The manager of a popular Crop Over band is warning that the high cost of Kadooment costumes is driving locals away from participating in the big jump-up.
The caution had come from Jason Zeddo, of Fantasy, who called for Government assistance to make costumes more affordable for Barbadians.
“When I did my research, I found that the number of locals has dropped significantly. Every year it is dropping by the hundreds. We are saying ‘oh, Crop Over is getting bigger, they’re a lot more international revellers’. Yes, a lot more people are coming from overseas, but the ones that are coming are actually replacing the locals that have dropped out from playing mas on Kadooment Day,” he contended in an interview with Barbados TODAY.
“The numbers for Kadooment in 2009 [were] at 20,000 masqueraders. Last year in 2016, it was 11,000. That means there was a 9,000 drop in people playing mas. That’s a big drop!”
Reacting to the recent announcement that the Barbados Association of Masqueraders (BAM) would receive a $50,000 increase in its subvention this year, Zeddo said that was a step in the right direction, but insisted that a lot more needed to be done to keep prices low enough to attract revellers.
“Obviously someone in Government has an ear and we have someone’s attention, but we still need to do a lot more in concessions and bringing in items and so on. I would hope that Government realizes how much money bandleaders are leaking out every year to make this festival a success, in terms of the worldwide recognition it’s getting now,” he said.
“We need some support from the Government. Around Crop Over, all the hotels are full. You can’t find a hired car in Barbados in the week leading up to Kadooment. Everyone is eating piece of the pie; the bandleaders want to eat some as well.”
Earlier this week, during the annual Crop Over media briefing, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley promised to address some of the issues raised by BAM, including the slow pace of benefits being accessed under the Cultural Industries Development Act, which was designed to alleviate several of the masqueraders’ concerns, including the importation of the inputs for costumes.
“I want to have that particular part of the legislation resonating and creating the benefits in the shortest possible time,” Lashley had said.
Zeddo, in response, argued that there should be no more delay.
“If something isn’t going to happen soon, Crop Over as we know it is going to die, because bandleaders are going to run out of money and they are going to say they can’t afford to bring a band anymore,” he cautioned.
He told Barbados TODAY that as a band manager, he was playing his part this year to ensure that prices are not out of reach of Barbadian revellers.
“Our least expensive costume is US$367.50 (BDS$735) – that’s for our backlines; that’s affordable. I can strongly say we have one of the least expensive backlines. What me and my designer have done this year, we have tried to make the band a lot more affordable especially for locals,” he explained.
“I have turned the backline into a midline [and] give you . . . at a backline cost, but then I’ve brought in a whole new backline and priced it at US$367.50, which is very affordable. So, instead of a masquerader saying ‘I can’t afford a costume’ and staying at the side of the road, they can jump,” Zeddo added, saying that the band was getting great response from locals.
Fellow bandleader Anthony Layne, of Kontact, said he too ensured that his costumes remained reasonably priced, especially for Barbadians.
“We have maintained our costume prices for the last three years or so. We have costumes . . . around BDS$600. Our prices are quite reasonable,” he said, stressing that Barbadians should not be forgotten as they are the ones who carry the festival.
“When the overseas people can’t come for whatever reason or the other, then you would have to depend on the locals. It’s very much a local event, more so than for outsiders. We want the outsiders to come, yes, but it’s also very important that the locals attend as well. In comparison to previous year, the locals have dropped off,” Layne said, supporting Zeddo’s argument.