St. George's, August 18, 2011 – Spicemas organizers are standing firm on this year's theme which sparked debate among Grenadians at home and abroad.
The 2011 carnival theme was, "Uniquely Rooted in our Rich Ancestral Traditions. Spicemas: Home of 100,000 Jab Jabs.''
"I am comfortable in saying that traditional mas is what stands out for Grenada. Jab Jab is unique to Grenada,'' said Senator Arley Gill, Minister with responsibility for Culture.
He made the comment on "Beyond the Headlines,'' the live GBN television show hosted by veteran broadcaster Lew Smith.
Sen. Gill and Grenada Carnival Committee (GCC) Chairman, Collin Dowe, both defended the chosen theme, despite criticism from some individuals and groups such as the Alliance of Evangelical Churches.
The Alliance called the theme "distasteful and disrespectful of the sensibilities of Grenadians who subscribe to Biblical Christianity.'' It described Jab Jab as "a celebration and worship of Satan who was cast out of heaven in the first place because of his ambition and desire to claim God's prerogatives.''
However, historian Dr. Nicole L. Phillip is among many Grenadians who find no fault with the theme.
"Firstly, throughout the debate the theme has been misrepresented in its stating,'' argued Dr. Phillip. "Critics, including the churches, claimed that the theme was 'Grenada: the home of 100,000 Jab Jabs'. Simple research and inquiry, just by looking at the advertisements on television, would have informed them that the theme was: 'Uniquely Rooted in our Rich Ancestral Traditions. Spicemas: Home of 100, 000 Jab Jabs.''
She added that by "misrepresenting the theme, the critics have entirely missed the point of or substance of the chosen theme. In so doing it is difficult if not near impossible to make a rational judgment based on erroneous information.''
According to Dr. Phillip, Spicemas is one of the best carnivals in the Caribbean.
However, she said that if Grenadians are to compete and establish a carnival niche, "an appropriate tag line needs to be used to promote this festival. It seems obvious that this was the thinking behind the theme chosen this year. Grenada can boast of being the only island that displays, year after year, from as far back as carnival has been recorded, unique aspects of traditional mas.''
As far as Dr. Phillip is concerned, "the choice of the number 100,000 is simply a play on our population figure. It does not imply that all other aspects of carnival would be sidelined and there will only be Jab Jabs on the road. It simply emphasizes the need to highlight our traditional mas as being different and thus making the Grenada carnival experience one of a kind.''
The Jab Jab debate has also dominated blogs on internet sites, such as the "Shoutbox'' on Grenadabroadcast.com.
One blogger, Captain Queeg, wrote: "Nobody says to do away with Jab Jab; but should the rest of Carnival be virtually abandoned for it?''
Another blogger said, "People choose to play Jab Jab; it's their free will. Jab Jab bands do not get any subventions. But steelbands, calypsonians, mas bands and – this year – there was a special exposition in St. Mark for traditional mas. I therefore can't agree that there has been any abandoning of other aspects of carnival in favour of Jab Jab.''
RAA waded in, saying: "Jab Jab, like Rock n Roll, Rap and other new genres, were never initially accepted by the upper class, the religious and the mainstream, but instead, by daring youth. So the more Jab Jab becomes controversial, the more the youth will push it to the forefront.''
According to Yokasi, "People play mas to suit their budget and we can't legislate what people can or cannot play.'' And D'Lecturer said: "In support of the Jab Jab beat, I must say it is not only Grenadian but gone international.''
Carnival's marketing thrust, including the GCC's pay-per-view webcast and its internet site, has been bearing fruits, Chairman Dowe said.
"We have had excellent review of our branding and marketing of Spicemas,'' he said. "Spicemas has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years.''
Mr. Dowe and Sen. Gill said there was a "hiccup'' with the extended route used at this year's Monday Night Mas, when the parade's lead truck broke down. But Monday Night Mas is "an asset and one of the unique features of Spicemas,'' said Sen. Gill. "There is nothing like it in the region.''
Mr. Dowe said future plans for Monday Night Mas include a better effort at starting the parade on time, and finding "some form of engagement'' for patrons awaiting the arrival of bands along the Port Highway and Carenage.
Sen. Gill said strengthening people's participation in Fancy Masquerade bands will require introducing programs in schools, "so children can grow up playing mas.''
With respect to the growing phenomenon of numerous jouvert celebrations and the various parish carnivals and their impact on the national Spicemas festival, Sen. Gill said room must be made for "free expression and spontaneity.''
At some level, he said, "you have to allow the parish carnivals to flourish. There must be some accommodation for the parish carnivals but the best must be on show at the national level.''
Sen. Gill said the use of bleachers, provided by the Trinidad and Tobago government, for spectators viewing Spicemas on the streets on August 8 and 9 "brought character and class'' to the carnival and "did not cost Grenada a cent.''