It's been a while. We haven't reviewed a band since 2016. Let's jump right into it, shall we?
KHEPRI KULTURE 2018 - ANTI
Khepri Kulture is the new band on the block, one of many who cropped up seeking a slice of the Kadooment pie. The band was formed in 2018, the combination of forces of many brands, such as Island Fusion, Spectrum, Flavaa Nation, Denyque, Mojito Jouvert and Silent Morning, a merger that was greater than the sum of its parts, presenting a creative threat to the larger Kadooment bands.
While the band showcased impressive prowess with its social media ability, some very unique entertainment section leaders as well as a bevy of sponsors under their belt, the question had to be asked: does Khepri actually have what it takes to actually launch a Kadooment band?
* At the time of writing this review, Khepri had banned media from releasing media imagery until April 13th so we've chosen to intersperse the review with reaction gifs. Plus it's more fun.
We will try not to make this review too long as there is much to discuss with Khepri, as with any band launch. But let's break it down to the most salient points:
- What or who is Khepri Kulture?
- What does ANTI mean?
- How is that conveyed to the audience?
- Wuh de costumes saying?
For the first point, we came away from the band launch wondering what exactly is Khepri Kulture still. While the band presented a unified front on social media, at the launch this failed to translate. What it came across as was more of Island Fusion X Flavaa Nation featuring friends. Spectrum, Mojito, Silent Morning and Denyque felt more like supporting acts to the Beyonce and Kelly of Island Fusion (IF) and Flavaa Nation (FN).
While we don't like to compare bands per se, Xhosa was the first to unite many different brands under one banner. While Khepri has managed to do that, the launch had a constant feeling of separateness, as though all it was really multiple different brands showcasing costumes as opposed to one unified band under one banner, whereas Xhosa took the time out to feel like a band and brand itself, as opposed to just Roast and friends. The diversity among the costumes only added to this feeling. From the outside, it would seem the brand lacks strong core leadership to make strong creative decisions regarding the direction and perception of the brand. Perhaps the core band leadership needs a Higher Heights team building course to enforce core values of leadership and teamwork. While their social media presence and direction is admirable, in the real world FN & IF clearly need to make a greater inclusion of the younger brands.
What is Anti?
After band announcement, band launch date announcement, various section leader announcements, it was finally time to see what Khepri was really all about. We were on the edge of our seats. The only question we had was, what was the theme 'ANTI'. Never publicly or officially stated as the theme, it was both mysterious, intriguing and enticing.
What was Khepri's interpretation of ANTI? Was it referring to how Khepri would be the antithesis to the established Kadooment hierarchy? Was it a reference to the antithetical nature of Khepri's costumes that would go against the norm of bead and feather mas? Was Khepri inviting us to a creative world of opposites where up would be down and vice versa? Were they planning to take everything seen as bad and make it look good?
It would come to seem that not even Khepri knew what 'ANTI' was supposed to mean. From such a mysterious exciting theme, flowed a potpourri of uncertainty. The stage literally became Kadooment; not in the sense of jump and wave on Spring Garden, but in the very traditional Barbadian meaning of the word: confusion, disorder, disarray. Section names appeared with no discernable connection to each other, far less the overall theme. It was as though they had been pulled from a hat at random or a lucky dip. Names such as 'Rebellion, 'Baila Mami' and 'One Love' were trotted out with no seeming rhyme nor reason.
Granted, to be fair, while some themes and section names for many previous Kadooment bands have equally had no bearing or made no sense, is this really how a band wants to present itself on its first showcase? One that prides itself on its creativity and has gone to lengths to showcase said creativity? As many Bajan mothers have said before, "If you friends jump off a cliff you gine jump off too?"
Further to that, while we can applaud Khepri for its creativity and out the box thinking, we felt like it missed the mark. It felt as though there was no creative director in place to hone and fine-tune all the rampant excessive creativity into one cohesive presentation or at least get the presentation to speak to the core ideals of the Khepri brand.
Wuh de costumes saying?
Even more disappointing than the loss of a unifying theme, were the male costumes. For all its rampant, energetic creativity that seemed to burst at the seams, the male costumes were weak and lacked vibrancy or vitality. Nuh headpieces? Not even lil chest piece or arm/leg pieces? Nuh nuttin in de army style Rebellion section that had so much potential for something hard? Traditionally, bands make a killing from male costumes so this presentation came across more as a bold-faced naked money grab or cost-cutting measure, rather than laziness or a lack of creativity. Again, while we can applaud the band for attempting to move away from bead and feather mas, the male costumes were dull, lifeless and forgettable.
Conversely, while the men were dead the women were exploring uncharted territory. The costume presentation swung viciously between traditional bead & feather creations and new materials. Large headpieces were out and in were backpacks, mesh, accessories and surprisingly, sequins. One section saw the advent of a dazzling iridescent large-sequined jacket, which debuted to oohs and aahs. Others were not wowed as much, with one commentator standing nearby questioning whether this was a Crop Over costume showcase or a fashion show. While we can admire the creativity and use of alternative materials in crafting a Kadooment costume collection, some pieces like the jacket, while gorgeous, seemed completely impractical in the blazing heat of the Kadooment summer sun. Still, it was exciting to look at and seemed to embody the ethos of the Khepri brand, which seemed to be fun, youth, bold, adventurous and unafraid to take risks.
While we liked some costumes in the presentation, none really made you gasp or scream out in excitement. However, this may be Khepri looking to cut costs based on their target market because if you want a breathtaking costume you gotta be willing to pay breathtaking prices. In this economy? Who got time for that?
What We Loved - Give jack 'e jacket
One thing Khepri did that we give them a standing ovation for, is the use of many body types. From the model thin to the fabulous plus sized, models stomped the runway, lending more of an air of a Kadooment fashion show for all body types. It was refreshing to see and the use of gorgeous plus-sized models who were gorgeous and knew how to work the runway felt far more inclusive. Yet again, something we think all bands should take note of and look to incorporate in a way that feels real and not just "hey look at me, we got plus-sized costumes over here too".
We also loved the use of the Rip The Runway style presentation, where the presentation was interspersed with soca performances from top name brand acts. It was exciting and electrifying and something we think other bands can take note of. The models were gorgeous and the interaction between them and the performers was fun and enjoyable. The use of the trident style stage as a nod to Barbadian culture was also a nice touch, making the presentation feel more spread out and not cramping the costumes on a runway with the performers.
The crochet bikini was a first for a Crop Over costumes (not sure if the first for a carnival costume) and something completely out the box and creative. It was good to be able to see young designers showcase their ability and put on a show. Kudos to Khepri for giving a young designer the space and chance to be able to do that as well. We wonder if this will be an individual piece as the thought of mass production of these pieces sounds like a headache.
It was brave of Khepri to also launch early, giving themselves a large window of time until the next launch, thereby ensuring they would dominate interest for a couple weeks. However, this early launch opens the band for greater scrutiny and comparisons to already established bands. When prices drop will be another headache as the band doesn't know what the market will be like for other bands or even what other bands will bring out. Time will tell if their decision to launch early paid off.
Khepri clearly understands global influence, global positioning and marketing to a global audience. With the addition of Denyque as a section leader, with over 260,000 followers on Instagram alone, Khepri made sure it blasted into a regional if not global presence in one fell swoop. Denyque's social media strength alone dwarfed many other Kadooment bands, Trinidadian carnival bands and other regional bands, putting Khepri in a unique position. It is just for it to be utilized accurately and effectively. For a startup Kadooment band, taking Crop Over to the world in this way while making a regional connection is something to be applauded.
Khepri is clearly targeting younger people in its marketing style. Its social media usage, direction and message clearly has a very youthful tone to it and this is reflected in the costume designs. It's good to see the brand has identified its target market so early and is speaking to them. With the older and larger bands fighting over an older market, perhaps its wise for Khepri to look into different markets with the disposable income to boot.
In closing, we applaud Khepri for its formation and tenacity. It must be hard to rally multiple brands and all get them to work together for a common goal. It also isn't easy to enter the Kadooment market, because if it were many other brands would be doing it. With the fragmentation of the Xhosa, Erup's near-constant missteps, mistakes and mismanagement, as well as the end of Youth Xplosion & Fantasy Barbados, Khepri does have a chance to make a decent splash on the market once they tighten their ship and deliver a quality product to their first masqueraders.
- Surprisingly, there wasn't a strong showing at the end of the presentation with the section leaders and their designers. It would have been nicer if there was a greater showcase of that. It just came across muddled and confused at some points.
- We did like the fact that it was easy at the launch to identify which section belonged to whom thanks to the announcers.
- The Island Fusion section wasn't as strong as we thought it would be given the brand's previous presentations. However, this may be just it adjusting to a new market.
- Initially, we thought the post-launch media lockdown was a bad move but Khepri has clarified and reversed their position, orchestrating a staggered release of images. They would be wise to capitalize on their time until the next set of band launches.
- They need to capitalise on time spent by releasing prices while interest is still high and before others launch and knock the interest out completely.
- Island Fusion don't plan to update that logo? It's time for IF8 or just plain IF. Get that graphic designer on deck.
- It would've been nice if Denyque and other section leaders had a chance to be there but obviously these things cost money.
- This is Crop Over. This ain't a backyard festival. This is one of the oldest festivals in the Western Hemisphere and a globally recognized event. If bands aren't bothering to come hard, bring their best work and put their best feet forward with an impressive showcase, it's best you don't come at all. The world is watching.
If you're interested in seeing the costumes you can catch a recap via Crop Over Experience on the Khepri Kulture Kadooment Youtube channel