• Written by  Najib Tanzaoui Chentouf

As 2016 and another year of carnival chasing draws to a close, with Miami carnival just done, and only Ubersoca Cruise left on the international soca calendar, I’ve been reflecting on my carnivals past: a few Notting Hills (London), a bunch of Trinidads, Caribana (Toronto), Miami, Bermuda, and Labor Day Weekend (New York). With the exponential growth of Caribbean Carnivals around the world, it seems more and more like it's carnival somewhere than it is 5.00 p.m. somewhere.

There are now Caribbean carnivals all across the globe, soca excursions, soca weekends, and a first ever soca cruise ship.  Some of these are larger festivals that now have a Caribbean element within them, like London’s Notting hill carnival (one of the largest street festivals in the world); others are full on Caribbean carnivals in new locations in and outside of the Caribbean.  For carnival junkies like myself, the socaverse is ever expanding and as locations emerge as successful carnivals, unique carnivals, carnivals with vibes; carnival chasers like myself take note, as do the brands and bands that make carnival their business. In their midst, unfortunately, are opportunistic vultures.

Sounds like drama in Chinese? Let me explain, the Internet is making the world smaller; social media is making marketing to the world easier and easier; strong brands quickly become jauganots in their hometowns, and then easily expand. Still not clear? The strongest carnival brands, the biggest soca DJs, artists, and documenters are at almost every carnival. So major carnival brands, with major followings, have opportunities at every major carnival. Major right? Let's look at a few examples.

Event Carnival Location
Soca Brainwash Trinidad, Barbados, New York, Miami
Tribe ignite Trinidad, Miami, Toronto, London, New York
Suits Trinidad, London, Bahamas, New York
_uck work Trinidad, London, New York, Miami
Candy coated Trinidad, Miami, Toronto
Vale Vibe Trinidad, Miami, New York, Barbados
Ambush Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados
Arrivals Miami, Berlin

Really the examples above just display particular parties. It’s a tip of the iceberg. If the list were expanded to the promoters who stage these events, we’d see the same promoters pop up in more locations, with even more events. First we have to acknowledge the success of these brands, they’ve had successful events that have generated international buzz. Expanding their reach, only makes good business sense. Let’s look at Soca Brainwash, the name may ring a bell, it’s also the name of the annual soca mix, created by the most recognizable Caribbean DJ: The most versatile DJ in the world PRIVATE RYAN!  In 2016 Soca Brainwash fetes sold out of 1000’s of online tickets in minutes, crashing the sales websites over and over with the insane amounts of traffic. Such is the demand for Soca Brainwash tickets, that scalpers can successfully resell tickets at double the price on the same day tickets are released – impressive, astonishing, and sad all at once.

All this success must be a great thing, with these ever expanding brands reaching new destinations and audiences. Right? Not Quite. Realistically there is a point at which the expansion becomes, well, Macdonald’s. A point where you get the same lineups, the same promoters, and the same events at every carnival and you loose the unique elements of each Carnival. It’s already happened to Barbados Cropover, which is now often referred to as mini-Trinidad, to those who have witnessed the local elements lose out to bigger brands. Not only do the local promoters find it difficult to compete, but also the carnivals that should be boosting local economies now serve to line the pockets of outside entities.

The Carnivals that are most susceptible will be the smaller, newer, lesser-known carnivals, with a good buzz about them, where the market has yet to be saturated. One of the ways this works is: an international promoter approaches lesser known local promoter, creates an initial partnership as the proverbial ‘foot in the door’. Once they have the contacts for the essential service providers, they drop the local partner, and now all of the profit generated is leaving the local destination. In larger countries with larger carnivals, there is the demand to support multiple events put on by large and small promoters; in smaller destinations, not so much.

They key is balance. Grenada should feel like Grenada, Bermuda should feel like Bermuda (seriously, who else is pulling off raft-up?) etc. Carnival should be a representation of the freedom of the people of that destination. There is a fine line I admit. The soca junkie in me has been online clamoring for tickets when Soca Brainwash is released, if I’m headed to Miami I won’t miss Arrivals and based on everything I’ve seen in 2016 SSS in Miami won’t be missed either.

I am however an uber-patriot, and when I travel I want to experience the authenticity of the destination, the culture, the people, the music, the food, the artists, the DJs, NOT MacDonald’s. I want to eat doubles in Trinidad, wuk up in Barbados, nam patties in Jamaica, play Jab in Grenada and raft-up in Bermuda. Pause. The only place in the world where I will consume KFC is Trinidad; the rumors are true, it’s actually awesome. Un-pause. I’ve never been to Barbados, but I do see all of the major Trinidad carnival promoters there. I hear Bajans talk about the Trinidad invasion, and too many Bajans I talk to, say those promoters should carry their c#$ts brands back to Trinidad.

So how do we strike the right balance? It will take efforts from promoters, feters, carnival chasers, and local revelers alike. Local promoters need an understanding of how to maintain national identity, while presenting top tier entertainment.  The chasers, and locals need to decide what they’re looking for, and seek a balance between the proven international brands, and the unique experiences offered by a carnival destination. Carnival stakeholders need to reign in promoters and locals with dollar signs in their eyes and breed a culture of promoting local first. There’s nothing wrong with strategically partnering with bigger brands, but it should be done with purpose. It should be done with agreements that protect local interests, boost local economies, and enhance local experience creators.

Buy local.

Keep Chipping.

Najib Tanzaoui Chentouf

FB: Tan Zaoui

IG: tan_jib


  • Shanna-Kay
    Shanna-Kay Monday, 24 October 2016 17:24 Comment Link

    Totally agree with you Jib branding is important so that the little man can get his share of the food.....speaking of food Jamaica has the best KFC and nowhere else

  • J
    J Monday, 24 October 2016 15:39 Comment Link

    Unfortunately if each location don't maintain thier identity people won't feel the need to travel to the various countries anymore. Everyone will lose.

  • Petty
    Petty Monday, 24 October 2016 14:50 Comment Link

    I agree with everything you said 100%. That is why to this day Antigua is one of my favorites. If you have your money, you buy your fete ttickets, register for Mas and Jouvert. Small Islands is definitely the way to go. Not to mention that you won't come back home broke. Fetes and drinks are cheap, plus 365 beaches. Me done talk lol

  • Sha
    Sha Monday, 24 October 2016 13:44 Comment Link

    You are preaching my friend! Countries have to maintain their identity when it comes to carnival, otherwise, what's the point? I might as well keep going to the same place since I'm going to get the same thing. Promoters need to be more respectful of the location and less concerned about the dollar signs. At the same time, country officials need to learn how to say no and/or put more restraints on what events they allow during THEIR carnival. They promoters are only there because they were given the "Okay" by someone.

    Timely read!

  • Carnival Ambassador
    Carnival Ambassador Friday, 21 October 2016 00:09 Comment Link

    Check for over 100 carnival destinations & dates around the world!


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