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XVI) Carnival in the 1930s

In the early 1930s as the world-wide depression intensified a third competition site was introduced at Woodford Square just across the street from the Government House and halfway between Marine Square and the Savannah. Bands were smaller and displayed less splendor and often played a mas on the depression.

By 1933 the number of competition venues had increased to five. Biblical, sacred, and Jewish history became new categories for judging bands indicating the increasing popularity of these subjects for masquerade. By the 1930s kaisonians have broken away from their roles as shantwells serving a single band and gone out on their own. Singers were organized into teams to present programs of songs in a competitive environment. With growing international recognition some kaisonians were chosen to make studio recordings in New York City and their growing popularity with foreign audiences encouraged them to improve their singing techniques and performative style.

In December of 1934 the Theater and Dance Hall Ordinance was enacted giving the police the authority to prohibit any stage play or song which was deemed by them to be "insulting to any individual or section of the community, whether referred to by name or otherwise (Quevado 1983:61)." The ordinance was presented by the Inspector General of the Constabulary whose wife had been involved in a scandalous affair in which she was caught having sex. The Inspector sought to prevent having his and his wife's name subject to public display and ridicule for the whole of the calypso season.

Attempts to control the festival intensified in the aftermath of the labor riots of June 1937 and the subsequent social unrest they generated. The CIC sought to have all kaisonians submit their songs to the police for review and approval. Widespread opposition to the ordinance and refusal to comply with its provisions led to its revocation.

As the war began in Europe and all of the British Empire's colonies mobilized themselves for the war effort, the sounds of what would become known as the steelbands could be heard. The tamboo-bamboo players which had provided the rhythmic accompaniment to the bands as they paraded the streets on Carnival days picked up discarded biscuit drums, dustbins, pitch-oil containers, and wheel hubs and created a tremendous din as they each tried to drown out the other bands. The new sounds came to replace the tamboo-bamboo and experimenters discovered that by beating the tops of discarded oil drums into different thicknesses different notes could be arranged on the surface of the drum. On V-E day in 1945, the steel band made its appearance in the first Carnival-like procession in the streets since 1941. The gang confrontations and rivalries of the Jamette era re-emerged in the steel band clashes.

Between the wars the middle classes showed greater interest in Carnival. With the change in the class position of participants Carnival is transformed from a time of settling scores and engaging in ritualized violence in competitions for status and prestige within a subordinated social group to an opportunity to release inhibitions and indulge in fantasies of power and freedom. This is a significant shift in the meaning and place of the festival in the lives of the revelers.

Carnival allowed the middle classes to exchange the mask of respectability for one of display and exuberance. Powrie (1956:97) contends that the members of the 'respectable' middle-classes condemned lower class black culture while at the same time envying its spontaneity. They generated their own fantasy of sexual freedom and a life free of responsibility, thus perpetuating myths and stereotypes of the rural and urban laboring classes first promulgated by colonial administrators, European visitors, and Creole elites (Brereton 1979:200-212).

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~~SweetEvil~~