Has Soca Royale grown to be a big enough fete to be split into two events – one for Party Monarch and another for Sweet Soca – so audiences could have two separate occasions to revel in different genres of calypso?
If the tens of thousands who crowded Bushy Park on August 30 for the traditional joint billing that saw RPB navigate rough seas to the Party Monarch 2017 title, and Lil Rick energize the multitude on his way to defending his Sweet Soca crown are anything to go by, then the answer is a resounding “yes!”.
But the debate now rages, and Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley has wisely taken neither side as he acknowledged the divide between the “splitters” who want two fetes, and the “traditionalists” who love a crowded jump-up all in one.
“There is a mixed bag of reactions from both the entertainment community and the public at large,” Lashley noted on Saturday at the Hilton Resort where the National Cultural Foundation dished out awards for Crop Over 2017 volunteers and outstanding performers.
“The idea to table a proposal for change came about as a result of the current music trends towards Sweet Soca and Bashment Soca, in addition to the trends in attendance at the venues. Emotions aside, I am certain that the eventual discussions will take an objective analysis of the pros and cons of either option, with the intent of improving on our festival products,” he said.
While the splitters and traditionalists put a rhythm to their battle that hopefully ends before the 2018 festival, the just concluded season can boast a number of already made changes.
Among those, Lashley spoke about the movement from the annual King and Queen of the Crop awards that usually go to the most efficient sugar cane reapers.
The Minister reflected that the 2017 change was owed to the increased use, over the years, of machines for crop reaping in the sugar industry, thereby reducing the number of human cutters and loaders.
As a result, NCF switched to a new system of honouring workers in the entire sugar industry.
Two outstanding workers in the manufacturing of sugar at the factory level were honoured – Cedric Eastmond and Francine Belgrave.
“In 2018, a different category of worker will be honoured and, over time, an array of workers across the industry will be rewarded for their efforts,” Lashley explained.
Speaking of a new flavour added to the bus excursions, Lashley said they will also be available out of the festival season as the objective has always been “to make it into a sustainable heritage tourism product”.
“And so, with the help of the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, the bus tour Bittersweet Stories of Sugar: Molasses and Rum will soon be a regular feature of the available activities for tourists,” the Minister added.
Barbados’ hosting of the 13th Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA XIII) almost immediately after Crop Over produced a continuous festival atmosphere and another year-round benefit that could be attributed to the season.
“The reopening of Queen’s Park House and Queen’s Park Gallery for CARIFESTA XIII means that the Visual Arts Exhibition will have a new home or will return home for Crop Over 2018.
“With heritage tourism as a focus, and the popularity of the Crop Over heritage products on a continued rise, the NCF has been collaborating on the reproduction/staging of these types of events outside of the Crop Over period,” he said.
Perhaps inspired by RPB‘s Boat Ride, NCF chairperson Maureen Graham struck a sailing theme during last weekend’s awards bash.
“If we liken the music, visual arts and masquerade competitions to ports of call on this Crop Over journey, then this evening we have reached our final port or destination for 2017. Here, we will reward and salute you, the champions that have joined us at each port along the way,” she said in welcoming a packed conference room to the awards ceremony that she described as “an event that twins the celebration of achievements for the season with an appreciation of all those who make this possible”.
“Congratulations on a job well done. You are deserving of your accolades,” she said to the festival awardees before they trooped on stage for recognition.
“Rest a while, but not for long. The next cruise to Crop Over 2018 is already preparing to set sail.”