Mon | May 20, 2019

More Caribbean people pon di road

Published:Sunday | April 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Kamal Bankay
Party lovers posed for a photo before boarding the Treasure Queen boat for a Soca party on the Kingston Harbour recently.

There are points during the annual Road March through Kingston's streets, that the DJ hails persons from various countries and, as Carnival in Jamaica climaxes today, Kamal Bankay, expects a vigorous response to the names of a number of Caribbean countries.

From his vantage point on the organisation of carnival stakeholders, Bankay, is seeing a tremendously increased participation of persons from the Caribbean, this adding to the revellers coming from established tourist markets USA, Canada and the UK.

"I would say practically all of the Caribbean," Bankay said about where Jamaica's fellow revelling islanders are coming into the country from. And it is not only the English-speaking subsection of the region, but Dutch speakers, for example, are also involved.

With Jamaica falling closer to the start of a regional revelling season which starts with Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago in February and closes with Barbados' Crop Over in June, Bankay attributed the Caribbean influx in part to revved up promotion, but also partnerships made between Jamaican bands and similar organisations from Eastern Caribbean countries.

"We definitely marketed harder in the Eastern Caribbean. In 2017 Xodus and Xaymaca, these bands built partnerships with bands from Trinidad. We leveraged these partnerships for a following to the Carnival in Jamaica. It is a reciprocal arrangement, as the bands from different countries visit each other's events, Bacchanal's strong, consistent pulling power also noted.

In terms of building a following from outside Jamaica, hiring DJs from outside Jamaica to complement the home-based music providers, is part of the strategy. They not only have their followings, but also guarantee diversity of musical fare. This year, Bankay said, there are persons from St Lucia, Trinidad, Barbados, Miami and New York in the USA and Toronto, Canada.

"DJs bring their following as well," Bankay said, that popularity having a role in the booking decision.

Still, they are not laws unto themselves in setting the tone of the events they play at, Bankay saying he expects that promoters would brief the DJs on their expectations of what is to be done at the event. He expects diversity as well, with the matter of dancehall being played at soca events not being a factor in the wide slate of party offerings.


Different experiences


Bankay said "the reality is every fete and every party will be different. Some people will want a pure expression of soca, some will want a hybrid, some think because it is Jamaica they should have some dancehall and reggae music. Complaining is not the thing to do. It is to select the party that suits your taste."

Although the final visitor headcount cannot be determined yet, many persons coming in just before today's Road March (and Bankay is careful to credit airport personnel for a hassle-free entry process) Bankay confirmed over 5,000 official revellers on the road today - a projection he had made previously.

When tomorrow rolls around, the costumes tossed aside and Easter term back-to-school traffic rolling where trucks laden with speakers lumber along today, Bankay's primary hope is to look back at a safe and incident-free Road March Sunday. Second - and related - to that, is that a good time was had by all, contributing to Jamaica becoming more and more a Carnival destination of choice for those who live in and those who visit the country. He thanked a number of organisations contributing to that, among them, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), Ministries of Tourism and Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and various sponsoring companies.