The Trini-Style Carnival In Jamaica

The time has finally arrived in the Jamaica Carnival where there are actually choices for fetes. No longer does Bacchanal Jamaica monopolize the fete market because there are new players who are offering a better fete experience. The fete scene is doing so well that in true regional spirit, promoters from Trinidad and Tobago have been slowly trying to get a slice or two of the fete cake. But this is not surprising especially considering that in the region, Jamaica represents the biggest market for CARICOM imports valued at about US$1 billion. It was only a matter of time before these imports began to include those of the creative economy.

The carnival industry in Trinidad and Tobago is estimated to bring in about US$25 million. The foreign exchange earnings are further estimated at US$20 million (Nurse, 2002). The musical artistes, steelbands, and DJs have experienced the most success in this area when they perform outside of Trinidad and Tobago particularly in Caribbean and diaspora carnivals. The design/production of mas for these carnivals has also been successful for some. Even with these accomplishments, the potential of the carnival industry as an export or “transnational economic flow” has not been adequately developed by Trinidad and Tobago.

Because Trinidad and Tobago is currently facing the implications of being an oil-based economy, the potential of building a creative economy cannot be ignored and the export of the franchise styled fete is a step in the right direction.

The opportunities for these franchise fetes lie in the carnivals outside of Trinidad and Tobago. As more carnivals across the region and in the diaspora try to gain legitimacy and attract more local and foreign patrons, they have been mimicking the Trinidad Carnival model. The events (mainly jouvert and the fetes) and the mas have all begun to look like a mini version of the festival. This trend has been quite notable recently in Miami, Barbados, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries but with Toronto and Nottinghill being the biggest exports of the Trinidad-style Carnival. This model adapts aspects of the Trinidad Carnival events that are seen as profitable and appealing to a mass audience. The history of carnival in Jamaica has always been based on importing this model- from the EC students at the Mona campus and from Byron Lee and the Raiders who visited Trinidad every year. So it is not surprising that the current set of promoters are also returning to Jamaica from Trinidad with those ideas.

The numbers indicate that Jamaican promoters already have a dominant share in the fete market which would ultimately benefit the larger creative economy. According to Tull (2005), “carnivals around the globe offer much to the further economic development of their host locations. Research indicates that carnivals stimulate commercial activity and are significant generators of revenue within key sectors of the economy, particularly cultural industries, tourism and hospitality”. Although the profits will be returned to Trinidad and Tobago, venue rentals, permits, security, caterers, bars, tent and stage rentals, and DJs represent areas that will profit from fetes held by the Trini promoters.

Jamaica Carnival Fetes 2016
The word has gotten out that Jamaica carnival is an effective treatment for post carnival depression. And where there’s a carnival, Trinis will be there. So hotels, guest houses, car rentals, taxis, restaurants, carnival concierge services are seeing additional business not only from Trinidadian visitors but also from other Caribbean countries and the diaspora. Tull links this increase in visitors to a “growth of carnival-driven festival tourism that has created an alternative and sustainable source of tourist revenue”.

With the competition, Jamaican promoters will need to step up and ensure that their product is top quality. With the advantage of local corporate sponsorship and a Jamaican fan base, these promoters are positioned to succeed. The presence of Trini promoters can be seen then as an opportunity to deviate from the Trinidad model and put a Jamaican stamp on the Carnival.

Featured Image: Lehwego


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