Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Pricey palance - Revellers shell out big bucks for Carnival

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
Julianne Lee (centre), director of Jamaica Carnival, with a bevy of soca beauties in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, in 2016.
A Bacchanal reveller on the road for 2017.
A Xaymaca reveller takes he high ground during this year's road march.
Andrew Bellamy
Kamal Bankay (right) and a friend during the Xodus road parade earlier this year.
Liane Chung, attorney-at-law shows off frontline costume for the Dellilah band at last weekend's Xodus Band Costume Launch.

After purchasing a costume to jump in one of the popular bands and attending all the pre-carnival fetes like J'Ouvert and the Bacchanal series, one may find their personal finances have dwindled or receive a credit card statement requiring hours of overtime to pay off at the end of the soca season.

The standard price range to join a band being US$600-US$700, in addition to other expenses (together with the monthly gym fee to ensure having one's best body possible for the road), a reveller may spend up to $200,000.

Responses to The Sunday Gleaner by five persons showed they have made the expenditure part of their budget or saving plans as soon as one carnival season ends.

A loyal masquerader for three years, attorney-at-law Liane Chung said: "I believe that it is definitely worth it financially and time wise in regards to preparation to participate in Carnival. It is an all-day experience of fun vibes with my friends, dancing to music I love and enjoying a day of being with fellow Jamaicans in unity. It's a true celebration."

On the other hand, other veteran revellers have developed the strategy of comparing costs for the Carnival in Jamaica to other Caribbean islands especially the Mecca - Trinidad.

Chairman of the National Carnival Committee, Kamal Bankay, said, "The reality is that when we look at what makes carnival in Trinidad, it is a part of their culture. Soca is part of the festival celebrations; they produce the music and it is a national movement."

"They have two days of roach march, while in Jamaica we only have one. So persons will think it is expensive," Bankay said.


All-inclusive concept


Andrew Bellamy, director of carnival outfit Xaymaca International, said that the price structures among the islands are parallel to one another, not including the costumes which are more flamboyant in Trinidad.

"As it relates to costumes it is more expensive in Trinidad. However they present an all-inclusive model for the two days. If that extra day was to be removed and the costs associated with executing it, then the prices would be almost identical to our one day experience. In Barbados, the prices are also very similar for the all-inclusive bands," Bellamy said.

"It is not in our strategy to undercut other bands and we do not want to overvalue nor short change anyone. We even have partners that bought into Xodus to market and have their own sections," Bankay said.

All teams involved agree that the entire carnival project will not only be a great experience, but fruitful and beneficial to Jamaica's growth.

Bellamy continued: "I can positively assure that the entire carnival world outside of our island is watching carnival in Jamaica closely and would like to personally experience our fÍtes, culture, beaches, amazing people and world renowned food."




He also said the participation of four carnival bands - Xodus, Xaymaca, Bacchanal and Jamaica Carnival - breeds healthy competition and thus grows interest, awareness and the overall market of the industry.

"There is a renaissance taking place with carnival; Jamaica is one island that has the accommodations to fit tens of thousands between Kingston and Ocho Rios, not to mention the option of Airbnb," Bankay said.

"It will develop organically each year as the feedback received allows us to adjust whether it is the offerings or a different style of costume."

Both promoters ascertained that the aim of carnival in Jamaica is to give the best road experience and deliver beautiful costumes that can stand the scrutiny of the Jamaican audience, even as they encouraged that their bands be the first choice.

They might just be singing Biggie Irie's Money Well Spent at the end of Carnival 2018.