The Camerhogne Folk Festival is Returning

I was delighted to hear my friend, music man Adrian Mark, announce that the Camerhogne Folk Festival is returning to St Patrick this year.

According to Mark, the nation’s senior cultural officer, organisers are “working steadily” to ensure a successful festival from 6 to 8 December.

The festival, inaugurated in 2010, was last held in 2011 when the Tourism and Culture Ministry, headed by Peter David and with then Senator Arley Gill as Minister of State responsible for culture, received sponsorship for the event from the government of Finland.

The theme of the 2011 event — held from 2 to 4 December in Low Town, Sauteurs — was “Remembering Our African Tradition’’. The motto was, “Old Grenada, New Grenada — One Grenada.’’

Camerhogne is a Carib word; it’s the name our first inhabitants — the Caribs or Kalinagos — gave to the island.

Grenada’s last-known Carib, Enid LaCrette of River Road, died in June. She was 92.

Dominica still has an active Carib community and observed “Kalinago Week’’ in September.

The Carib Council plans on raising funds for a proposed 20-foot monument that will be put up at the Pont Casse Roundabout in the capital, Roseau, to depict the warrior spirit and strength of the Kalinago people.

“Government is fully behind you in your dreams and aspirations to set a monument in the honour of the Carib people which would demonstrate the tremendous support that you have shown not only for our culture but for our economic development,” Acting Prime Minister, Reginald Austrie, told Caribs during the “Kalinago Week’’ celebrations.

In initiating the Camerhogne Festival three years ago, Grenada government organisers said it was designed to provide a “platform for sustaining and preserving important elements of traditional culture in attire, food, dancing, singing and drumming.’’

The festival highlighted the ritual sharing and eating of cooked food known as Saracca, as well as traditional dances such as Quadrille, Tillingo, Bele, Kalinda, Temne, Pique and Chamba.

The Kalinda, for example, is a combination of dancing, drumming and singing credited to Africans.

The most prominent feature of the Kalinda is stick fighting, which normally takes place in the open in a “gayelle’’ or circle formed by onlookers. Some fighters “mount’’ their sticks; “mount’’ is a prayer that’s conducted over the stick to make the user — the “batonniere’’ — invincible.

The stars of the singing segment of the festival in Low Town in 2011 were members of several local folk groups, as well as kaisonians Scholar, Black Wizard, Lady Cinty and African Teller — all former holders of the Calypso Monarch title of Grenada.

One of the festival’s specially invited guests was Grenada-born, Trinidad-based, Brother Valentino.

Valentino, whose real name is Emrold Phillip, was born 1941 in Cherry Hill, St. George’s. The artiste, who migrated to Trinidad at age five, is popularly referred to as, “The People’s Calypsonian.’’

Valentino’s song, “Life is a Stage,’’ is regarded as one of calypso’s best compositions.

Other guest appearances were from former Trinidad & Tobago Calypso Monarch, Black Stalin; and Tasha P, then the reigning Calypso Monarch of Dominica.

“All three days featured performances that were par excellence,’’ Gill declared at the end of the 2011 Camerhogne Folk Festival.

“One of the ideas we’re considering coming out of the festival is to stage quarterly events nationwide to give greater visibility to our folk culture’’.

However, none of the proposed ideas materialized. By May of the next year, Gill had lost his government job and months later the Ministry of Tourism and Culture announced that it was unable to adequately prepare for hosting the 2012 Camerhogne Folk Festival.

The cancellation of the event was criticized by many, including Joseph Gilbert, who at the time was parliamentary representative for St Patrick West.

“This is a tremendous setback to the development and preservation of our indigenous culture of folklore and dance,” Gilbert remarked during a meeting with his constituents. “It is a major blow to many local vendors who were looking forward to making the most of the anticipated business opportunities that are associated with the festival.’’

Now that a year has passed, it certainly is a welcomed move to see the reintroduction of the Camerhogne Folk Festival.

No one would complain if tribute is paid this year to the late multi-talented artiste and educator Christine Clarkson, who died recently.

Clarkson’s credits included pannist and stage actor extraordinaire. One friend told me that he firmly believes that if Christine was born in a developed country like the United States, where there are viable commercial television and movie markets, she would have landed many leading acting roles.

In its two years of existence, the Camerhogne Festival had begun to grow in status, culturally and economically. Rightfully, therefore, the festival ought to be renewed.

It should continue with an emphasis on examining ways of using the festival to provide further development and exposure for Jab Jab, Shortknee, Vieu Cour and other aspects of Grenada’s traditional masquerade.

Consideration could be given to having a “Traditional Mas’ Day’’ as part of the Camerhogne Folk Festival. Traditional Mas’ must be packaged and not just be rolled out at carnival.

It must be packaged to form part of a unique product that is used to attract tourists; and offered to visitors who come here during the August carnival, as well as during the cruise ship season that runs from October to April.

Sun, sea, spice and friendly, smiling people, are not unique to Grenada. Those can be found in other places.

Tourists spend money on, and are interested in, those things that are unique and entertaining.

They are fascinated by those things, too, that provide new learning and living experiences.

by Lincoln Depradine

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