Africa: Why Passion 4 has won Carnival Calabar 10 times in 15 years-Chris Agibe

In 15 years, Passion 4 Band, one of the five competing bands at the annual Carnival Calabar has emerged winners of the carnival parade a whopping 10 times. Travellers TV spoke with the band leader, Hon. Chris Agibe who let us in on the secret behind the success…

Can you introduce yourself, sir?
My name is Hon. Christopher Agibe. I am the band leader of Passion 4

Talking about Passion 4, what does Passion 4 represent?
In a simple sentence, it represents passion for the Carnival. Everybody on the band is crazy about the carnival

You have won the carnival 10times now, so how do you feel winning again?
Winning again is good but winning the 10th time is very special. It is like winning ten (10) years out of the fifteen (15) years of the carnival. For me personally, I have competed in the carnival for twelve(12) years and out of the twelve (12)years I have won ten (10) times. So it’s really great, it makes you feel like you are appreciated, what you are doing is appreciated.

Is there any magic around the constant wins?
No, it’s just one thing, commitment, absolute commitment. I don’t know any other thing that takes as much time as the Carnival. The beginning of the year for me is the end of the previous carnival year. From the 29th of December, my year begins and I start planning for the carnival. I have held meetings with my team already on how we are going to approach the next carnival, so that’s practically my life, every other thing I do is secondary to this.

A few days ago I overhead people talking about passion 4 at the stadium, so how do you think passion4 has affected the carnival Calabar?
In a couple of ways, firstly, improving, the objective of the carnival to the Cross River State, we are about the poorest state in the South-South and our neighbors are very rich so we thought about it that being the poor cousins of very rich fellows, how do we get them to come to Calabar and spend their money? So we came up with the carnival and I have been part of the team that brought the carnival from 2005, and here we are. So as passion 4, we strive every year to ensure that those who come for the carnival for that year will come again the next year. We believe that depending on our presentation we could make them come, make them change their minds. So every year we come up with something new, something special, something seductive that will bring you back to the tourism destination.

So what is the seductive technique?
Generally, the creativity. Creativity is very seductive because the first thing that comes to your mind is what next will the girl do. So yearly, it’s what next? So that the first question we always ask ourselves at the end of the carnival; what did we do right this year, what next are we going to do.

Do you at any point have any other band that you see as your rival and you really need to play them out?
It is tough to say and we are not being arrogant and the reason is that if you look at Carnival Calabar when we started in the year 2005, every band had its own characteristics, if you look at the bands today; they are playing exactly what passion 4 has been playing from 2005 to now. So now everyone is copying us. They have thrown away their personal characteristics and they just want to copy what passion 4 is doing and that is huge for us. That means we are doing the right thing.

Secondly, we have always determined the pace of the carnival. In 2005, no other band played to a theme, even the carnival commission did not give us a theme. Passion 4 started the carnival with a team. It took three years for the carnival commission to realize that they needed a theme and every band needed a theme. When it comes to floats in Carnival Calabar, we are the first band to introduce Kinetic floats. Floats that change shape and form while moving and then they caught up with it.

We started with front line girls, today there are front girls in every band. We are the first band to introduce hip-hop, today you will think everything is hip-hop in Carnival Calabar, so whatever you see in Carnival Calabar are the things we have started. When you allow somebody to stand before you follow, it is difficult for you to catch up with him, because every year, we must think of something to start. For instance, if you look at this year’s theme when we played “Humanity”.

You could see Humanity in the front of the band when we played “Migration” you could see the mask section and when we played “Africanism” you could also see a different kind of mask section. We are starting a tradition, we are Africanizing and it needs totality. They haven’t caught up with that yet but in a few years’ time, they will realize that tool is magic, we need to start doing this but before they get there we would have come up with something new.

So I would say we are mutating, we are evolving every day, we are changing form and we are not waiting for anybody to start anything, if you start yours, then it’s yours we really don’t care too much about it. For instance, Master blaster started Magic, they thought we would copy, we didn’t copy but instead, we came up with our own kind of magic that killed their magic and now everybody is back again copying us. So we are not scared of any band we just try to be creative and we appreciate them for what they do very well, they have their own style but in life, everybody has his swag and we like our swag so we stick to our swag. So Passion 4 is known for Originality.

What motivates you, sir?
(Sighs) Initially, it was art for art’s sake but recently I have come to realize that has it really ever been an art for art’s sake? There must be some social implication of the art you do; there must be some economic implication of the art. Carnival has brought food on a lot of tables in this state, lots of people young people, retired people, in fact, there are retired people that lease out their homes to visitors and make a lot of money. If there was no carnival, that won’t happen but the most exciting to me is that I’m involved with some guys that are working with this street kids thing. So during the year, they pick up the street kids, teach them how to make costumes, I come in during carnival season absorb them, they make costumes for me and we pay them. Some have started going to school from this process, so that is my new motivation.

So finally what’s your take on Carnival Calabar 2019?
I think the Carnival has improved remarkably, the content is getting stronger but in everything in life you have strong points and weaknesses too. I think we need to up our organizational ability, the overall organizational ability of the carnival. We need to create more performance space because when we have more performance space, the revelers will gyrate some more, also when you have a good performance space the spectators will have the greater of the carnival and the carnival will look more beautiful.

Secondly, night carnival is very good because it brings out the best in the costumes, the lights play their roles but we need to marry between starting early so we can finish not too late. A little into the night brings out the glamour of our costumes but not too late to tire out the revelers because mostly at the last performance point, they are short of energy and you need to pump them up with some stuff to get them to perform.

So I think that’s where we have some slight shortcoming but overall, I think its improving and also the commitment from the various band leaders will only get better because initially when we just started the carnival we were not talking to one another very much. But I think now we have gotten to the point in the carnival where we see that winning the carnival is not the most important thing; the most important thing is growing the carnival. So we now cross co-ordinate ideas on how to grow the carnival and we can only get better with this kind of mindset.

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