Tuesday, January 13, 2004

My stats counter tells me that for the last few days the most popular search term directing visitors to this blog has been "Peter Minshall 2004" (we're not talking about any great traffic here, of course--two dozen hits is for me an Olympian height). This is the post they've been heading to. The reason for the interest, I imagine, is that the news is spreading: Minshall announced last week that he won't be producing a band for this year's Carnival.

For maybe a decade now, those of us who prefer to experience Carnival as spectators have had only one big thing to look forward to: the latest Minshall presentation. The rest is a jumble of tired repetition--the same bikini-&-beads ensembles in a variety of colour schemes, almost every band indistinguishable from almost every other. This year we may as well all go to Tobago, or head for the North Coast. It would be a depressing situation, had one not already absorbed so much depression in recent years at what Carnival has become.

Here's the thing, though: I think Minshall has something up his sleeve. His love of dramatic statements is legendary. Could he even now be hunched over his drawing-board, envisioning some monumental surprise for his oblivious countrymen, a kind of guerilla mas, preparing to summon the Callaloo Company inner circle to a secret meeting? On Carnival Tuesday, after Legends & Poison & Harts have disappeared off the stage, as the sun goes down over the Savannah & the crowds realise they've seen nothing that day worth remembering--will Minshall then tear apart the veil, unleash something grander & happier & sadder & more alive than we can imagine, & once again, if only for a moment, save Carnival?

It seems to me he could do it with a gesture as simple as this: recreate From the Land of the Hummingbird, the landmark costume he designed for Sherry-Ann Guy in 1974. Prove without saying a word that a 30-year-old costume is more revolutionary than anything the Carnival capitalists can come up with in 2004. The Hummingbird was joy & beauty & motion--not a costume, but "the means for the human body to express its energy", as Minshall insists. Once, in an interview, he remembered the night 13-year-old Sherry-Ann played the Hummingbird on the Savannah stage before the packed stands. She started to dance. "Ten thousand people exploded with her." We need another explosion like that.

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