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Signal II Noise talks Trinidad Carnival

GOOD TIMES: Festival-goers in Trinidad

ONE OF the essential “to do” things that hasn’t yet panned out is to play Mas at Trinidad Carnival. I’m talking full ensemble – out there in the streets with paint, powder and whatever else is in the ingredients of a great carnival experience.

I’ve only ever done that once for the purpose of great radio and even then I had clauses in my contract that I exercised. Not too much nakedness and not too many feathers.

But in all seriousness, carnival is part of my DNA, from my early visits to Notting Hill with my father back in the day to causing musical damage on the sound systems in and round Ladbroke Grove in 2018. However, I have never had the chance to do it in the streets of Port of Spain, Trinidad.

What makes this even worse is that I’ve had invites from some of the kings of those streets. Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and Kes have all extended invitations to experience the delights of the T&T party season.

Unfortunately, this year was the same story – a Seani no show – but after a long carnival season I hooked up with a trusted radio colleague, Joel Morris, aka Signal II Noise, from Slam 100.5FM in Trinidad.

Tired and slightly weary on a Sunday morning he was still keen to tell me what went down and what were the hot songs from this year’s season. Slam, alongside numerous other stations, do a 100 per cent switchover to soca music with a two month run up to carnival in support of the music and artists.

“It really helps with the atmosphere in the country. When you hear the music, the artist interviews and the campaigns it really makes you know it’s carnival,” he tells me. “This is also the way the Road March songs are built alongside the social media campaigns.”


Signal behind the decks

I started to notice the push for the Trinidad Carnival songs appearing at the beginning of the year, but Signal explains how they actually start with what happens at Barbados Crop Over, Grenada and St Lucia Carnival: “Music from Nadia Batson and Farmer Nappy were some of the songs that started from very early, then you had music from Voice, 2nd Star and Nailah Blackman penetrating the market. Then, in December, the like of Machel, Kes and Destra dropped their music.”

One of the tracks that got me really excited from this year’s batch of big songs was Skinny Fabulous, Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin’s Famalay, as previously highlighted in this column. From my first listen I knew this had the Road March title for 2019, and Signal agreed.
STRATEGY

“When Famalay came out, it was like an instant hit. What Machel did this year was to perform a lot more at events than he usually would to help fuel this song and his concerts. Machel always has a strategy,” he adds.

Running second in the Road March competition to Famalay was Kes’ Savannah Grass, but another epic song was Soca Monarch champ Mr Killa with Run Wid It. This became a bit of a viral song online, with even the Trinidadian police issuing a warning that criminal charges will be brought to anyone acting out the lyrics to the song, which was picking up someone else’s property and running with it…

Signal tells me: “Whenever the music is good the carnival is always better, but what was surprising was the event turnouts for a longer season than usual. Due to expense a long season can sometimes affect attendance numbers, but not this year. At the end of last year there was a lot of redundancies at high-level jobs. Lots of people got big payouts which left many with extra cash to spend this year.”

I found that an interesting, yet confusing fact, but Signal explains: “Carnival in Trinidad is a cultural ting, it’s part of who we are, it’s within our DNA, it’s a feeling and emotion. There are people that live for that all year round, regardless of finance.”

He adds: “I would say 60 to 70 per cent of the country gets involved in the carnival, which is really huge for a country that holds 1.4million people. Even the gospel fraternity get
involved – they have a spiritual and religious band that go on the road.”

But Signal does see room for growth from a tourism stand-point. “There are people that live for carnival all year”

He tells me he hasn’t seen growth within the international mainstream for an event that is so adored and loved.

“When you look at the people coming in, it’s really just people from the diaspora. People that would have migrated or their children coming home. It’s something that we have
to be cautious about because when you look at islands like Jamaica and what they are doing for their carnival it seems to attract external visitors.

“Why is that? It’s because they do tourism well. Trinidad is oil and gas – tourism is not our thing.”

CULTURE

Signal also talked about the need of keeping the carnival culture at home in Trinidad and how the manufacturing of out ts, steel pans and everything else from this rich and vibrant part of Trinidadian culture needs to be exported and not imported.
This sounds like a familiar theme and would need a double page spread to transcribe that part of our conversation.

What I can say though is Trinidad has kicked off the season of carnival in ne style!
Keep locked into This Is BrukOut as we make our way around the carnivals of the world and report back in. And who knows, I may even get to go and have some fun at one or two of them...(not very likely!).

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