Carnival period is over, and Gio has very strong opinions on a few things that need to improve in future Carnivals. Do you agree with his ratings?
Carnival is certainly the biggest party Haiti has to offer. It is no surprise that many Haitians living abroad make the trip every year, even twice a year for the past 3 years to take part in the festivities. It is also a major economic opportunity for some, and a stage for young creators to showcase their creativities through beautiful costumes, masks and floats. For young artists seeking popularity, Carnival has proven to be one of the biggest platforms to gain exposure in Haiti.
Despite all the positive aspects of the Carnival and Kanaval des Fleurs the festivities and parades have not changed much throughout the years. Many issues, mistakes and failures have marked each and every year. I would like to point out the good and the bad of the latest Carnival, and the various aspects and organizers who determine the success of the event. I will not be rating any individual band’s performance here. That is not my objective. That will also spare me the need to explain the long list of reasons why I think Boukman Eksperyans is the “champion” this year. My ratings are based only on my perception. I am also not comparing our Carnival to other countries’, I base it on my understanding of what we are trying to achieve.
The Organizing Committee
Planning and Execution ★☆☆☆☆
Poor planning, lack of innovation, delays are just a few of a long list of repeated failures.
Not much, if any, has changed in the way the parade is organized, and nothing is done in preparation for a growing crowd. Very little is done to ensure safety, and the tragic accident that prompted the early end of the Carnival is just one aspect of the many repeating issues that could have been easily prevented. There are serious issues of concern including unsafe electric wires, over packed floats, dangerous proximity of the revelers to the moving trucks, policemen with long rifles in the crowd, etc. From what I can tell, no real emergency plan is in place, and all of Champs de Mars is at great risk of fire during Carnival.
There is a slight improvement in the way that Carnival is promoted by the involved authorities under the Martelly administration. However, our carnival remains poorly showcased outside of Haiti. Lastly, I find it unfair that the organizing committee does not have a platform to reward those who put so much effort into creating the beautifully crafted costumes that we see during the parade, especially in Jacmel, or those whose immense talent deliver amazing carnival songs, amazingly courageous live musical performances for 3 days straight every year.
The Street Performers
The creativity of Haitian Carnival costumes has always amazed me. And given the limited resources available to the creators of these masterpieces, it makes them even more valuable. Without a doubt, Haiti is a culturally rich country and the Carnival is the biggest representation of this immeasurable fortune. Those of us who have had the chance to witness parade up close can attest to the fine details of these beautifully crafted costumes, representing our glorious past and folklore. Unfortunately, the committee and the media have done little justice to those who create and wear them with great pride.
It is quite amazing to see the performance that is produced by these performers. Despite the limited resources available to them and their relegation to a secondary role in Carnival by the local media and the committee itself, one can only celebrate their courage and determination in the execution of their performances, including elaborated folkloric dances throughout the course. Perhaps if the performers were given an appropriate amount or space, prevent the interruption of the overwhelming crowd (which, once again would require better planning from the organizers) people would finally be able to see and appreciate this exhilarating aspect of Carnival.
Carnival Songs ★★☆☆☆
Live Performances ★★★☆☆
Haitian artists and bands put a lot of effort into brewing the magic product that is the Carnival song. It is these anthems that get much needed exposure for newcomers. Years after year, the more popular music groups tend to wait until the last moment to release their songs. I find this disrespectful to the public and their ever loyal fans. With the exception of a few, the vast majority of bands and solo artists, veterans to newbies, make no effort to include the Carnival theme that the committee establishes every year. Perhaps this is because of the committee’s incapacity to enforce their rules (the few that exist, at least) or maybe this is due to the difficulty to be creative within the confines of the already chosen theme. At best, the groups will randomly throw in a line, quoting the slogan for the year. I have also realized that good lyrics and positive messages are slowly disappearing, making place for demeaning, harmful and misogynistic songs. In the weeks leading up to Carnival, several student Carnival and kids Carnival events are held throughout the country. Most of the performing bands have a decent and suitable Carnival anthem appropriate to play for these children events. But since there is no functional censorship system in Haiti, we accept this, and without realizing that we are failing the younger generation, letting the chant “Yo manyen madan Beto” resound throughout our schools, from third graders to teenagers.
For those selected to participate in the much anticipated 3 day carnival parade, the task is huge. They have to entertain a public made up of extremely savvy Konpa fans, and avid music consumers. Most bands play live music nonstop for up to 8 hours on a moving float. The public is very demanding, and will not tolerate the use of prerecorded insruemntals or playbacks, insisting on live music for the parade. The performances speak for themselves, the reaction of the public upon hearing the first notes is one of pure euphoria. Nonetheless, some groups are handpicked to participate in the Carnival parade each year, despite their repeated lack of preparation and the ensuing disappointment of the crowd. One aspect that tarnishes Carnival is the fact that the rivalry between some bands have led to a contest of pure bullying and public shaming leaving aside the spirit of the festivities. After the last street performers have left the parade, you barely see any costumes. The allegorical floats are the only reminder that you are assisting an actual carnival. The floats are barely customized or decorated for the event. All the energy is concentrated into packing the most decibels possible. The space on top of the floats is usually occupied by a crowd of fans, packed on top in like in a metro wagon during rush hour in China, who are there basically to show off their privileged friendships with the featured band. Sponsor’s t-shirts have become the ultimate Carnival costume and everyone is okay with it.
The Mainstream Media
The following points summarize my sentiment regarding the coverage of the National Carnival by the local Haitian mainstream media
- Poor reporting in terms of technical skills and quality.
- Amateurish commenting and interviewing.
- Unethical and unprofessional broadcasting behaviors. I want to point out, among other lesser apparent incidents, the live TV broadcast featuring a bottomless young woman crowd surfing in front of the Barikad Crew’s float. The TV camera focuses on this scene for a long time. as I, the cameraman is lost in a moment of passionate voyeurism. At no time point did it seem that the production crew was aware of this scene’s inappropriateness for the general audience that this broadcast was intended for.
As a last point, I find that the notion of a “Champion” among the performing bands at Carnival that the Haitian media has established, which is well accepted among the fans, is poorly developed and mostly biased. To determine a winner, I believe we need first to know what rules apply and how the participants will be rated. Unless we have these clear guidelines, this is not a fair competition. These ambiguous standards only fuel this culture of the bands pushing the boundaries of ethics in an attempt to gain more followers, and win this insane contest of bullying and public shaming.