into keeping their own flock. Remember their adherents play a lot of mas. “This is deep, deep business. If anybody has to go into Carnival, it’s the Catholic Church. “They tend to understand Carnival. Carnival and Lent is from the Roman Catholic people.
“I would not see the fundamental Protestants making such a move into the culture. “The Catholic Church must have looked at it prayerfully and carefully. But Carnival is bacchanal. It’s the way of the flesh.”
Bringing back true essence.
By Bobie-lee Dixon
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | Sat, 2011-01-08 19:00
Fr Joe Harris, left, Derek Walcott and Monsignor Jason Gordon share a light moment at Tuesday’s launch of Word and Associates, Carnival band—Genesis 1-Creation, held at the Queen's Park Cricket Club.
To many the idea of any church launching a Carnival band may seem inappropriate...insane even. But Word and Associates, a Roman Catholic belief organisation, directed by chairman Derek Walcott, believes Christ in Carnival is anything but insane. At a launch on Tuesday held at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club on Tragarete Road, the organisers sold the idea of the organisation’s Carnival band—Genesis 1-Creation, to a room filled with corporate representatives, special interest groups, parishioners and the media.
The initiative has been blessed and condoned by the head of the local Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Edward Gilbert. He was represented by Monsignor Jason Gordon, who described the move as an emergence into the culture to take back Carnival, and to bring it to a place where those who wished to celebrate the greatest show on earth without the excesses, could have a space where values based on fun existed.
Referring to the scriptures, Gordon stated that in Matthew chapter 5, God spoke of the salt of the earth.
“Salt isn’t a main course that you eat, it is there to bring flavour. Carnival has lost its true essence and this is the main challenge we are facing,” said Gordon. “We need to see the vitality, the goal and the creativity of the people. Carnival isn’t about wine and jam as we believe it to be. That is what has been portrayed for so long, that when we say Carnival, vulgarity, lewdness and alcoholism are the things that come to mind,” he added.
He emphasised that over the years Carnival has also, in many ways, gone back to the earliest years where class segregation was very visible. “This is reflected in our Carnival bands today with the all-inclusive sections. Carnival bands have become like gated communities because of the way society is today,” he alluded. He said people who enjoyed the culture were forced to escape Carnival each year to avoid the vulgarity and violence.
Gordon explained the band was dubbed Genesis 1-Creation, because before Carnival reached its present stage, it was a festival that was blessed and was innocent fun. He said the group was seeking to evangelise the culture—announcing the gospel through culture.
We are prepared for the flack
Accepting that not all may be sold on the idea of the church being involved in Carnival to bring about change, the organisers affirmed they were prepared to receive and deal with the “flack” they may get from other groups in the Christian community, and even within the Catholic Church.
Fr Joe Harris, of the St Anthony’s RC Church in Petit Valley—the man who initially had the vision—emphasised that the initiative may spark anger and outrage at first, but eventually when people recognised the benefits of it, they, too, may jump on board.
Asked how exactly will the band be portrayed on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, Walcott explained that there would be 12 sections with a maximum of 1,200 masqueraders, 100 per section, with a Carnival Queen and King—Adam and Eve. The band will also cater to children, in keeping with part of the organisation’s mission to family values. The all-inclusive band will not be providing alcohol.
The music will be chosen from a playlist guided by Fr Harris. So far, Denyse Plummer and David Rudder are among those whose music would be played come Carnival Monday and Tuesday when the band crosses the stage. Walcott also stated that as part of the organisation’s plan to reinstate creativity and clean enjoyment on the Carnival days, all 1,200 masqueraders would chip to music provided by three steelbands; Valley Harps, Simple Sound of Arima and Laventille Rhythm Section, to bring back the authenticity of mas. There will also be a live DJ on hand.
Affordable and enjoyable
The organisation also gave a sneak peek into what the costumes would look like, as a few models showcased the designs reminiscent of ole-time mas. A full presentation will be made at its all-inclusive fete to be held on February 20 at Green Meadows Santa Cruz. The designs, under the guidance of veteran mas maker, Wayne Berkeley, were done by Lisa Bhajan. Other renowned mas makers assisting the band include Rosalind Gabriel, Raoul Garib, Anthony Alleng, Martin Oliver, Francis Woon Sam and Felix Edinborough. Costumes would be priced at $1,000 and $2,500.
Trinidad and Tobago's Guardian | Sun, 2011-01-09 19:30
The decision by the Catholic Church, or at least some of the braver outreach elements of that religious body, to participate in Carnival 2011 has sparked nationwide debate. On the surface of it, the notion of the deeply religious descending into the hedonism of Carnival Monday and Tuesday, seems, at best, to be wrong headed. That notion, however, sets aside the Catholic roots of the festival itself. Originally carne vale, the farewell to the flesh, the celebration is a key event in the religious calendar of several faiths and is a ceremonial pre-Lenten embrace of the passions and indulgences to be set aside during Lent. The event has come to be expressed in subtly different ways throughout the world, and while Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is well known for its colour, energy and creativity, it is hardly the only one.
Still, this is the Carnival we have, and it is one that the Catholic Church seems intent on staking a fresh claim on this year. The band, Genesis 1-Creation is hardly some rebellious engagement. The effort has been blessed by Archbishop Edward Gilbert and enjoys the personal attention of Monsignor Jason Gordon, who has long been committed to strengthening the ties between the Catholic Church and the community it serves. The band is being directly guided by Fr Joe Harris, the priest of Petit Valley’s St Anthony’s Church, who initiated the idea. There have been rich opportunities for humour, some of it cruel, arising from this initiative, but there have also been questions which the band’s leadership will have to answer on the short road from the preliminary announcement last week to the band’s appearance on the road. While the band will have its own Church sanctioned playlist, one that will, undoubtedly emphasise music deemed appropriate to the goals of the project, what will happen when the band encounters roadside speakers blaring music that is wildly inappropriate?
Will the band be competing on the traditional route or will it be a “fun” band, making its own way on the road as well as in concept? Will the band be all-inclusive? The cost of the costumes certainly seems to suggest that it might be, and if so, what will be served? How will ideas like “evangelising the culture” be expressed during the hard practicalities of the road, where the realities of presenting a band on the street has led to the roped or “gated communities” described by Monsignor Gordon? It’s also worth noting that virtually everything that the Catholic Church hopes to set an alternative example to in our local Carnival are developments of fairly recent vintage. While the idea of artful vulgarity in calypso has been part of the festival’s traditions from its very beginnings, the trimming of once elaborate costumes only began a few decades ago, when the late designer Lil Hart began to produce more youthful costumes for teenage and young adult members of the band.
For years, the shorter skirts and pruned costumes of the Hart’s fun band were viewed as an aberration in Carnival before becoming first the norm and now the standard. The more outrageous dances offered by many of today’s masqueraders as well were the result of a loss of craft in presentation, as the elaborate moves of blue devils, bats and firemen were lost to a new generation of masqueraders and the entire point of portraying a costume was harnessed to the imperatives of commerce. These new traditions may be new to the long history of Carnival, but they are deeply entrenched and any alternative presented by the Catholic Church must aspire to being more than simply “holier than thou.” The creative traditions of Carnival are rich and remarkable. The presence of Genesis 1-Creation, promoted by Monsignor Gordon as way of returning some of the “true essence” of the festival, should engage some of those dormant creative possibilities as a path back to the heart of the masquerade.
If We Could Play, Who Is Priest?
Guananguanare: the laughing gull | 9th January 2011
My fellow blogger, treasured commenter and correspondent, Louis, submitted a comment in response to my coverage of the launch of the Catholic Church's Carnival Band. I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone by replying to his comment while producing a new blog post.
Louis, Thanks for your comment. I cannot defend many of the pronouncements of the Catholic Church and I am also not a diehard Carnival supporter so this provides me with some welcome detachment in approaching this issue. From your comment I am assuming that you are against this latest move by the Church? Or is it that you are against what you perceive to be the inconsistencies in Archbishop Gilbert's battle against "secularism"?
I use that word secular myself with the realization that it can carry a connotation of something earthbound and therefore not quite as lofty as the "higher" pursuits encouraged by religious institutions. Often, I wonder though if we do this to our own disadvantage in that we maintain this illusion that the church is somehow above it all and that the secular world is something that stands perpetually in need of elevation. This works to the Church's advantage where as we have seen, under this cloak of "superiority" or otherworldliness they often get away with activities for which lesser mortals would be made to walk the plank. I see the Church as being very much a secular organisation, this is why talking about the "secularisation" of the Church or a "post-secular" Church is problematic. Like the rest of the sinners it hopes to "save", while the Church aims for higher, its feet are also planted firmly in the mire.
So although I do understand why some people would find this Roman Catholic Carnival Band idea so objectionable, I cannot agree that the move is any great departure from what I was taught by this Church during my formative years. While I recall their constant admonition to separate myself from the sin of the world, I do not remember one occasion where the Church told me to separate myself from the world. In fact there was this one song with which we often ended services and the following sentiments apply:
"The Mass is ended, all go in peace,
We must diminish and Christ increase.
We take Him with us wherever we go,
That through our actions His light may show."
"We take Him with us wherever we go, that through our actions His light may show." The Catholic Church is telling us now that we can and should take The Christ to the Carnival and to lead the way, it is taking back a space for the faithful in the heart of the festival. It is not saying that since it cannot break Carnival, it will join it, because during my time I had never heard it denouncing the existence of the Carnival but rather the manner in which it was being observed. It is not now intending that its band members should conduct themselves in any fashion that goes against its teachings and what it considers decent behaviour.
There are persons, Roman Catholics included , who have always participated in the Carnival without the "indecency" or over-consumption of alcohol. To allow the "wassy" apples [not making any judgment] to represent the entire festival and to define how every single individual enjoys the Carnival is erroneous. It does not follow logically that the Church and all other participants just by virtue of their also being present, should be "tarred" with the same brush. Carnival is what you make of it or what you allow it to make of you. Life is what you make it or what you allow it to make of you and the Church is very much immersed in LIFE.
If some people, because of their experiences, feel that release is to be had from jooking frenetically, drinking to excess and letting the Creator's sunshine reach body parts which it previously had not, then as long as they are consenting adults and are not breaking any laws, to do so is THEIR choice and THEIR Carnival. If we are shocked by the fact that they take it to the streets then we have to admit that we are being hypocritical because I can assure you that the bacchanal in this country continues behind closed doors all year through.
What I am interested to see will be how many citizens who because of their age, their religious beliefs [whether Christian or otherwise] their tastes in music and companionship will gravitate towards this oasis that the RC Church will provide. What I am interested in seeing is if the availability of a "friendlier" alternative will temper the unchecked escalation of behaviours which sometimes threaten to spoil the Carnival for some participants. What I am interested in seeing is if there will be people who having never participated in Carnival before will now choose to do so because the Church has provided for them a safe and shallow end in the sometimes overwhelming and dangerous pool that Carnival can be.
But there is a complaint that I would find interesting and which I am not hearing. It should be that coming from the people who had found in the Carnival a sanctuary from the Church and other finger-waggers, a temporary rupture of hegemony, an inviolate bacchanalian arena in which to fling themselves into the salivating jaws of the lions of complete abandonment to pleasure, a place where the scent of incense should have had no place in the cocktail of earthy scents that perfume our Carnival. These are the people whose views are not being expressed and people like these are the ones who invented carnivals long before they became associated with religions or nations.
Could it be that no complaint will be forthcoming because that same spirit of "anything goes" that went into the genesis of carnival is also a spirit that is non-judgmental and ALL embracing, a "leh we go and let go" that welcomes ALL comers to the dance, the polite chippers as well as the big dollar winers?
If we could play, who is priest?
Jump to different tune.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Sunday, January 9 2011
We hope Carnival 2011 proves the turning point that heralds a fresh age of the street masquerade in Trinidad and Tobago.
First the Government announced it was forming a People’s Band, where individuals could express their notion of a Carnival costume at their price as an alternative to participating in the annual monotonous procession of exorbitant foreign feathers and beads and foreign used mas. Now here come the Catholics with their band for mature and junior revellers, Genesis 1 — the Creation, which will have 12 sections, each with a maximum of 100 masqueraders. The band is the invention of “The Word and Associates”, a Catholic organisation comprised of parishioners from St Anthony’s RC Church, Petit Valley. Genesis 1 — the Creation has received the blessing of Archbishop Edward Gilbert and according to the Church; it wants to return to a time when Carnival was filled with creativity and void of alcohol and excess.
This paper has repeatedly railed against the Rio de Janeiro Carnival that has been adopted wholesale by the established bands which we have argued have by large become limited, limiting, money making, wining entities, meant to be watched by the masses but in which the masses are not intended or encouraged to participate.
We argued last November when Government announced the launch of the People’s Band that wearing what we create may be the only way to put the people back into TT Carnival, to revolutionise the mas. The People’s Band sponsored by the Government is the first step on the road to creative recovery. Everywhere all communities need to reclaim their mas as the Catholics of St Anthony are doing, play it if and as they see fit. The imported bikini mas may have its appeal, but it is stifling local expression. Trinidad and Tobago is following Carnival fashion not leading it.
Bikini mas has also concentrated the Carnival economy in the hands of a few. Bringing out a Carnival band is an intelligent fund raising alternative to barbecues and cake sales as St Anthony’s sits in an affluent area of northwest Trinidad, loyal to the parish. There is the added advantage of having a college attached. Catholics have always played mas. Their money has gone not to the parish though, but to the pockets of the big band owners. Now that may change.
Many people may see the combination of Catholics and Carnival as an unsuitable mix of the sacred and the profane. Several years ago that spiritual conundrum was put to rest when we saw how our people could be lifted by David Rudder’s High Mas, which was also sanctioned by the Catholic Church. There is no biblical restriction on street celebration. The Bible tells us to give praise in the dance and in the song, with the harp and the cymbal.
Genesis 1 — the Creation may also assist the Church, whose popularity has been on the decline during the past decades, to revive disillusioned, Catholic souls, young and old. The band may give the Church a more modern, hipper image at a moment when nuns and priests are two professions facing extinction.
We keenly await the response to both the Catholic and People’s bands this year given the economic and crime clouds hovering over TT. We encourage Trinbagonians to catch the spirit and grab the opportunity to jump to a different tune. By Carnival 2012, there could be an explosion of people’s bands in which the people are free to create new costume concepts, raise money to self-fund their projects and celebrate without excess expenditure or excess alcohol.
We never wish to be unfair to the commercial bands, whose contribution to the Carnival economy is undoubted. We would be wrong too to paint all modern bandleaders with one brush — some of them have continued the battle. Peter Minshall began decades ago to retrieve our Carnival from Brazil, make mas our thing again.
However, the effort has been viewed, much as Minshall’s was, as a rebellion by a limited section of TT society.
St Anthony’s may be an upscale parish, but nevertheless by launching its own band, it will be bringing Carnival closer to the hearts of more of the people.
A sin to play mas.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Sunday, January 9 2011
THE EDITOR: We are definitely living in the last days when a Roman Catholic organisation can even think of launching a mas band. There is no right way to justify something that is wrong. Broad is the road that leads to destruction and many are found on it, but narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few are found on it. (Matthew 7 vs 14).
We are admonished in Matthew 7 vs 6 not to take what is holy and cast it before swines (what is unholy). Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 3:17) and we are commanded in the Bible (basic instructions before leaving earth) to present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God, holy and acceptable in His sight, for this is our reasonable service to Him (Romans 12 vs 1). We are not to copy the behaviour and customs of this world (Satan is the god of the world — but let God transform us into new people by changing the way we think (Romans 12 vs 2).
It is therefore astounding to hear a priest mention that God blessed Carnival in the past and He will bless it again. God cannot go against His word, for He is His word and His word specifically commands us to be holy as He is holy. He is indeed coming back for a holy people, a glorious church (people) without spot, wrinkle or blemish (Ephesians 5 vs 27). It does not matter whether there is “no wine or wining” in the band, it is contradictory to the word of God. Carnival has nothing to do with God or even one’s culture. In fact, it is an abomination to Him for it is worship unto the pagan god Bacchus, the god of revelry, bacchanal, drunkenness, orgies etc.
God is a jealous God and He has commanded us in Exodus 20 vs 5 that we shall have (serve) no other gods but Him. Therefore, He cannot and will not sanction worship unto another god, for He is the same yesterday, today and forever and He changes not (to suit the whims and fancies of men.)
Again, Carnival or “Carnal Evil” has nothing to do with one’s culture, which is to worship the true and living God for whose pleasure we were created (Revelation 4 vs 11). Carnival is a time when the flesh and the works of the flesh are on display and Galatians 5 vs 19-21 specifically state that those who practise these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is so far from the truth to even imagine that God will bless Carnival, which desecrates the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Carnival fetes and Catholic schools.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Monday, January 10 2011
THE EDITOR: Has anyone ever noticed the schools that throw carnival fetes on a yearly basis? Most of these schools are the Catholic schools.
The alcohol, the wine and jam are all present on the school compound all in the name of fund- raising.
I believe the message being sent to the children of these schools is loud and clear: we need the money and we will get it in any way necessary.
The Muslim and Hindu schools do not raise funds in this manner and they are functioning well. I was not surprised when I heard of a Carnival band being put out by the Catholic church. It is only a matter of time before they add the jam, wine and alcohol to the ensemble or maybe it will all be there but behind closed doors.
RC Church leading followers astray.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Jan 10, 2011
I am a fervent Catholic, and it is therefore with a very sad and broken heart that I must let my Archbishop know how disappointed I am to see that some elements of the Church's human leadership just do not seem to be reading the signs of the times.
Given the critical, social and moral condition of this country one would have thought that the church would be calling its members, if not the entire population, to a spirit of repentance and conversion, to a spirit of deep ongoing prayer for deliverance from the moral evil engulfing this nation, and to a very sober reflection on the abyss of iniquity to which we are rapidly descending.
Instead what we are now hearing is the most astonishing announcement that the church is launching an official Carnival band of its own, with the misguided objective of "restoring creativity and clean fun to the festivities''.
Carnival is essentially about revelling with abandon; and to attempt to change its essential nature is like trying to extract the natural alcohol from wine.
Let us get serious in this country, and in this church, before it is too late. God is not mocked. This nonsense is certainly not what Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ instituted His Church for.
This is literally playing the fool! And I do hope that the little remaining remnant of right-thinking Catholics would rise up and shout down this quite misguided and absurd idea of a Catholic Carnival band.
No drunks in this band.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Tuesday, January 11 2011
THE EDITOR: With the announcement The Word and Associates has launched a mas band with the full blessings of the local Roman Catholic Church, Protestants and other mystics begun their protests.
In fact, I believe that Protestants are salivating at yet another supposed reason to believe that Roman Catholicism is neither Christian nor holy. Indeed, the criticism coming from the opposing mystics invariably boils down to a critique of Roman Catholic doctrines, proper.
The criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church sound old and rehearsed. The main theme seems to be appeal to emotions and a sort of preaching to the choir. One fails to discern why a mas band is something inherently evil. After all, there would be no drunks, fornicators, licentious music or simulation of sex acts on display. Even so, the theme is about Creation, which involves reminding fellow mystics that there is a Creator.
The core of the criticism seems to be that Carnival is an evil celebration and that any participation thereof is sinful. However, such a view is “the mistaken assumption that what holds true for the members of a group, taken separately, will hold true of the group taken together.” That is to say, that even if some participants in Carnival commit sinful acts it doesn’t mean that Carnival itself is sinful. An individual could sing a calypso, play the steel pan or parade a costume without committing a sin. To suppose otherwise is to commit the Fallacy of Composition.
Surely, the Roman Catholic mas band has committed itself to a presentation that is tasteful and mystically inspiring. All the critics are left with are mere prudish assertions that would see Christians become hermits who are unwilling to watch movies, the seven O’clock news and work with others all because they may be contaminated by worldliness. No wonder Elbert Hubbard quipped that “a mystic is a person who is puzzled before the obvious, but who understands the nonexistent.”
He who is without sin.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, January 12 2011
THE EDITOR: Many people are of the view that Ash Wednesday was introduced because of Carnival, whereas it is the other way around, carnival came about because of Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of the lenten season, as someone somewhere decided to have a “last hurrah” before getting down to the serious season of lent.
Many people also believe that Catholics receive ashes to cleanse themselves of their “Carnival sins,” but Catholics don’t “go for ashes,” we attend Ash Wednesday Mass at which ashes is placed on our forehead as a reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
Ash Wednesday Mass is celebrated all over the world, even in countries where there is no carnival, for that matter here in Trinidad and Tobago most of the people who “play mas” don’t attend Ash Wednesday Mass and the majority of Holy Mass attendees on Ash Wednesday don’t “play mas.”
Ash Wednesday isn’t, and was never meant to be a “quick fix” for whatever sins one may have committed during the Carnival season, or any time for that matter, only confession does that (John 20: 22-23).
Unfortunately sin exists with or without Carnival, but fortunately for us we are spared the torture of being stoned to death, perhaps we take seriously the teaching “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Fr Pascal was first mas playing priest.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, January 12 2011
THE EDITOR: Michael “Mikey” Pascal was a “Belmont boy,” and a former student of Belmont Boys’ Intermediate and of St Mary’s College.
As a prefect, he taught at St Mary’s before leaving for Ireland where he was ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Holy Ghost Order. He thus became the first “Belmont Boy” to be ordained as a Catholic priest.
He then served as a priest in Africa for many years. Unfortunately he contracted “A Tropical Fever” and it became necessary for him to return to Ireland for treatment.
After regaining his health Fr Pascal returned to “his homeland” Trinidad and Tobago where he served at various times in the parishes of St Joseph, Diego Martin, Couva and at Cedros.
It was while serving as the parish priest of Cedros that he organised a Carnival band which journeyed to Port-of-Spain to participate in the Carnival celebrations of that year.
Buses were hired to transport the Cedros Steelband and about 500 villagers of Cedros, Icacos and other nearby villages to Port-of-Spain where they paraded on the streets and on the stage at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
Fr Pascal was a very active community worker and among other things was the founder of the Cedros Fishing Co-operative.
It is interesting to note that one of the early supporters of this co-operative was Dr Eric Williams who purchased 500 shares.
On leaving Cedros, he migrated to Canada where he continued his community work, on this occasion, among West Indian immigrants in Toronto.
He subsequently left the priesthood, got married and took up residence in Fort Erie where he opened and operated a convenience store. Mikey died at the Fort Erie Hospital in 1994 after a period of illness. At the time of his death he was 67 years of age.
Fr Michael Pascal was the first Roman Catholic priest to be the recipient of a National Award, the “Humming Bird Medal — Gold” for Community Service.
Carnival nothing to do with God.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, January 12 2011
THE EDITOR: I refer to the article “Holy Mas” on page 13 (Sec A) in the Newsday of January 5, 2011.
I wish to inquire with all due respect, and of Father Harris and the Word and Associates, and of our Archbishop Gilbert who is reported to sanction this cause, whether they truly believe in this effort.
It is my respectful view that such profanity, yes, profanity, would never and could never be acceptable as worship. Fine, the creativity and vibrancy (ideally) attest to his benevolence toward mankind, but nothing detracts from the fact that in essence Carnival has nothing else to do with God.
I equate this effort with the master chef of your restaurant who, while quite happy to see evidence of your appreciation would most certainly not welcome details or your post-meal visit to “the other sanctum” (washroom).
Perhaps a restricted portrayal after a chosen service(s), say the weekend masses before Carnival, but anything more should be strictly taboo.
Have fun without playing mas.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, January 12 2011
THE EDITOR: I was born into the Catholic Church 48½ years ago, still practise my faith and proud to be Catholic. I have never played mas on the streets of my country. At my age I still want to, but if I so decide I won’t play with the band Genesis Generation.
I would play with one of the popular bands like Ian Mc Kenzie’s Genesis or Big Mike’s or Tribe or Trini Revellers.
If my Catholic brothers and sisters want to group on both days of Carnival they can do so at a church ground or one of the Sports Stadiums, but bring a Carnival Band? Nah. I don’t care if the pope approves. I’m not judging my people, I leave all judgement unto God, but we don’t need to bring a Carnival band to prove anything, God knows our hearts.
The money could be better spent. You see we are criticised at all levels, whether we deserve the criticisms or not. So why add to it? And I look at the price of the sections. Why not jeans and jerseys or long dresses? The archbishop has a fund we can all contribute to and pray for those who play on March 7, 8. Our religion is not a strict one but one of class and integrity. You all can have fun without playing mas in 2011.
RC mas’ band draws ‘overwhelming’ interest.
By Reshma Baal
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, January 12 2011
Roman Catholic organisation, the Word and Associates has received “overwhelming” interest, both nationally and internationally, by people who wish to be part of its 2011 Carnival presentation, Genesis 1 — Creation, according to the band’s chairman, Derek Walcott.
The band, which is sanctioned by the head of the local Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Edward Gilbert, was launched on January 4, and will participate in the Parade of the Bands, on both Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
Speaking with Newsday yesterday, Walcott said the band’s official website, which was launched last week, received over 1,200 hits so far, and the band’s “page” on the social networking site, facebook, has also received a lot of visitors.
“We have been receiving a lot of calls from people in St Lucia, Grenada and Canada wanting to register with the band,” said Walcott.
He said the band is open to a registration of 1,200 members, “for greater manageability, but people are begging us to open up the registration.”
However, Walcott said all sections in the band are still open for anyone interested in registering.
He said costumes were priced between $1,000 and $2,500, and the band will be all-inclusive.
Since the announcement that veteran mas’ man, Wayne Berkeley will be designing the Queen of the Band’s costume, Walcott said “requests have been pouring in to portray the queen.”
Walcott revealed that Canadian, Susan Low, will portray the Queen of the Band: Eve, the eternal light of the Universe. However, someone is yet to be listed to portray the King of the Band, Adam, “as two persons have expressed great interest in the portrayal.”
Walcott admitted that the Word and Associates has received some “negativity” from various members of the public, over producing a Carnival band.
“Many people felt Carnival is evil, and are not pleased that the Church was getting involved in something which is evil. I ask those people, are the panmen, calypsonians and mas designers evil?” asked Walcott. “How can the creative gift, which we received from God be evil,” Walcott added.
When asked what genre of music will accompany the masqueraders, Walcott explained that the band is currently assessing calypsoes and soca music which has “good values” and no “double meanings.”
Walcott said anyone wishing to register with the band will be briefed on the proper “behaviour” expected, as well as no alcoholic drinks will be served.
“As Catholics we have no beef with alcohol, but we are not promoting alcohol in our band. We are coming on a natural high,” he said.
Gypsy in favour of church mas.
By Reshma Ragoonath
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | Wed, 2011-01-12 18:07
Even as the Roman Catholic Church’s mas band continues to be the focus of public debate, Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Winston Gypsy Peters says other religious bodies should follow suit and produce their own bands. Peters made the comment during an interview with the T&T Guardian on Sunday night following the launch of We People International’s new mas camp at Imrie Street, San Fernando.
The minister, in applauding the church band’s presentation Genesis 1—Creation presented by The Word and Associates, said: “I would like to see more religious bodies come in and play mas. “Do portrayals of heaven, of Christ, do portrayals of the church, portrayals of exactly what they believe it (Carnival) should be. I have nothing against that, I applaud the Catholic Church for its stance.” Last week The Word and Associates, a new mas group made up primarily of parishioners from St Anthony’s RC Church, Petit Valley, formally launched its Carnival 2011 presentation. It is the first Roman Catholic mas band in Trinidad and Tobago. It features 12 sections and will have a king and queen.
The band, however, has provoked widespread debate. However, Peters said citizens should welcome the band. He pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church is no stranger to Carnival. “The Catholic Church has been involved in Carnival for a long, long, time and I don’t know why they dropped out but, if they feel Carnival is going in a certain directions and they want to show how it should be I have nothing against that. I think that’s great,” Peters said.
Peters added, “The best persons to demonstrate how something is supposed be is the very persons who are against the ‘lewdity’ and if the Catholic Church feels that they want to get involved I think it’s great.” Masmaker Dawad Philip, leader of We People International, agreed with the minister. He said citizens should not be surprised about the Roman Catholic Church’s mas band. “Mas and the Catholic Church is linked. You cannot get away from that. The French tradition of Carnival is Catholic, the Spanish tradition of Carnival is Catholic, so that is nothing new.
“People are really not aware of how involved the Catholic Church is in Carnival. It is not unheard of. The Catholic Church has a liberal outlook on culture, so I am not surprised,” Philip said. He pointed out that many of the masqueraders playing in his band come from different religious backgrounds including Catholics, Hindus and Muslims. “God bless them. As long as we have a clean Carnival, safe and crime free, I am good. I do not see a problem with it. I am a Catholic and I was never discouraged from playing mas.
“Everybody plays mas and go take their ashes on Wednesday. It’s a novel idea, so therefore it’s raising some eyebrows and it really shouldn’t,” he said. In fact, Philip said, the band was another extension of “Trinidadian culture.” “It is Trinidadians we talking about and it is Trinidad. Trinidad is Carnival, chutney and those sorts of things,” he said.
Remembering Fr Michael Pascal. Be safe and have clean fun.
Catholic News | Thursday, 13 January 2011
THE EDITOR: To play or not to play mas? A recent headline in a daily newspaper (Wednesday, January 5) read “Catholics to bring out mas band”, sub headline, “If the priest could play ……”
Questions to be answered:-
Catholics bringing out a mas band, what kind of costuming will they opt for,
Will they be participating in any categories of mas bands (eg. Small, medium, large)
Will the mas band have to get the approval of the Archbishop to participate?
Traditionally the Roman Catholic Church has never “frowned” upon its congregation participating in the national festival. What the Church condems is lewd behaviour, drunkenness, exposing of one’s body, engaging in reckless sexual conduct and the uncontrollable gyrating of the body.
Catholics have participated in the festival in the past, but as to bringing out a mas band this will not sit comfortably with staunch Catholics (?).
As a Catholic Christian I have become disinterested in the festivities, mainly because of how it has “degenerated” into a free for all.
I don’t have a sense anymore for carnival. Sometimes I seriously question what is now passing as “the greatest show on earth”
I have no objections to what is being planned by Catholics, but I hope what is being planned keeps within the borders of the “spirit” of the Church. Keep it clean!
For all Catholics participating, be safe, have clean fun, and always remember in all things, “it is all God’s work!”
“Happy Carnival 2011!”
The Carnival Mentality.
Catholic News | Thursday, 13 January 2011
THE EDITOR: With all due respect to Msgr Jason Gordon, his adulation of carnival as being "the heart of Caribbean culture" is as overblown and misplaced as his assertion that salt is essential. In the case of salt, yes, it was indeed a prized commodity, the chief or only known preservative, but that has not been the case for generations, what with refrigeration and all the other methods of preserving food we now have. Indeed too much salt in our diets kills thousands of people every year. To assert that carnival is similarly central and indispensable to Caribbean culture is just as mistaken as the assertion about salt’s role in life.
In what sense is carnival "central" to Caribbean culture? It is one aspect of culture, but really not a unique or essentially "Caribbean" one. Venice and other European cities have had "carnivals" long before the Caribbean. We all know about Brazil's carnival. And if carnival is interpreted as public revelry, it has been around universally for ages. In the Caribbean the rhythms and moves may be different and more exuberant than in those other carnivals, and the costumes used to be creative and distinctive before they became the feathers, beads and exposed flesh that have been exhibited at the Moulin Rouge, in Las Vegas and Rio for years. If it means steelband, well, that is uniquely Trinidad's and pan has been influential in music all over the world, but carnival is not pan, we just dance to its music in the streets at carnival. Pan as a showpiece of Caribbean culture is bigger than carnival. If carnival is, as the Monsignor says, an indicator or maybe even a motivator of social harmony and egalitarianism or a vehicle for evangelisation, it's a very ephemeral and secondary one. So what's the big deal with it? God forbid, but one can actually entertain the thought that we can do without carnival. Some people do so already. Not that I am proposing that.
It is reported that a former Prime Minister of Singapore said disparagingly that Trinidadians are not productive or successful because they have a "carnival mentality". We rightfully take umbrage at that stereotyping. Yet it is that mentality, not just the exposed flesh, public simulated sex and drunkenness that is at the heart of most criticism of "carnival". A "Carnival Mentality" has replaced "Carnival" the traditional two-day revelry. The Catholic band launched does not address that mentality. It may even be mistaken as legitimising it.
Let's examine some aspects of the pervasive "Carnival mentality" that has now replaced "Carnival". Carnival, the fete, traditionally lasted two days and two days only. At the stroke of midnight on Tuesday it was over, and thoughts of it were put away until the approach of the next Lent. A few people: seamstresses, professionals and artists who needed to lay the groundwork for costumes, would spend some extended time preparing for it, but the general populace had other more worthwhile priorities for the rest of the year. That has been replaced by interminable revelry before and after Carnival. Large numbers of workers don't show up for work on Ash Wednesday, students skip school and there are suggestions from time to time that such lack of responsibility should be catered to by making Ash Wednesday a holiday or at least passively accepted as being part of carnival.
People didn't work to be able to afford to play mas. They worked to maintain families and a certain standard of living and what they spent on mas was relatively incidental. Something is wrong when all-inclusives and abbreviated costumes or even respectable ones as proposed for bands like “Genesis” cost a significant part of one's income and when people rob and murder over them. There was no endless political squabbling over government subsidies and bloated prizes at taxpayers' expense because there were none. Carnival was personal enjoyment, not a fiscal trough for the greedy and opportunistic. Good calypsos and calypsonians (currently "soca artistes") were successful to the degree that they were entertaining, clever and relevant, not according to their degree of lewdness.
Sanitising the trappings of Carnival is a good step but it cannot make up for that absence of self-discipline, responsible attitudes, the rationalisation of priorities and good taste that now passes for "Carnival". The debasement of Carnival has become so profound, its bad influence so pervasive in other aspects of life that perhaps it first needs to be shut down for a year or two. Then there would be motivation and time to put it in proper perspective, rethink it as a cultural event and readjust with bands like Genesis.
Seattle, WA, USA
The Catholic Church and Carnival.
Catholic News | Thursday, 13 January 2011
Over the past two weeks the Church has received more airplay than it received for the whole of the preceding year. This is due to one simple fact. The Church announced the unthinkable and unpalatable for many, a large number of them non-Catholics. The Church announced publicly that it was giving its support to a Carnival band. The ensuing turmoil was caused first of all by a lack of knowledge about Carnival and its relationship to Catholicism, and secondly a deep misunderstanding of Church, its nature and purpose.
Dealing with the relationship of the Church to Carnival, it must be stated that Carnival exists in all Catholic countries. In a real sense Carnival is a Catholic thing and in its purest sense expresses the joie de vivre which is part and parcel of true Christian living. It is not by accident that in the gospels there are references to wedding feasts.
Where the nature of the Church is concerned, it must also be stated that the Church has a duty to propose Gospel values to every aspect of human endeavour. Carnival is no exception. Recent Papal documents have stressed that, “Evangelising is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelise…” (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi # 14, Dec 8, 1975).
A later document tells us; “For the Church, evangelising means bringing the Good News into all strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new... It is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation. What matters is to evangelise man's culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots) […] always taking the person as one's starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God. The Gospel, and therefore evangelisation, is certainly not identical with culture […] Nevertheless, the kingdom which the Gospel proclaims is lived by men who are profoundly linked to a culture, and the building up of the kingdom cannot avoid borrowing the elements of human culture or cultures. Though independent of cultures, the Gospel and evangelisation are not necessarily incompatible with them; rather they are capable of permeating them all without becoming subject to any one of them. The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time, just as it was of other times. Therefore every effort must be made to ensure a full evangelisation of culture, or more correctly of cultures. They have to be regenerated by an encounter with the Gospel. But this encounter will not take place if the Gospel is not proclaimed (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 18-20). In order to do this, it is necessary to proclaim the Gospel in the language and culture of men” (Pontifical Council for Culture: Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture #4; Solemnity of Pentecost, May 23, 1999).
There can be no doubt in the minds of all that where Carnival is concerned there has been a progressively widening split between the Gospel and culture. Every year we hear complaints about the increasing vulgarity and drunkenness, which affect not only the more mature persons but the very young. In fact parents and guardians have been seen encouraging their charges to vulgarity. This happened because bearers of Gospel values have progressively withdrawn from this celebration. Against this background it is incumbent upon the Church to do something. To simply criticise or withdraw from Carnival is to do nothing and permit forces inimical to the Gospel to take over. For the Church to do this is to act contrary to her very nature and the reason for her existence.
In this debate over the Church’s entrance into Carnival it is important to understand the meaning of the Incarnation. When God became a human being in Christ Jesus, God did not remain aloof from humanity. God, in Jesus Christ entered into the messiness of human life. He did not become the messiness but he entered into it. Jesus was criticised by the very religious people of his time for eating with publicans and sinners, for letting a woman of reputedly loose life touch him. Jesus however entered into the messiness of human life to purify it and redeem it so that it could be worthy of being offered to the Father. The Church, presence of Christ in the world today and in T&T can do no less if she is to be faithful to her vocation. It is for this reason that the Archbishop of Port of Spain has endorsed the initiative of the Carnival band. As messy as Carnival may be, it can and will be purified and redeemed if people of good will support and/or join the organisers of this band in this initiative. – Fr Joseph Harris, Vicar for Priests and parish priest of St Ann’s
What the fuss about?...If de priest could play, who is me?
By Peter Ray Blood
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | Fri, 2011-01-14 18:58
Really and truly, what’s the fuss about over the Roman Catholic church producing a Carnival band? It’s not the first time that this has happened in Trinidad. Thanks to friends Ian Lambie and Dr Jennifer Rouse, I was reminded that Father Michael “Mikey” Pascal produced a mas band in Port-of-Spain more than 40 years ago.
So, there is precedent for this year’s effort, not to mention priests, both RC and Anglican who have actively participated in playing mas. I vividly remember my childhood friend Fr Winston Joseph and his RC counterpart Fr Hendy, the latter inspiring a calypso by the Mighty Cypher, titled If de priest could play, who is me?
Actually Hendy, who played his controversial mas in 1966 with Starlift Steel Orchestra, hailed from Siparia and it’s amazing how backward, inflexible and hypocritically puritanical a substantial portion of the Catholic clergy has remained since then, many still viewing our culture as “sinful.” Aside from Fr Joseph, who played in Garib, Poison and now Harts, other mas-playing priests have been Fr John Sewell, Fr Ed Waldron Fr Adrian Chatfield and Fr Brian Jemmott. A source told me that Fr Mannie Pierre has also been seen in costume with Harts.
Lambie recalls that Pascal was a “Belmont boy,” and a former student of Belmont Boys Intermediate and of St Mary’s College. As a prefect, he taught at St Mary’s before leaving for Ireland where he was ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Holy Ghost Order. He thus became the first “Belmont Boy” to be ordained as a RC priest. Pascall then served as a priest in Africa for many years. Unfortunately, he contracted “a tropical fever” and it became necessary for him to return to Ireland for treatment.
After regaining his health, Pascal returned to “his homeland” T&T where he served at various times in the parishes of St Joseph, Diego Martin, Couva and at Cedros. It was while serving as the parish priest of Cedros that he organised a Carnival band which journeyed to Port-of-Spain to participate in the Carnival celebrations of that year. Buses were hired to transport the Cedros steelband and about 500 villagers of Cedros, Icacos and other nearby villages to the nation’s capital where they paraded on the streets and on the stage at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
What many people fail to realise is the umbilical cord that exists between Carnival and the church, thus it being held on the eve of the commencement of Lent, and 40 days of prayer and fasting. Once again, I end on a bitter-sweet note. The thoughts of calypso buffs are with the late Mighty Duke (Kelvin Pope) today on the second anniversary of his passing. Duke was the only calypsonian in history to cop the national calypso monarch title for four consecutive years.
Today, is also the funeral of former T&T cricket captain and West Indies opening batsman Michael “Joey” Carew, with the service being held at St Theresa’s RC Church in Woodbrook, a stone’s throw from the Queen’s Park Oval, virtually his second home for decades. The sweet news is that today is the first birthday of Xaiya, the daughter of Destra and Brian Morris. Happy birthday baby girl.
Father Pascal was a very active community worker and among other things was the founder of the Cedros Fishing Co-operative. It is interesting to note that one of the early supporters of this co-operative was Father of the Nation, the late Dr Eric Williams who purchased 500 shares. On leaving Cedros, Pascal migrated to Canada where he continued his community work, on this occasion, among West Indian immigrants in Toronto. He subsequently left the priesthood, got married and took up residence in Fort Erie where he opened and operated a convenience store. Pascal died at the Fort Erie Hospital in 1994 after a period of illness. At the time of his death he was 67 years of age. Father Michael Pascal was the first Roman Catholic priest to be the recipient of a National Award, the Humming Bird Medal (Gold), for Community Service.
The Catholic Band
The band, which will feature 12 sections with a maximum of 100 masqueraders per section, is entitled “Genesis 1—Creation” and is being presented by The Word and Associates, a new mas entity made up primarily of parishioners from St Anthony’s RC Church in Petit Valley. The band was officially launched at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC) with Roman Catholic priests Fr Jason Gordon and Fr Joe Harris present. The band is sanctioned by the head of the local Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Edward Gilbert and according to Monsignor Jason Gordon, who represented the Archbishop “there was a time when Carnival was blessed with creativity and we want to go back to this time.“We want to show we can take part in Carnival without alcohol and excess.”
Jesus limed with sinners.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Friday, January 14 2011
THE EDITOR: I have noticed where certain people condemn the Catholic Church for bringing out a band for the Carnival because they say that Carnival is of this world and as such true followers of Christ should not be part of it. I have also read in the Bible: God sent his Son into this world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. (Jn:3.17)
When the Son of God came into the world he was accused of eating (liming) with tax collectors and sinners and his reply to the accusers was: I did not come to call the virtuous but sinners (Mt: 9.13) And throughout the New Testament we read where Jesus was often among the sinners including prostitutes and the despised of the society. He did this for he knew in his divine wisdom that if he had to save them he had to live among them.
It is amazing that though history has changed, human nature has remained the same for the Pharisees of today are now condemning the Catholic Band when they are following Jesus and being among the sinners in attempt to show them the correct way.
I am a fervent Catholic and would like to encourage the leaders of the Catholic Band to continue like true Christians to follow Jesus Christ.
Frank Lee Sing
Religious Carnival bands.
By Kevin Baldeosingh
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Jan 14, 2011
For this Carnival, the Catholic Church will be producing a band named Genesis which will have no alcohol, no lewd dancing and no sexy women. Yes, I know: one hardly sees the point. But, according to Catholic priest Jason Gordon in an Express interview: "Genesis 1 is an announcement of the good news, that there can be culture and the gospel... These things, we knew them at one time to be together and again they will be together in Genesis 1."
In fact, the last time these things were together was when Trinidad was still a British colony. According to music anthropologist Joycelyne Guilbault in her book Governing Sound, "The colonial elite saw Carnival and its expressive culture... as a means to inculcate Christian morality and reinforce colonial order." Presumably, this was before the invention of wining. That didn't mean the Catholic Church supported Carnival, though, since culture scholar Gordon Rohlehr in his book Calypso and Society notes that in 1919 "the official line of the Catholic News... presented Carnival as an orgy in which hypocrites from the supposedly respectable classes under disguise joined denizens from the demi-monde to indulge in behaviour which undermined the morals of the entire society". Those really were the good old days.
In any case, it is impossible for any religious organisation to produce a real Carnival band, because Carnival is all about the inversion of values—ie, it expresses mores and attitudes officially opposed by the dominant class, especially when that class actually embraces the same behaviour in private and often in fishnet stockings. This means that, if the religious bands were created by true masmen, they would have to have the following sections:
Catholic Carnival: The main section of this band would portray Roman Catholic priests protecting small boys and girls from sexual abuse. The bandleader may even want to have a brief skit, a la Minshall, in which any priest who abuses a child would be immediately defrocked and handed over to the authorities. The Queen of the Band would be a Brazilian mother who was not excommunicated after taking her nine-year-old daughter for an abortion when the child became pregnant from being raped repeatedly by her stepfather. The King of the Band would be dressed like the Pope, but with less infallibility.
Cost of costume: $3 million to renovate cathedral, plus sacramental wine.
Primary colour: red, to represent shame.
Baptist Bacchanal: All the players in this band would be slim women and fat men. There will be one section where masqueraders won't talk about how their worship was once banned, another where the costumes would be made of crushed balisiers, and a third section where everyone has laryngitis.
Cost of costume: the market price for ten acres of State land and some large bells.
Primary colour: brown, to save on bleach.
Muslim Mas: In an Islamic Carnival band, Muslim women would wear what they like and not be beaten with rubber hoses by Muslim men or sexually deprived perverts. Another section could have people with loudspeakers who would announce "I am a Christian" or "I am a Baha'i" or "Muhammad didn't wash his beard" and not get executed for blasphemy. And, of course, such a band would have a section of fanatic young Muslim men not wearing bombs strapped to their torsos in the middle of the crowd.
Primary colour: green, to represent the envy of everyone who enjoys life.
Cost of costume: first-class airline ticket to Mecca, including medical insurance.
Jehovah Jam: This band is very simple: it would consist of masqueraders who won't stop by anyone's house and interrupt their morning.
Cost of costume: large-size bottles of vanishing cream, for when the Rapture comes.
Primary colour: beige, to be even more boring.
Hindu High: This would be a family-centred band, with all sections linked. First, there would be a wedding, portraying a celebration where there is no rum in the guests' car trunks. Then there would be a section with black men married to Indo women, with the latter's fathers still talking to them. The third section would consist entirely of douglas, carrying staffs with photographs of Sat Maharaj looking happy. (Costumes in this section may be higher-priced, due to photo-shopping.) The last section would portray a funeral and cremation, where nobody would fight over land.
Cost of costume: one can of ghee per masquerader.
Primary colour: white, so any mixed colours would be obvious.
Pentecostal Palancing: A born-again Carnival band has a lot of creative scope. One section would have masqueraders dressed as three-billion-year-old rocks, led by a king portraying a fossil. They would have a whole section of people playing Australopithecus, homo habilis, and homo erectus. They would also have a section of homo sapiens who would all be fornicators, homosexuals or accredited PhDs.
Cost of costume: Audi, Prada, BMW, and a large ugly house.
Primary colour: Black, to represent blind ignorance.
Winsie-Ann ‘pushing’ her way into Carnival.
By Rhondor Dowlat
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Saturday, January 15 2011
SHE has released some of the biggest Gospel music hits in TT in recent years. Now teenage National Scholarship Winner (Science 2010) and medical student (UWI) Winsie-Ann Cuffie, has released what many believe may be her greatest hit, overall.
The track is titled “PUSH” (Pray Until Something Happens) and carries an extremely infectious soca melody that is currently burning up the air waves, on both gospel and secular radio stations. It has become one of the hits for Carnival 2011, as it is being played among other “regular” soca hits.
“PUSH” now joins gospel artiste Jadee’s Carnival 2011 “Nothing Bigger Than God” which incorporates the ‘Happy Supm Riddim’, which has also made it big for this year’s Carnival. The two latest gospel hits from Winsie Ann and Jadee, is just part of the Chrsitian intervention in the Carnival arena. Recently the Roman Catholic organisation, Word and Associates launched its 2011 Carnival presentation, Genesis 1 – Creation.
The band, which is sanctioned by the head of the local Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Edward Gilbert, was launched on January 4, and will participate in the Parade of the Bands on both Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
Winsie Ann’s soca hit “PUSH’ has been out merely a week, but it’s “catching like wildfire everywhere”, according to one popular radio DJ. Another DJ, Patrick Dyer, of 98.1FM exclaimed, on the first day the song was released: “This one is not going to be a hit, this is already a hit! I have only heard part of the song so far and I really, really love this one… this girl (Winsie-Ann) is truly loaded with talent.”
Some young people are calling the track “A Christian Road March” because of its very catchy, “must-dance” beat. It's also quite evident that “PUSH” is already doing well, in terms of cross-appeal. “It's certainly not only a favourite among church folks, but it's universal; all the regular guys love it too and it”, one “pirate” music vendor in San Fernando said.
In a recent interview Winsie-Ann told Newsday that the song came “initially by accident.” The multiple award-winning artiste who hosts the popular evening drive-time radio feature “Winning With Winsie-Ann”, explained that she wrote the song as “something like an addendum” to a message she delivered at a national youth rally last August. Pastors Vickram and Violet Harjaree of the Point-Fortin Open Bible Cathedral, in collaboration with several other youth organisations and ministries, hosted the event.
Winsie-Ann and her team were invited to do the entire grand opening night. She was the feature speaker of the night but the crowds also began clamouring to hear her sing. “PUSH was an instant, hit, with the crowd… And from that moment, I was harassed practically night and day by the youths to record the music. Now that I see what is happening; how happy it's making people, and above all, how impacting the message in the song is, I feel a deep sense of fulfillment.
“Basically everyone, irrespective of religious affiliation, believes in prayer, praise and joy. This is what this great track is about, so every creed and race can enjoy it,” the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) Youth Ambassador noted about her 2011 hit.
“PUSH” will soon be available in music stores nationwide. Winsie-Ann is currently working on a music video.
The church is already involved, so let the people play.
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Jan 15, 2011
I have been watching the debate on the issue regarding the priest putting out a band for Carnival. I listened and read a lot of the comments for and against this act.
It seems to me the level of hypocrisy in Trinidad is so high that no one seems to see the clear picture now. Are our thinkers' heads so in the clouds that rationale is really subject to convenient reasoning? The crux of the matter is the ideology of Carnival and its association with sin, fornication, a work of the devil and all and sundry that it brings about.
What behooves me to complain is that those who are Catholics, Anglicans and the like have been hosting all-inclusive fetes for years, using Carnival and all her tentacles as attractions so that money can be raised to further the works of the school and, by extension, the church it represents!
Isn't the principle the same? These fetes include music (at the few I have attended there was no classical music being played, and I was drunk from all the alcohol available), costumes, revelry, wining and gluttony, all associated with Carnival. So what makes it different if parishioners choose to parade for two days on the streets? They will be listening to the same music, eating the same food and dancing in like manner?
How hypocritical can this society be? And this is not limited to the Catholics and Anglicans. If people are so self-righteous about this topic, then they should look at how they support this type of behaviour. Do any of their children attend these schools that benefit tremendously from these fetes and the like? And I am sure they can boast about it since it is an obvious stereotype that these "board schools" are considered better than the Government-run schools.
People should not turn a blind eye when it comes to money. That is a major reason our society is in the predicament it is in now. The mighty dollar has caused us to compromise on everything and when we cannot rationalise it any more, we begin to see the demon in it.
My take is that the church is already involved deeply in Carnival and unless it can totally disassociate itself from the practice and maintain its original function in the scheme of things, then those who want to play mas, whether it be a priest or pauper, let the people play!
Nothing wrong with Catholic band. Rohlehr:
By Mark Pouchet
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Jan 15, 2011
Dr Gordon Rohlehr sees nothing wrong with the Catholic community bringing out the band, Genesis 1, nor the Government's People's Band. Or for that matter, any other grouping who wanted to participate in Carnival by bringing out a band.
Maha Sabha's head Satnarine Maharaj said neither himself nor his organisation was against any Carnival band. Specifically, he said, he was not against any Hindu band, once it did not offend Hinduism by portraying "a living god". Reports are that a Hindu group is planning a South-based band which has been tentatively titled, Ramayan—Conquest of Lanka, and which plans to feature tabla and tassa music.
"I have no problem with these bands. Carnival is an open space where people can do what they want; a place for the gift of living and life.
"I might want to enjoy it in one way, another person might like calypso, another steelband and Panorama, yet another Jouvert and not concerned about the rest of mas.
"Everybody take what they want and contribute what they want," said Rohlehr, Professor Emeritus at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies.
Rohlehr said since medieval times, Catholics have engaged in the European type of Carnival with 12th Night celebrations and the Ceremony of Fools.
He noted that for years, ethnic groups have suggested that Carnival could be used for their own purposes, citing as an example the March for Christ, undertaken by evangelicals and conducted yearly in the period leading up to Carnival.
"Carnival is a huge, all-embracing, engulfing affair, a free space where people do what they want," he said, suggesting however, that Genesis 1's stated objective of changing Carnival may more likely end up being Carnival changing the band.
Rohlehr explained that Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has been "transgressive"—there has been a lot of crossover of forms, ethnicities and music.
"It is impossible to avoid making concessions. In this place, some middle space emerges where you can sort of negotiate with each other amid a lot of the confusion.
"I mean moving across into another form because we are so diverse we have to negotiate with each other. And what we tend to do is negotiate compromises," he said.
"People have different ways of celebrating and draw the 'wine' at different places," he deliberately punned.
For his part, Maharaj said Hinduism currently prohibits the portrayal of any living god.
"This is a debate and confrontation that took place between Eric Williams and Badase Maharaj many years ago.
"We are not going to be frivolous but you are not supposed to depict a living Hindu god. In Hinduism, so many things are religious like the trees and the mountains," he said.
He continued: "We don't have any kind of legal prescriptive but if (a band) is there to mock us (Hindus), we'll certainly object. "But we have not heard anything about this band. In the past, bandleaders, if they thought they were transgressing into religious areas, they would call us to look into the matter.
"It is the same now, we're (Maha Sabha) there for consultation."
Asked whether the Catholic Band could be sustained, Rohlehr said the church may be trying to find a positive way to encounter the rest of society, adding that might be enough motivation.
"Or they might decide it might be better to go on a retreat or, as some other groups do, undertake a kind of social-work type project," he said.
On the other hand, he said the People's Band was phenomenal because it was being taken to "an absurd extreme".
"Are people going to be in sections, jump up where they want? I don't know, somebody has to pay for the music and steelbands. Are they going to insist on no sound systems and pay a few steelbands to play along the way?
"Will they be static or will they be moving? It is going to be a fascinating prolonged ole mas, probably a prolonged illustration of the patronage?
"It is as if every Carnival, some phase or aspect generates discourse and if that thing isn't there, it isn't a successful Carnival. These seem to be these sort of issues," said Rohlehr.
Rohlehr said it would be interesting to see how the band got on during the Carnival, and what are the reactions to it.
"Let the people do their thing and enjoy themselves. Carnival is big enough to accept a bit of self-righteousness," he said.
Take back Carnival.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Monday, January 17 2011
THE EDITOR: I fed up! Listen - I really find people give the devil way too much props:
The devil didn’t invent the human body - God did.
The devil didn’t invent sex - God did.
The devil didn’t invent human creativity - God did.
The devil didn’t invent singing and dancing - for the very stars sing and dance God’s praises.
Like it or not, it wasn’t the evil devil that gave man the knowledge to turn the fruit of the vine into wine for his happiness - that was God too!
Yes there are always those who will take things to excess, cross the bounds of decency, etc - (like the two women - not hundreds - who decided to go topless for Carnival), but hear what: it’s time to take back Carnival!
So on Carnival day children, Catholic or not, come out in your numbers and give praise! Because the Father in His mercy sends us a little Soca to make de vibrations raise; If yuh wining’ - wine to de side, but let every hand raise and give Him praise! Talk done!
Catholic band on solid cultural ground.
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Feb 19, 2011 at 12:43 AM ECT
THE decision of the Catholic Church to participate in Carnival 2011, in the form of a Carnival band, can be viewed as simply a means of the furthering of our cultural expression (of which religion is but a subset) and indeed could be viewed as personalising our distinctive character of what it means to be a Trinbago-specific Catholic (it sets us apart from the rest).
Carnival, calypso and pan are indeed huge parts of our culture and while Carnival itself may not be indigenous to T&T, calypso and pan definitely are. One cannot be separated from the other and indeed it is the whole milieu of Carnival, calypso/soca and pan which combine and contribute to making Trinidad Carnival, the greatest show on earth.
It is common knowledge that it is the French who first celebrated Carnival in Trinidad as a sort of crop-over festival and as a means of letting off steam, as it were, at the end of every sugarcane harvest.
This was copied by the African slaves and has now become intertwined in the culture of T&T.
Therefore, to condemn participation in Carnival is to condemn our historical antecedents and is a slap in the face of our cultural formation. The masquerade has always been a time for the expression of our creative and artistic genius and the accompanying revelry has also become endemic hitherto. What has caused some concern is the apparent nakedness into which some aspect of the costuming has tended to descend. That being the case, one must be cognisant of the fact that freedom of expression is enshrined in the Constitution of T&T, so it boils down to one's individual choice of artistic expression.
I see the Catholic initiative as an expression of free choice in a democracy; as a form of cultural expression and as a form of going back to roots. Carnival as a cultural expression isn't bound to be the skimpy costumes and wine and jam but indeed can be a form of pure, clean fun.
Where is the devil in all this? Are the thousands of people who participate in carnival each year all evil? I think not. Do you? Wasn't it Karl Marx who opined that, "Religion is the opiate of the people?'' Isn't religion subsumed by culture or is it a chicken and egg situation?
Official statement on Catholic Carnival band - Jan 19, 2011
The Archdiocese of Port of Spain. Media Releases | Friday, 21 January 2011 13:53
Roman Catholics in Trinidad and Tobago have always participated in the Carnival celebrations. That Catholics should now identify themselves as a group and produce a Carnival band must be seen as an effort to impact the festivities in a different way.
The Church has never condemned Carnival. What it has ceaselessly criticised is the degradation brought to the celebrations by lewd and vulgar dancing, dirty calypso lyrics and the over indulgence in alcohol.
Genesis 1- Creation is an opportunity for Catholics to extol family values – making it possible for an entire family be part of the fete – something not easily accomplished in the present Carnival environment.
Some will argue that because of the vulgarity and poor taste that are too often on show, it is better to disengage oneself from Carnival all together. This stance is one way of making a statement about the present environment but it runs the risk of missing the true culprit in all this, which is the society itself and the culture which impacts it.
The Catholic position cannot be that Carnival is of itself evil. The Calypso art form, the steelband and its development have long been associated with the pre-Lenten festivity. In the Trinidad and Tobago setting, Carnival has demonstrated the skill and artistry of its people in the depiction of traditional and contemporary characters and in ole mas bands.
The Church, as an avid supporter of the arts, has always encouraged participation in calypso, pan and mas as is manifested in the carnival productions in its primary and secondary schools. The carnival band can, therefore, be seen as an extension of that support, providing opportunity for the development of the society’s cultural mores.
Catholics constitute a significant part of the country’s population and the Church can find nothing wrong in the band’s initiative which also lends support to the work of artists and leaders of society and religion, who hold a position similar to its own, and have been attempting to restore the weakening moral fabric of the society.
Archbishop Edward Gilbert has approved the initiative of the band as part of an evangelisation outreach. He states: “Evangelisation is not just about praying for others and witnessing to authentic values. It also means being visible in the very competitive pastoral arena, taking prudent risks in the name of the Lord and offering uplifting entertainment alternatives to society.”
Catholic High Mas (Band).
By Corey Gilkes
Trinidad and Tobago News Blog | January 24, 2011
Recently, we heard an announcement that the Catholic Church plans to have a band for the upcoming Carnival celebrations. And, even though Carnival has not yet been officially launched, ting done tun ole mas with that announcement.
According to reports the main organisers claim that they are trying to inject a spiritual element in the Mas which they see as having descended into a public display of tasteless, sexual decadence and drunkenness. Personally, I have very mixed views on this proposed band. On the face of it the idea is good, well-intentioned and frankly what I have seen over the last number of years as “costumes” disgust me to no end. Barring the usual Minshall and MacFarlane and one or two others, by and large the so-called bandleaders have no craft, no originality (unless you actually believe that ancient Romans did look like Las Vegas showgirls), and certainly little knowledge and even less respect for the history and uniqueness of Trinidad’s Mas which was first and foremost street theatre (and political street theatre at that). Furthermore, we have moved – or rather they have taken us – from the ingenuity and creativity of people like the late Cito Velasquez to outsourcing parts of the “costumes” in China. George Bailey must be giddy in his grave by now. So anybody or group that tries to bring something that is NOT that, they have my blind support…
Except when the group is a church group.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I hold the view that the Church should not get involved in something as “carnal” as Carnival and I’ll come to that in a minute; my issue with the Church (or mosque or any religious denomination for that matter) has to do with their ideology (and frankly I don’t completely trust their intentions either). Mind you this is not the first time such a thing has been proposed; for those old enough to remember, a Pentecostal group (I stand to be corrected) attempted the same thing and for the same reasons. And I was sceptical then as I am now.
My suspicion and scepticism stems from the fact that to date the Church has not publicly and properly dealt with the paranoiac fear of sex and women it inherited from Ancient Greece and Rome. In her book The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker quotes one Rev. Dr. Joseph Fletcher who wrote, “The Christian churches must shoulder some of the blame for confusion, ignorance and guilt which surrounds sex in Western culture….[T]he Christian church, from its earliest primitive beginnings, had been swayed by many Puritanical people, both Catholic and Protestant, who have viewed sex as inherently evil.” The historical record is very clear that they did. Of course, it has been dressed-up and presented in a very nice, pure, innocent way because, after all, you catch more flies with honey (look, for instance, at the way women have now become the most vociferous defenders of monogamous exclusive relationships which was an arrangement developed by men to control the women they feared and hated). For all the cloaking that does not and can never change the fact that much of this ethic of “decency” and “morality” and “modesty” they are trying to inject into the Mas had nothing to do with any such thing but came from ancient fears of women and were ideas that were developed to suppress women’s high political and social status. The main weapon used was shame: that is, by making them – much more so than the men – ashamed of their sexuality and erotic power.
My point is that, to date, I have neither seen nor heard the Church publicly acknowledge that it is their skewed, misogynist views of sex that led to the same decadence they now decry; when you repress something, do you not then make it more appealing? When you create or expand on philosophies that objectify women, blame their sexuality for all that is negative in society do you not create a mindset that approaches sex from a standpoint of violence? The Church has done all of this and more, and in so doing, warped the minds of even the Protestant sects that grew out of it; the same Protestant sects that centuries later would send missionaries to Trinidad to take charge of our colonial – and post colonial – schooling and churching.
Which brings me to what really chook mih to write this short piece: the attitude of many Trinis to this venture. I listened to a lot of the comments on radio and on online discussions and overwhelmingly the responses I heard were exactly as I expected them to be – hostile and ignorant. We Trinis are an amazing bunch of people; we joke about and treat lightly very serious things and make immense fuss over things that are often very trite. We are a culture of interesting contradictions and paradoxes; a classless society that is forever trying to instil Eurocentric ideas of class; a society that produced giant intellectuals like Lloyd Best, V.S. Naipaul, John LaRose, C.L.R. James, Lionel Sieukeran, and yet there is no culture of reading or critical thinking (hence the fact that we also like to speak with authority on things we know very little about, particularly when it deals with religion).
It also is most manifest in our approach to the sexual and sensual; the Africa and India in us gave us a society that is bursting with sexual energy that we are forever trying to play down and deny because since our foreparents time we were taught that that is base savagery, lewdness, obscene, indecent (read, uncultured or uncivilised…unlike the British). On a daily basis we interact with each other – often very innocently – in ways that in other countries like Canada and the US we would be instantly arrested or fired for being sexually inappropriate. But that is just how we are and while there should always be some sort of balance, that aspect of our selves should never be stifled apologetically or ashamedly.
Over and over I heard callers argue that what the Church is attempting to do is wrong, is a lowering of itself to the base level, that, “de Church eh have no business in dat,… That is not of god, dais of de flesh, Church is to stay out of that,” etcetera, etcetera,etcetera. Oh please, read already. Ironically, the more pious the pontificating, the more the pontificator showed his paganism…Ok, I’ll stop it now, but the fact is that that way we have learned to draw a firm demarcating line between the spiritual and the physical/carnal came from the ancient Zoroastrian belief system of Persia – in other words from a “pagan” culture. But I will always remember going to a lecture back in 1995 by Dr. Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool in which he said if Jesus were here today he’d be dancing and wining in a Carnival band. Admittedly, given the orgiastic nature of the ancient Jewish Agapae ritual, he may well have done a lot more than wine.
Now I know this may offend some reader’s sensibilities but don’t expect me to make any apologies for that. Too many of us are still holding onto this romanticised image of certain biblical characters, not least of which is the Jesus figure, and it should not be underestimated how profoundly that affects the way we perceive ourselves. There is a prevailing image of the Christ Jesus as an asexual person that is not even in keeping with Jewish culture at that time. This stems from the Greeks and Romans who had a big problem with sex, women, nakedness and the natural world. This discomfort passed on to the early Christian theologians as well as 1st century Jewish religious leaders who were already tainted by Levite Judaic thought.
I am by no means denying that Carnival is about sex. It is and has always been very sexual from its beginnings in Egypt (or further inland for all we know) through the Greeks and Romans who copied it from those Africans of the Nile Valley right up to the present day. The difference lies in how sex is viewed in different cultures. In Africa and related Celtic and Asiatic cultures, it was linked with fertility and rejuvenation, an expression of the pleasure principle that led to new life and thus continuity. For patriarchal Eurasia it was a potentially hostile force that had to be fought, tamed and brought under control. Sex became something that was seen as corrupting, dangerous and sinful because, when viewed in the context of the harsh climatic and living conditions of post-Ice Age Eurasia, it took away from the men’s pursuit of hunting and warfare which was essential to the survival of the clans in that region.
But the average Trini knows nothing of this because we are culturally illiterate and proudly so. Look around in the average library and tell me how many people are there on a daily basis. Most of the few who are there are in the place only because they have some test or assignment to hustle down. And for those who want to argue that the internet makes libraries unnecessary the reality is that for all this instant access to information people are reading and reasoning http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifless, not more. And that is manifested in our school system, in the standards of Kaiso, Soca, popular music, political and religious discourse and Mas design.
So, to borrow from an old Kaiso, if de priest want to play, who is me? Let him go right ahead, but as far as I’m concerned ONLY after he has come to terms with his issues of sex. Because it is he who placed society in the mess that it is in, all the Mas has done is reflect that.
Sack cloth and ashes for Carnival.
By Courtenay Bartholomew
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Feb 22, 2011 at 11:45 PM ECT
Three days ago Brother Mudada, a vintage calypsonian for whom I have always had a great admiration, dropped in for a chat. We talked about whether the original calypso art is dying and about the old days when calypsonians were not only singing bards but also unique characters with their individual sobriquets, styles and charismas.
Those were the days when if one sang anything thought to be too suggestive, the tent audience would boo him off the stage sans humanité, not to talk about any crude and vulgar actions as were disturbingly seen in the Soca Monarch semi-finals last week. But a good calypso was always greeted with "Kaiso, Kaiso."
A favourite of Mudada, Cypher, for example, was one of those characters who, as he appeared on stage with his arms in the air and comical facial expression, the audience would burst into spontaneous laughter — even before he began to sing. It was good, clean theatre. There were many others who never sang bawdy calypsoes, relying on their witty lyrics and melodious tunes. In fact, Carnival pyong as I once was, and an admirer of great talent in whatever field, I was Melody's, Dougla's, Saldenah's and Ken Morris' good friend and also doctor. However, these great artistes neither made nor sought large sums of money from their creativity and artwork. We were such nicer people before the age of methanol and gas!
Not so today. Carnival is now frenzied music and big business ($3,500 a skimpy costume for two days only, expensive all-exclusive fetes, bank loans for you know whom, and then "reality Wednesday"). Starting on Christmas night, the party mentality, unlike even in Brazil, pervades throughout the year and fete, fete and more fete is our national fetish and creed.
Long ago it was mainly "the boys" who played in so-called "historical bands," but today the imported monotonous and skimpy outfit, lacking in traditional originality, is the predominant culture, catering to the vanity of the female revellers, who "come out to play," with its inevitable carnal effect on men (and women). Moreover, everyday we are inappropriately exposed in the media to lewd colour photographs of men "dancing" (is that the word?) intimately behind women and women with women. These are the daily pictorial lessons for young and old. Yet we are shocked when we read about the goings-on in some schools! Indeed, writing in the Guardian, Theo Ferguson complained: "What are we the adults in our society role-modelling to the children who are watching?"
Soca artistes, today's role models and icons, are now allowed to perform in schools, including the so-called prestige ones, not to mention the school children's calypso king and queen competitors with their high-pitched and force-ripe voices, sadly trying to mimic the adult culture and with songs not self-composed. It is an Afro-Trinidadian thing!
But the Indo-Trinidadian community is fast catching up with the rest (including the white community). Writing in the Express with the headline What has chutney music come to?, Fatimah Ali was disgusted: "There are songs about rum, horn, and the degradation of women. Millions of dollars are spent on "artistes'' who sing nothing beneficial, interesting or uplifting to society. Chutney music lacks sense, morality and everything good." In Newsday, under the headline Degrading rum songs, Dr Errol Benjamin also complained: "I do have a problem when such songs and vulgar images in the media are foisted upon us and our children." It is called multiculturalism!
But for decades the slogan of politicians has been "serve the people, serve the people, serve the people — with Carnival" to the extent that it is now recommended that it should take place three times a year! Alarmingly also, this year's Monarchs' one-song $2 million prize (fodder for certain activists) also financially equates songs with good lyrics with embarrassingly inane ones. Such is the voice of too many people.
Lots may have clean fun, but overall today's Carnival season has a very negative social effect. Moreover, various leaders of our society, some indiscreetly so, are promoting condoms claiming to acknowledge that sex is now what the season is all about. But should it, really? Brazil's health officials, for example, will distribute 55 million condoms for Carnival this year with the slogan: "The condom for love, passion or just sex"! But as Tina Turner sang: "What's love got to do with it?" Significantly, Brazil, particularly Rio, has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the southern hemisphere just as we have the largest number in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Coincidence?
We now live in a climate of fear with untold numbers of rapes, road carnages, kidnapping, and with the Caribbean's highest corruption rate. Moreover, with over 500 murders per year, T&T is one of the world's most violent countries. What then is there to dance and prance about? Some may even say that all bands this year should be dressed in sack cloth and ashes like the people of Nineveh once did in Old Testament times!
Indeed, many believe that today's Carnival culture is the major factor behind our behavioural decadence. It is headlined that "the country is in crisis," and there are those who fear that we will soon reap what we have sown. Meanwhile, some well-meaning Catholics think that they can "convert" this entrenched asocial trend with a well-clothed band. But didn't Minshall do that long ago and eventually chose to opt out of this new and artless environment?
Finally, Time magazine of February 3, has called our Carnival "one of the greatest debaucheries in the western hemisphere with scantily clad bodies in a gyrating style of dancing called 'wining'." This is how low we have sunk in the eyes of the international press. But who is listening or reading?
• Prof Courtenay Bartholomew is UWI's first professor of medicine and director of the Medical Research Centre
Beyond the Carnival mentality.
By Richard Braithwaite
Trinidad Express Newsapaers | Feb 23, 2011 at 11:40 PM ECT
Now that the furore surrounding the so-called Catholic Carnival band has subsided somewhat, it may be useful to look at some other aspects of the event that Christ himself may have found "upful and right'' as the Rastafarians would say. Despite the derision that is often implied in the term "Carnival mentality'', the approach to the annual celebration could provide guidance for those who seek solutions to some of our more persistent social problems.
Recently the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism made the claim that Carnival is a period with high levels of productivity. He is correct. In an earlier article, I suggested that students in management studies may wish to do research into the production methods employed in preparing for the various events and competitions. Admittedly there are some hiccups along the way but when the lights go on everything is in place and the criticism that "any time is Trinidad time'' seems to fly out the window.
There appears to be a consensus for instance, that the recent Soca Monarch semi-finals event at Arima was an almost flawless production. Notwithstanding the sub-standard quality of some artistes, the annual soca and chutney competitions continue to attain higher levels of professionalism especially in terms of marketing and stage management.
By the time Carnival Monday arrives, thousands of costumes would have been delivered and many of them are still made or assembled locally. The presentations of some of the smaller and more traditional bands reflect a meticulous and painstaking devotion to detail that would make any CEO or production manager proud. Even the Kiddies' Carnival presentations showcase an impressive display of imagination and creativity that is inextricably linked to the "Carnival mentality''.
Panorama contains even more examples of diligence, teamwork and creativity. The real "value-added'' is not so much in the performances on stage but the many long hours of rehearsal in panyards across the country. For those who maintain that the youth, especially in so-called "at risk'' communities, are largely incorrigible, a visit to panyards from deep south to the far east may provide some pleasant surprises. On Panorama day, at the appropriate time and at the appropriate venue, the stands and all the facilities are in place. Rehearsals have been completed and the bands are assembled...pans painted and tuned and jerseys printed and distributed.
An extraordinary work ethic prevails at Carnival time that belies the popular image of bacchanal and self-indulgence. Even the swift and thorough clean-up of the city on Ash Wednesday reflects the phenomenon. In mas camps, panyards, band rooms and calypso tents productivity rises to unprecedented levels. Corporate T&T may wish to ask itself why it cannot get similar production in the workplace and may wish to explore the concept of shared values and the importance of having a common vision.
Another aspect of Carnival that merits some analysis is its impact on social capital. There are numerous definitions of social capital but there is an acceptance that it is a source of "wealth'' that can be exploited to generate returns for the society, financial and otherwise.
In his seminal work on the relationship between steelband and community development which he called "School in Pan'', the late Lloyd Best suggested that the steelband movement had the potential to generate a range of socio-economic benefits.Whether it is defined as "the ability of people to work together for common purposes in groups and organisations'' (Fukuyama) or "the ability to secure benefits by virtue of membership in social networks or other social structures'' (Portes), social capital is seen as a key component in promoting "a culture of trust and tolerance'' (Inglehart). Despite the cleavages that plague the society, there are many Carnival activities that increase social capital. This opens up a range of possibilities for meaningful social intervention and community mobilisation, especially at the youth level.
Earlier I indicated that the Carnival period offers considerable scope for research into prevailing management practices and production methods.
Sociologists and political analysts can also find valuable material for research especially in the lyrical content of the more popular calypsoes. Even those calypsoes that may receive the toilet paper treatment can provide useful insights. The annual fare that is served by calypsonians has always been a barometer, albeit limited, for gauging the public mood. How should one interpret Benjai asking a capacity audience "Where all you from?" and the loud and ecstatic response is "Trinidad and Tobago! I'm a Trini, a Trini, proud Trini".
If nothing else, the issue of the Catholic band has re-emphasised that in the Carnival mansion, there are many rooms. Not all is vulgar and demeaning and there are aspects that Jesus himself would have enjoyed. If he walked the earth at the time, he would probably have found himself in Jouvert chipping along with Renegades to the strains of "In a Monastery Garden'' or Highlanders' rendition of "Let ev'ry valley be exalted''.
As the sun rose slowly over the Laventille hills he would have turned to the multitude around him and recalled the words of Psalm 98... "make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth, make a loud noise and rejoice''.
• Richard Braithwaite is a
management consultant and social impact analyst
Not surprised at small Catholic band.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Saturday, February 26 2011
THE EDITOR: We are now getting reports in the media, and in announcements at weekend Catholic Masses, that registration for membership and costumes in the Catholic Carnival Band has been disappointingly low, so low in fact that the price of costumes has been reduced to just $500. In addition, a desperately fervent plea is being made for parishioners to come forward and join the Band.
The failure of this product to attract patronage is not surprising, given the way in which it has been marketed; that is: no alcohol, no sensuous music, no sensuous dancing, no scanty costumes. In other words, this just could not be a serious Carnival band for Trinidad and Tobago masqueraders; its lack of popular appeal was scripted from the beginning. No doubt that is probably why, at the very outset, His Grace the Archbishop had offered the perceptive observation that, while being well-meaning, the venture was a risky one.
One could go much further and say that, not only was it risky, it was downright imprudent, to say the least! After all, if as a Church you want to bring about some degree of moral and spiritual conversion in the manner in which people play mas’ in this society, one would have thought that the most prudent way to go about it would have been to embark on a serious well-conceived pastoral programme of prayer and preaching at the level of the Catholic Parishes, the Catholic Schools, Youth Groups, Ecclesial Communities, and the Catholic Media of Mass Communications, all of this together with some effort at collaborating with other Christian denominations, the Inter-Religious Organisation, and other like-minded bodies in civil society, many of whom have been publicly calling for some measure of reform in regard to the flagrant vulgarity undermining the social and moral tone of our Carnival.
Our Lord Jesus has warned that “unless the Lord builds those who build labour in vain”! So that it is important to remember that true moral and spiritual conversion is not to be accomplished by mere human secular effort. This conversion is a sacred grace of divine intervention to be won only through unceasingly humble obedient prayer by those who truly believe and respect Almighty God.
Catholic Church launches mas band [Video]
A Note From The Gull
The reason why I can afford to take all this very lightly is that I am aware of other more serious church-related issues that need to be addressed. I also do not believe that any church is the only or the best authority on the realization of full human potential on this plane. Like all man-dominated organisations, religions exhibit both the flaws and the virtues of their creators. They continue to destroy as well as to create, to amuse as well as to disgust. If you, as Roman Catholics, want to belong so badly, you have, like faithful sports fans everywhere, to make the decision to love and trust your Church, warts and all. I have little patience with members of any organisation who find the programming untenable and yet won't change the channel or cannot think to switch off the television and go outside for a walk in the Creator's free and fresh air.
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.
Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.
Mweh ka allay!
Roman Catholic Church, Carnival, Catholic Masquerade, Christianity, Church-sanctioned Carnival band, What Would Jesus Do?, Trinidad and Tobago, Genesis I - Creation