Masquerade bandleaders have described the just-ended Crop Over season as challenging, with funding being a major issue.
Zulu International’s Andre Wharton said even though his organization was guaranteed funding from its directors, cricketing stars Sulieman Benn and Dwayne Smith, the prevailing economic circumstances had taken a toll on the group in terms of local participation in the masquerade band.
In fact, Wharton said most of their revellers this year came from overseas.
“Bands are seemingly more dependent on the international customers. Most of us are 60, 70 per cent international customers . . . and that is something we want to change going forward.”
However, he acknowledged that with the Barbados economy as it is, “persons are looking at their spend and how much they can afford to spend on certain elements.
“That is one of the things we will be looking at next year to see how we can produce a quality product and still put it in the price range so Barbadians can feel they can be part of the overall experience,” Wharton added.
Kevin Small, the bandleader of Fifth Element, also said the economic situation had impacted his numbers.
“It [economic situation] certainly did, but however, I think we would have done our utmost best to deliver a fantastic product. [We had] 79 members [this year]. It’s a slight decrease from last year. That’s expected with what we are talking about as a band . . . the economy,” he said during Monday’s Crop Over grand finale.
Leader of Power X Four Next Generation Chetwyn Stewart also expressed concern that “the numbers at Grand Kadooment are getting smaller and smaller every year.
“The quality of the mas might be improving, but we had less people.
“In 2013, we had 20,000 on the road, last year we only had 11,000. So we need to bring the locals back out,” Stewart explained, adding that costume prices were proving to be too high for locals.
As far as his band was concerned, Stewart was satisfied that he was able to attract 400 revellers on the road this year after being in transition from 2016.
However, he hopes to improve on that showing next year.
“Yes, it [economic situation] impacted on life on the whole. That is expected,” said Stewart, who is also president of the Barbados Association of Masqueraders (BAM) .
Meanwhile, the Leader of Wednesday 2000 Mackie Holder told Barbados TODAY he feared what next Crop Over would be like given the “pain” he said he experienced this year.
“Economically it is a tough year and that makes it tough for everything. The tax [National Social Responsibility Levy] in the middle of Crop Over is a real pain,” said Holder, who is secretary of the BAM, while pointing out that some masquerade bands did not even make it to Grand Kadooment.
“But you know what, it is like life. Some of us die . . . some of us are born. So some new players will come in, but, as you see, with one of the new players or a couple of them this year, it is not as easy as it seems, because they didn’t get off the mark. So we will see how it goes,” he stressed.
Holder however rejected suggestions that the Foreday Morning Jam was affecting the overall participation in Grand Kadooment, while pointing out that there were dropouts from Foreday Morning as well.
The leader of Erup The Band Hakeem Fergusson said there was need to look at the base of the festival.
“It definitely was a challenging year this year. A lot of prices have been high this year. Even getting into Barbados has been very expensive. And we have like 80 or 90 per cent of our people from overseas. So you know a lot of people from overseas are crying, not only the local people,” Fergusson said, while warning that Barbados must not price itself out of the market, given that carnivals were emerging in other Caribbean islands, such as Jamaica and St Lucia.
“People are opting to go to those destinations because they are much cheaper,” he said. However, in response, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, who was among revellers on the road Kadooment Day argued that there were various pricing points for Crop Over.
“The variety of Crop Over gives the answer to that. You have Foreday Morning where you have miniature bands, bigger bands on offer, offering different prices to different people. That is really how it should be. The market determines that,” Lashley told Barbados TODAY while stressing the need for bandleaders to offer high quality service. “I think that the most important aspect of Crop Over and all the other various events is not only about enjoyment, it is about creating niches of business and offering quality service that persons would want to come back.
“The bands and events that offer quality service will see a return of those who are serious about enjoying good service and will reward persons who promote events with good service,” the Minister of Culture stressed.
While bandleaders were complaining about numbers, Lashley was not. In fact, he suggested that Crop Over had grown significantly this year, adding that he expects it to be even bigger and better come 2018.
Some 24 bands paraded through the National Stadium on Monday on their way to Spring Garden, including a guest band from Guadeloupe Point d’ Interrogation.
The jam was marred by several reports of violence, including a shooting incident that left one man dead and 20 people nursing gunshot wounds.
Police today suggested the incident, which had put a damper over the overall festival, was the result of gang violence.