Four-time band of the year winner Brian Mac Farlane is disappointed with the decision to exclude mas competitions from receiving the $2 million first prize promised to pan, soca, calypso and chutney 2011 Carnival competitions by Government this year.
Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Winston Peters confirmed in a report on Wednesday the $2 million first prize promised for Soca, Calypso and Chutney Monarch and Panorama during the People’s Partnership elections campaign last year was only for competitions this year.
Speaking to Newsday, Mac Farlane said any increase should be done across the board.
“What makes mas any less than calypso and pan? I think it takes the three elements to make Carnival because it is nothing without mas, soca or pan so the three should be treated equally,” he said.
He added the one-off payment of the $2 million prizes shows the need for a better approach to the development of Carnival.
“Government should look at providing grants for mas bands creating authentic local mas to help offset the cost of labour, renting the mas camp, materials and other costs,” Mac Farlane said.
He said the first prize for large band of the year is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of producing his mas band which he estimates to range between $2-$2.8 million to create.
“A soca artiste spends much less to produce a song but they will be able to win $2 million,” he said, adding that bands usually go to banks to get loans and try to source funding from private sponsors to start producing mas each year.
President for the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) David Lopez echoed similar sentiments, saying not enough went into Government’s decision.
“I do not think much thought went into making this offer but there is still room to correct it,” he said.
He also confirmed the association met with Peters last month and asked whether the $2 million first prize would be extended to the mas fraternity.
“We met with the minister in a cordial meeting and he spelt out that the promise was made to Calypso, Chutney, Steel and Soca monarch competitions and the Prime Minister did not say anything about mas. So we intend on continuing as normal,” he told Newsday. “At the rally where the promise was made, Kamla Persad-Bissessar praised a top band leader for the work done at that venue and there was a big mas presentation. Mas was in everyone’s face there so I cannot second guess if it was an oversight or not.”
NCBA, he said, receives $6.7 million from Government to sponsor prizes for 12 competitions. These include Senior and Junior bands of the Year and the King and Queen of Carnival.
Among the major prizes, the large band of the year receives $300,000, medium band of the year gets $175,000, small band of the year gets $90,000 and mini band of the year gets $40,000. King and Queen of Carnival receive $120,000 each and the Junior band of the year prizes range from $4,000 to $20,000 according to the category.
Junior large band-of-the-year winner, Rosalind Gabriel also said it was disturbing that mas was not going to receive the $2 million first prize.
She said the fact that prizes for placing in the finals of these competitions remained the same over the years was also cause for concern.
William Munro, head of the Caribbean Prestige Foundation(CPF) which produces the Soca Monarch competition said he prefers not to comment of the report that the $2 million prize is a one time occurrence. He said however that the incentive of a $2 million translates to a real improvement in all material produced for competitions.