Is other people’s festival always better than ours?

From October 25 to 27, the World Creole Music Festival in Dominica took place. Several of these concerts were broadcast live on a private radio station based in Guadeloupe and Martinique. We heard so many qualifying adjectives praising this festival from the team of presenters and journalists who were there while the WCMF was organizing its 21st edition this year! But don’t delude ourselves: this radio had already been paid by the government of Dominica to launch a long publicity campaign so that the inhabitants of Guadeloupe and Martinique participate in this musical event; they say that even our tourists caught the boat for Roseau, these tourists for whom Guadeloupe like Martinique spend a lot of money so that they stay on both islands… In brief, all these positive qualifiers of this radio station during the concerts were first to provide after-sales service…

These “special correspondents” were proud that their radio station was “in front of” the other Dominican and Caribbean media that also covered the event. What a performance!

We heard that the artists who went on stage asked where were the Guadeloupeans and Martinicans to send special greetings to them? It seems that Guadeloupeans and Martinicans were guests of honor at this musical event.

Were they relieved to be “recognized” as Caribbean people by Caribbean people when we have always been locals, even if, for a very long time, we have not looked at our immediate environment but Europe and more particularly France?

Did they feel very proud to have had their moment of glory? Be careful not to feel superior to our Caribbean neighbours…

In Dominica, there were not only simple festival-goers who came to listen to good music. We heard that carnival groups as well as DJs from Guadeloupe and Martinique also went to “Waitikubuli” (Carib name of Dominica meaning “Great is its body”). We suppose that it was always for the aim of existing in the eyes of our Caribbean neighbours.

Some of our readers tell us that it was like these campers at Easter and Pentecost who bring their television set and their bed at the beach… The comparison is certainly a little excessive but it shows the astonishment of some of our compatriots by so much fervour to take part in this musical festival which is not new.

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4 000 Caribbean-French and 1 million euros in Dominica

It must be said that the nationals of these two French islands in the Caribbean represented the largest quota of festival-goers. We heard that there were 2,500 Guadeloupeans and 1,500 Martinicans there. In short, they are almost together according to what some festival-goers say…exactly like when Guadeloupeans and Martinicans board a ship at the port of Pointe-à-Pitre or Fort-de-France to go on a cruise in the Caribbean…tell some of our readers!

We also heard on this private radio station that Guadeloupean and Martinican festival-goers have left in the economy of the island of Dominica an astronomical sum during these three days of concerts: 1 million euros! A sum that makes organizers of events wonder in Guadeloupe and Martinique.

If we can help the brothers and sisters in Dominica to develop their country through cultural tourism, This is excellent especially if it’s a high quality product but we must not lose sight of the fact that we are not as rich as we think in Guadeloupe and Martinique…

From the launch of WCMF, the Dominican government understood that its two neighbouring French islands represent a real financial windfall. Each year, delegations come to Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France to present the WCMF product to travel agencies and the media.

I remember the press conference with the Dominican Minister of Tourism of the time that was organized on a boat of the company ATE to present this future WCMF to journalists from both islands, more than 20 years ago…

This year, some people think it’s a “tailor-made festival” that was concocted for Guadeloupeans and Martinicans. Probably in order to bring back those festival-goers who tended to stay at home perhaps to go clean the vaults of their dead for All Saints’ Day or perhaps because the WCMF no longer attracted them as in previous years.

After these three days of celebration from 8:00 pm until the early morning when the tourists had fun and spent money, some people are beginning to wonder about it.

Of course, Martinique has one of the oldest festivals in the Caribbean. Indeed, the “Festival Culturel de Fort-de-France” celebrated last July its 48th edition.

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A profitable festival for the country

In Guadeloupe, we cannot say the same: musical festivals do not manage to age or they age badly. Some do not hide their disappointment or anger when they hear the huge amounts of money that went into the coffers of the State of Dominica while the oldest festival in Guadeloupe which celebrated its 32nd edition last July – the Festival de Gwoka de Sainte-Anne – does not manage to charge the Guadeloupean spectators for its performances. Many tend to be reluctant when they have to pay at home but when they are elsewhere they pay everything because everything is for sale, our neighbours organize festivals to first earn money, make their economy work. So, this festival of traditional music, song and dance, even if it symbolizes the heritage of the island of Guadeloupe, today is moribund. It should also be noted that its organizers have never exploited the “fame” which gave it the registration of gwoka on the list of the intangible heritage of humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in November 26, 2014…

As for the “Festival Marie-Galante Terre de Blues”, it has been on a drip for several years, and we have never had figures showing its good financial health except fine statements.

Today, some voices begin to rise to ask for a great musical festival in Guadeloupe that puts on stage local artists, artists from the Caribbean Basin or elsewhere, like in the other Caribbean islands that have at least one big festival. A big festival with a large advertising campaign in the Caribbean and elsewhere to bring foreign festival-goers, a profitable festival for the country and not only for private organizers. For others, this wish will come true when Guadeloupe and Martinique will stand on their own two feet and, like their Caribbean neighbours, they will have to use all means necessary to bring in foreign currency into their coffers.

For the moment, we hope that Guadeloupean and Martinican tourists who were in Dominica and who were so delighted with the welcome they received there will want to welcome foreign visitors in the same conditions or better on their islands. Guadeloupe and Martinique need tourists too…

We also hope that Guadeloupeans and Martinicans hit it off with the Dominicans despite the language barrier, even if there are already a lot of Dominicans at home…