Caribbean News and Views | Jungle Jabber -
Beware of being the Rachel Dolezal of Carnival Reviewers ...
By Jouvert Mike
Published on 01-Nov-16
So... as I was busy handling my actual “business” this week I kept getting a Huffington Post article forwarded to me via text, WhatsApp, and FB  about Soca Brainwash Miami. I received it so many times that I felt I had to just stop and read because people were all over the place on it.

My initial reaction was “people, be easy because this read far more like a personal attack than a review from a Carnival Veteran with a broad perspective/knowledge on the topic.”  Then it kind of stuck with me, when I had a chance to process it – here’s an article on a major media platform blasting away on the world of Carnival, by someone positioning themselves as well-informed......maybe even an “expert” simply because she grew up in Trinidad.  Ayana Malaika Crichlow come now, you want to rip Nicki Minaj for not representing “your TT” in another article, but you’re out here looking real suspect on your knowledge of the current Carnival World.

So... as I was busy handling my actual “business” this week I kept getting a Huffington Post article forwarded to me via text, WhatsApp, and FB  about Soca Brainwash Miami. I received it so many times that I felt I had to just stop and read because people were all over the place on it.

My initial reaction was “people, be easy because this read far more like a personal attack than a review from a Carnival Veteran with a broad perspective/knowledge on the topic.”  Then it kind of stuck with me, when I had a chance to process it – here’s an article on a major media platform blasting away on the world of Carnival, by someone positioning themselves as well-informed......maybe even an “expert” simply because she grew up in Trinidad.  Ayana Malaika Crichlow come now, you want to rip Nicki Minaj for not representing “your TT” in another article, but you’re out here looking real suspect on your knowledge of the current Carnival World.

The article was not far from the truth with regard to sentiments that a number of people shared about price for a cash bar fete (they knew it going in – so some chose to go & others passed altogether). The article however was filled with cavernous holes & inaccuracies and was distributed on a major platform, thereby showing the author's reckless nature of not bothering to fact-check and feeding the beast by spewing off toxic statements that uninformed masses cling to and accept as truth from an “expert.”   Sounds like a strategy employed by an orange character that has a huge platform with little regard for the impact of his words.  A character  that we’d all like to see disappear.  Hey, maybe she’s just trying to “Make Carnival Great Again”.

Do I think $70+fee is high for a cash bar fete?  Yes, but supply & demand supports it --- hence why articles I've written reference my preference for All-Inclusive Fetes or Cooler Fetes, yet cash bar fetes are sadly extremely common in the US... all the more reason to head to the islands!  We all can agree that across the board the parties/costumes/hotels - everything surrounding Carnival is becoming far too pricey. But the reality is, if we keep paying it, it will keep happening.  Heck, I even wrote about anticipating a large scale impact on TT Carnival as other islands continue to elevate their experiences for Carnival Chasers at a fraction of the price.....ummm we see you creepin over there JA ;).

Listening to patrons concerns, feedback & constructive criticism is important for any promoter who is trying to maintain an annual event/expand their brand.  The key is, this can be done one on one in person with the production team at the event, emailing the promoter, posting on message boards, tweeting, or screaming it out on a massive blog platform--- it’s just a matter of taking into consideration the ramifications of our voices, the tone we use, and thinking long & hard about the impact it could have long-term if we cross certain lines.

To be able to write this response to Ayana Malaika Crichlow’s article (referred to as AMC from this point forward), I had this novel idea, I’d actually do a bit of research and read up on this writer to actually be able to make some informed observations.  AMC’s articles basically amounted to click bait & surface level writing – Rihanna during Crop Over---which she’s admittedly never been to, blasting Nick Minaj for not representing “Her Trinidad”, posting a few pics after TT Carnival – including Amber Rose & Black Chyna. 


What fetes did you actually attend in 2015 and 2016, because for your broad perspective in this Carnival Fete world,  the only reviews you had were of “Scorch Parties” in 2015, for which you gave no descriptive/informative details?  It appears that, like SBW, you just said you didn’t like it & once again failed to provide descriptive/informative details– just pouting?  How is this a current & informed perspective that justifies your bashing of the single fete you attended for Carnival for the entire year?  How is this an informed view even just for Miami, never mind not attending & reviewing any Carnivals internationally or stateside outside of Southern Florida even?  There are easily 40+ fetes during MIA Carnival and apparently AMC went to a couple last year & 1 this year. Seriously, that’s all it takes? 

It’s mind-boggling to hear someone say they “love Carnival” and are “Trini To De Bone,” then position themselves as a contributor for Huffington Post, a massive platform with millions of eyes potentially crossing its path, with inaccurate information/gaping holes in a story about the Carnival World, yet the reviewer doesn’t review or show signs of attending anything beyond her local Carnival. Then you attend only 1 of 40+ fetes and bash it claiming fraud?  There are Carnival Chasers out there hitting 8-10 Carnivals, attending 50+ fetes a YEAR!

AMC, you’ve been in Miami for 21 years---it’s ok to admit that you’re disconnected. In fact, most people I know who are Carnival Veterans actually had a period where they were too busy with life, had gone a different direction, etc., and then fell back in love with playing Mas and can’t stop feeding the addiction. I fall in that category as well. I loved Carnival in Anguilla as a teenager – putting a pistol bottle of Pyrat rum in my pocket, grabbing a can of coke from a vendor on the side of the road as I was chippin behind de truck--- ah those remain beautiful memories.  However, when I graduated University and got a teaching job in Atlanta I just couldn’t afford to travel as much & school was already back in session when AXA Carnival was going on… so poof, it disappeared from my life. Years later when I could afford to make it to Miami Carnival & Atlanta Carnival I would.  Thankfully, as we notice many revelers re-engage as their finances and stability improve, capturing more and more people in their 30’s and 40’s.

We calculate with spreadsheets, analyze flight patterns for cheapest tickets, talk with friends, look for links on each island & basically sell a kidney when necessary to feed our Carnival addiction.  This is how so many thousands of Carnival Junkies know what was being offered at fetes on each island and stateside.  So when you pop-off about being shocked that “no one told you” that it was a cash bar, you just assumed for $70 it must include something… you’re getting the side eye boo boo. You’re showing you’re not about this life.  ANYONE who travels regularly for Carnivals, ESPECIALLY anyone writing reviews for media outlets (big or small) knows what is being offered for numerous reasons:

#1 – They actually read the promo.  If it doesn’t say “All-Inclusive”, “Drinks-Inclusive”, or “Food-Inclusive”, well deary – you can’t expect that $#@%
#2 – They actually go to these fetes & carnivals regularly so they know what the MO of each major brand does
#3 – They actually interact with other Carnival Junkies who share info/knowledge, trade tips & God-willing, the occasional link for a ticket
#4 – They check the blogs, pics, & videos from valid sources (Trini Jungle Juice, Trinidad Carnival Diaries, LehWeGo, BajanTube, CarnivalLiveTV, etc.)
#5 – They join one or many of the Umpteen million FB groups dedicated to each individual carnival & the Carnival/Soca World in general
#6 – They google that ish--- it’s only a click away!

Last year SBW MIA had incredible vibes, but the cash bar was an issue for a number of patrons.  Plenty of people whom I spoke with talked about this, which leaves me wondering who were you talking to?
And for all the people who don’t have a clue – well, they basically fall into the rookie/limited experience category.  What’s concerning is to have anyone present themselves as informed in a field they have limited knowledge of, especially if they aren’t willing to be candid and ask questions, confirm facts, or admit that they don’t know what they don’t know, instead of claiming “fraud”.

And I quote AMC, “But is it the experience we pay for? Vale fete at $100 plus is an experience because they have food and drinks (champagne too) included, maybe a performer or two and the novelty of partying with your good friends while the sun rises. How does that experience compare to Soca Brainwash Miami edition?”

Well, I’m happy to take a stab at this one for you......

#1 the Vale fete you are referring to is actually $150 – yes, it’s All-Inclusive with food & drinks (champagne too) and there’s always a performer or two.   Just one minor detail.... it’s in TRINIDAD  (why not compare a high school basketball team to an NBA squad and see how they stack up while you’re at it?)
#2 I don't care what fete/brand we are talking about -- when you bring the product from the islands to the US there are more legal restrictions & less sponsorship, so the products are not the same.  Anyone with a mindset of expectations of an island level fete in MIA is going to be sorely disappointed.

Seriously, it has me wondering how much of someone’s life is spent traveling for/attending Carnivals if they aren’t aware of the huge disparity between Islands vs US fetes experiences and prices.
If you wanted to actually make more of an apples to apples comparison you could have tried to compare it to Vale Miami – which was actually $45 Early Bird / $55 General.  Oh, but that might have completely negated your point/focus on alcohol because Vale Miami is also a CASH BAR and you would have had to wait in line for your chit & then wait in line for your vodka while wondering about yesteryear and the “good ole” days in Trinidad.

Had your article included the pertinent information--- that last year SBW had Early Bird Female tickets for $45+fee, Early Bird Males for $50+fee, General Admission for $55+fee vs. $70+fee across the board, maybe you would have some validity, because honestly that’s basically a tip drill for an experienced writer to go on a rant about the price increase.

For the above stated reason,  plenty of people I know chose to NOT attend because they knew what to expect and were entirely focused on the price shift.  Hey, this is a valid point – your budget only goes so far & every Carnival Junkie knows that you will have to make some decisions on what fetes aren’t going to make your line-up.

It’s your money, which means you get to choose to go or not go.  Yet there’s no need to publicly bash DJ Private Ryan when you don’t have 1/10 of the facts & make an egregious error in comparing an All-Inclusive Fete in Trinidad to a Cash Bar Fete in Miami, which you never actually clarified to your audience.

Large All-Inclusive Fetes in Miami this year went from $95 - $150 depending on what was being offered (FYI – breakfast fetes typically are cheaper than evening fetes since the food costs are so much lower).

The true stand-out this year in that category for a “major” brand was Sunnation Sunrise Breakfast fete for $95 - top-shelf liquor all-inclusive & they did it as a "1st year fete" consciously knowing they wouldn't turn a profit at that price....just looking to corner the market & be able to expand.  They deserve to charge $125+ for that fete and still be well supported.  Honorable mention would go to MOA White Hot Miami All-Inclusive, yet considering the size/scale it’s not a direct comparison.

Go ahead tell me any fete (or since you stated you didn’t go to other fetes, please ask a more informed friend) over the weekend which had THAT level of a sound stage and screens that rivals basically any EDM Festival Worldwide.  The production cost was high.  Private Ryan is a world renowned DJ who cares about the music, the quality of the sound. Shocking that he’d then make that a major focus of the product he delivers, right?  Brainwash has always been an international DJ Showcase and it’s never had a focus on live performances.

How about taking into consideration the impact of Hurricane Matthew and actually mentioning it? As my esteemed colleague Dr. Rhadi Ferguson did in a review he did involving a boat cruise that originally was set for Friday morning (so it was a breakfast), yet due to the storm became an evening fete? He actually acknowledged that, 1) the cost to provide food for an evening event, especially on short notice is far different than a breakfast fete,  2) all promoters holding fetes outdoors or on the water need to be reviewed with some consideration for what transpired.... namely because a Category 4 Hurricane rolled by, whom we referred to as M.C. Matthew.  That being said,  did you bother to consider the time to set up was significantly reduced & yet the place was still decorated – tapestry, a graffiti wall for everyone to participate?  You see, since I was actually handling my responsibilities covering the very beginning of Sunnation Sunrise Breakfast Fete and actually was at the Zoo Parking lot before 6 am Saturday, I could see how much the set-up had been hampered by the weather & that it was going to be a mad dash to pull off a fete that we know the design team puts a ton of thought into – they truly look to create “an experience” not just a long bar slinging drinks, which is all you seemed to focus on But hey, it’s cool – you’ve never attended SBW in Trinidad, Barbados, New York, or Miami so why would you know or taken the time to look at the videos, photo galleries, blog reviews, etc. on any of it when considering your evaluations?

 "I am sure they can make money and give people something worth their money, something of value." AMC

All you got was for $70 was an “entrance fee” – not neon cups, fans, neon sunglasses, Guinness giveaways, photo booths, a light show spectacle, or a sound system so powerful it literally made your body quiver from the vibrations.  Yup you just got an entrance fee, the opportunity to pout about getting chits & since you seem to write this in multiple blog reviews (Scorch, Revel Nation) you were probably focused on if you could have your Grey Goose vodka because in your words. “I was not impressed in the least but to be fair if a party does not have Grey Goose Vodka at the bar they lose major points in my books.”  Ummm….. seriously, RED CARD for that ish! How about focusing on what the general consumers/target audience cares about?  You want to write about someone not having RUM or serving JW Red instead of JW Black you go right ahead but judging a CARIBBEAN Fete on  Grey Goose Vodka, you get Ah HELL NO x Infinity for that one.

“I give the party one point because the vibe was good but feeling defrauded and taken advantage of negated the overall vibes for me. AMC

Well dear, you’ve spun quite the web – sadly on a platform that millions can see & the vast majority will accept since they don’t have the information to challenge your pity party.  Absolutely NO ONE defrauded you. You chose NOT to read. You chose NOT to research & ask questions.  You CHOSE instead to make disparaging comments & bash someone from your beloved twin isle for “Theifin” you & wished ill will on him in a separate tweet: “I hope you choke on the money.”

Oh by the way, were you aware that some of the proceeds from SBW Miami were actually donated to Haiti for Hurricane Relief? So part of your “entrance fee” will go to assist those in need.

Well, Ayana, I don’t think anyone wishes you harm, in fact I hope you have nothing but happiness – which is totally an internal decision & job.  Soca is beautiful, it truly has incredible power to spread love & unify people globally.  Carnival will continue to evolve & grow around the world, hopefully bringing joy, love and endless vibes to all who get to experience it.  My guess is going forward you may want to target either Cooler Fetes (that way you know you get to ensure you have your precious Grey Goose Vodka) or an All-Inclusive Fete (but just know everyone else is going to probably concerned about the quality of the RUM & if they are serving JW Black – because anything else is heresy).  Truly, come on out – rejoin the Carnival World, it’s evolved a lot apparently since you were last truly involved.  It’s ok, change is inevitable & hopefully at some point it will go back more to its roots, but no matter what it will keep changing.

Truly, This isn't about Soca Brainwash Miami or Private Ryan, this is about taking pride in your writing & recognizing the impact it can have on the entire Caribbean community and world of Carnival when speaking out of the side of your mouth on a massive platform with little care for accurate details.

Seriously, from one blogger to another - you don’t have to be the Rachel Dolezal of Carnival Reviewers.  In fact, great news .....NO ONE has to be in that category impersonating a Carnival Junkie that is knowledgeable of the current evolution of Carnival.  You can make accurate comparisons/juxtapositions of bands, fetes, different islands’ traditions.  You have the opportunity to change your ways my dear and have some fun in the process.  All you have to do is actually GO TO THE CARNIVALS & actually check your facts and then amazingly you’ll actually amass experiences, insight, and perspectives.  Hopefully you won’t sound like the orange guy with a bad comb over who thinks everything is bad unless it’s just the way he wants it.   You will be able to truly speak from an informed position and maybe champion the cause of “the little guy”.  You can fight for inclusive/modestly priced models of business on a massive platform like Huffington Post and be more like Bernie Sanders......

‘Til Next Time, Soca To De World
-Jouvert Mike

Photography Credit: Anthony Maugee of TJJ