In 2018, information gathered from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and the Immigration Division of the Ministry of National Security was used to calculate how much revenue was gained from visitors to T&T who travelled specifically for the purpose of celebrating Carnival.
This report was done at a time before the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when T&T celebrated Carnival together. It was discovered in that year, using an average of how much money each surveyed visitor said they spent in our nation at the time of their departure, that T&T Carnival had generated in total an estimated TT$318,948,168 in that year. Reports from previous years showed similar results.
Of the 33,873 persons who visited T&T during the aforementioned period, 62 per cent of those surveyed said they visited specifically to celebrate Carnival.
Six per cent of these visitors to T&T in general visited Tobago in particular, which is inhabited by 5 per cent of this nation’s overall population.
Carnival, both in T&T, has been a big income generator over the years and stakeholders had every reason to be excited about Tobago’s first-ever independently celebrated Carnival in October of 2022.
In anticipation of Tobago’s first-ever autonomous Carnival, Masimba George, aka “Simba Lion,” the leader of music group “Kannection Generals,” invested over TT$10,000 towards the production of several smaller music projects which, as one of Tobago’s more popular soca artistes, he expected to make returns on. By October 27, 2022 (the day before Carnival), he estimated that he had made in total less than TT$3,000 income from musical appearances.
This year, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Division of Tourism announced that $17.5 million was spent by Tobago’s government on Tobago’s first-ever stand-alone Carnival. George is wondering why he is coming up short on his investment on himself as a well-known Tobago soca artiste.
With no Carnival happening in Trinidad while Tobago celebrated this October, several Trinidad creatives were free to come to Tobago to offer their services, creating competition for the spotlight for Tobago creatives like George.
Music was not always George’s dream. He played football for Roxborough Secondary, where he attained six CXC O’Level subjects before going on to Sixth Form at Signal Hill Comprehensive, where he gained one CXC ‘A’ Level subject while also playing football for that school. George earned a scholarship to attend a New Mexico USA University through the Tobago Coaching School, where he was coached by legendary trainer Bertille St Clair, who is famous for also coaching national football hero Dwight Yorke.
While attending university in New Mexico, he became friends with a few underground hip-hop artists. George was paid on average $US150 a day as a movie extra for three different movies. Gradually, George was drawn away from football and into the entertainment industry.
Geroge moved from New Mexico to Switzerland, where he played for a division three football club. He worked as a party promoter in Europe for a few years. He teamed up with other like-minded promoters to bring to Switzerland legendary dancehall artist Spice.
When his promotion company was born in Switzerland, it was called “Kannection Family.” George returned to Tobago and he eventually changed his company name from Kannection Family to Kannection Generals.
Today, his company boasts seven artistes, four of whom performed at the Tobago Soca Stars competition preliminaries leading up to the finals, which two Kannection Generals artists qualified for.
The Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation is responsible for Tobago’s Carnival. George believes the THA has a responsibility to facilitate the growth of Tobago’s entertainment industry to preserve Tobago’s culture.
When George noticed that of the many events that led up to Tobago’s Carnival, very few Tobago soca artistes had been employed to entertain, he took to a Facebook Live to voice his concerns. His Facebook Live sparked a trend on social media, where artistes mainly from Tobago would make similar videos. Gradually, the events leading up to Tobago’s first independent Carnival became more decorated with Tobago soca artistes.
While Tobago’s first Carnival build-up was not without hiccups, Tobagonians began hearing more songs from their own artistes gracing the radio stations and the feel of something unique, autonomous and festive seeped into the air.
A conversation was sparked on the island about what responsibilities the Tobago artiste has to be able to compete with their counterparts from other islands, as well as what can be done to promote Tobago’s culture with the use of taxpayer dollars through government institutions. One thing that seemed to be agreed on by all parties involved is that the upcoming Tobago Carnival looked promising.
Tobago’s Carnival eventually came and so did some heavy rains at times, “the only thing rain does stop is cricket” said many residents and visitors alike as they partied like it was 1999. By most accounts, (including George’s), Tobago’s first Carnival was an epic hit.
A report on the economic side of things is expected to be given by the THA soon enough. Many persons feel optimistic that Tobago’s creatives will not be left out the next time around and much of the optimism that is shared has been accredited to the spark that George created when he took a stand for all the creatives of Tobago.
Leroy George is the Public Relations Officer for Tobago Writer’s Guild. For more information, call or WhatsApp at 1(868)620-5799 or email email@example.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram @TobagoWritersGuild