It’s back to Friday for the Pic-O-De Crop calypso finals.
And even though reigning Calypso Monarch Ian iWeb Webster is yet to decide whether or not he will defend his crown, he immediately gave the thumbs up to the National Cultural Foundation’s (NCF) announcement today that after consulting with stakeholders, the island’s biggest calypso competition would revert to the final Friday, instead of the final Saturday leading up to the annual Crop Over climax in Grand Kadooment.
“I am delighted. I don’t know why it was moved in the first place,” he told Barbados TODAY following the announcement which came as music to the ears of reigning the calypso king.
He explained that Pic-O-De-Crop finals on Friday not only held traditional value for Barbadians, but made good business sense for artistes.
“What it now allows is for persons like myself that have party songs that are doing well to leave Pic-O-De-Crop and work. Last year and the years when it was held on Saturdays, you couldn’t do any fetes and you could not do gigs because you had to preserve your vocals for the competition. But on Friday it is the last competition, you can do your gigs and enjoy Foreday Mornin’.
“I have never enjoyed Fore Day Mornin’ [so] I am happy; very, very happy,” he said.
The reigning calypso monarch, who previously won the title in 2013 and 2014 and who has already generated significant interest with this year’s offerings, including M.I.A and Best In Me, was however unable to say whether the change would convince him to defend his 2017 crown.
iWeb, who is also a finalist in this year’s Party Monarch and Sweet Soca contests, said he would make the announcement next week.
“By next Friday I will definitely announce what I intend to do,” he told Barbados TODAY.
In 2014, the finals had to be pushed back by 24 hours as a precaution against Tropical Storm Bertha which threatened the island with heavy showers and winds.
The following year, the then Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, announced that the change would be permanent, with the popular Foreday Mornin’ Jam and Pic-O-De-Crop finals taking place on separate days.
That year, there were 54 bands registered for Foreday Mornin’ compared to 37 so far this year, with Lashley suggesting that “so phenomenal has been the growth that it is now abundantly clear that it is necessary for this event to be held on a separate day in order to allow for more efficient and effective management of this event”.
He also said at the time that notwithstanding the fact that the 2014 decision to postpone the Pic-O-De-Crop finals was in reaction of impending bad weather, “we had an opportunity to give this a test run. And after consultation with our stakeholders, we have decided that in 2015, Foreday Mornin’ Jam will be held on Friday, July 31, and the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals will take place on Saturday, August 1”.
However, following the May 24 general elections in which Lashley’s Democratic Labour Party was swept from power and a new minister – former calypso monarch John King – has taken control of the NCF, the organizers seem to have had a major change of heart.
This time around, once the 2018 calypso monarch is crowned on Friday August 3, revellers will take to the streets at 1 a.m. for the popular Foreday Mornin’ Jam, which will end at 7 a.m. on Saturday, August 4. While assuring patrons that all tickets previously purchased for the Pic-O-De Crop Final would remain valid. The NCF said this change was expected to have a favourable impact on the annual Bridgetown Market, which will offer patrons extended hours this year, running from noon on Saturday, August 4 to 5 a.m. on Sunday August 5.
The market will reopen on 2 p.m. until midnight on Sunday and end on Monday, August 6, after Grand Kadooment.
In the meantime, the recently introduced room rate levy may well be the straw that broke the backs of Grand Kadooment bandleaders, some of whom are complaining about cancellations from their regular overseas patrons this season, since the additional tax took effect on July1.
Head of the Barbados Association of Masqueraders (BAM) Chetwyn Stewart told Barbados TODAY the levy had made the already high cost of playing mas in Barbados higher, during a time when tourists were finding better value for money from other carnivals across the region.
“The new levy is just one of many things that would affect the festival. When you add all of these things together, the impact is really telling because Barbados is already expensive,” Stewart said.
However, the BAM president’s solution to the problem was not a removal of the tax but rather an upgrade of the festival so that visitors could feel as if they were paying a premium price for a premium product.
“The reason why we are getting a big hit is because we have not paid enough attention to the Crop Over brand,” he lamented.
“So a lot of other countries have caught up with Barbados because they are putting attention into their carnival because they value the overseas money that it brings in. So you find places like Jamaica and Vincy Mas [St Vincent carnival] being more appealing and it has gotten to a stage where people just decide to skip Barbados because the price has gotten so high,” Stewart said.
“At the end of day even if you have a product that costs a little more, as long as it is good, people will come. Barbados has always been an expensive destination but people always say how much they love it and want to come back. So the same thing goes for Kadoomen. We have to make sure that we refresh and upgrade the quality of the festival so that people don’t feel as if they are shortchanged,” the Power X Four band leader stressed.
Fellow masquerade bandleader, Anthony Martin of Kontact, concurred with Stewart’s assessment saying he had noticed a drop in overseas patronage since the introduction of the tax.
“Our people that jump with us are telling us that it costs them $3, 000 to come to Barbados from the United States. Now we have the additional room levy and it is causing us some pain,” he said.
Barbados TODAY contacted the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association for a fuller picture of the cancellations. However, officials said they had just begun to compile the data.
During her Budget last month, Prime Minister Mia Mottley revealed that the mandatory room rate levy would be applied across the board.
In a follow up notice, the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport said the levy, which is to be paid by guests, would be applied to the Villa sub sector and all other vacation rental properties, as well as luxury class hotels at a maximum of USD $10.00 per night ; “A” class hotels at USD $5.00 per night and “B” class hotels, apartments and guest houses at USD $2.50 per night.