Another band launch, another review. We're going to pepper this review with Devil Wears Prada Miranda Priestly gifs because somebody said they thought Bazodee was run by a middle-aged British white woman. We don't know how to respond to that so we'll just be snarky.
Let's get started, shall we?
Zulu International was the first band to launch for Crop Over 2018, bringing back the March launches that started only a few years ago. Kudos to Zulu on that note. As Crop Over evolves and the challenges increase as the season becomes more demanding, bands should launch earlier in order to be able to meet production demands and not place themselves under too much pressure by having to operate in tight timeframes. Anyway what do we know, we never do nuh band.
Even though technically Zulu has existed since 2013, after it came under new management in 2017 we have started to view its offerings as completely separate from previous iterations. We consider it Zulu 2.0 or Zulu Reborn. So this would be seen as the second presentation from the 'new' band, which already had a fantastic presentation last year at another early March launch.
After last year's presentation where Zulu launched with a bang, where the presentation was fantastic, where the costumes were good and the price points were just right, we looked forward to the launch to see what Zulu would bring for 2018 with 'Hidden In The Stars'. How would they explore and embody this theme? How would the costumes reflect it?
Without any further ado, let's get to the review. We'll break it down into three categories:
- The Ugly
- The Bad
- The Good
*we like to end on a positive note
Zulu's male costumes... wuh loss. A couple years back, when Zulu launched 'Apocalypto', Trinidad Carnival Diary ripped them a new one over their male costumes, trashing the band for a lack of creativity, design or any sort of concept. At the time we felt the review was overly harsh #directroughness. Looking back now, we see that Zulu has not learnt from its mistakes. As the great poet Maya Angelou said, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." Zulu knows better and it needs to do better.
What did we think of the costumes themselves? A couple words come to mind: Uncreative. Lazy. Awe-inspiringly boring. Snoozefest. Middling. Reductive.
The male costumes lacked any sort of creativity, which is surprising when you view the female ones. They're gorgeous! But the male versions lack any sort of pizazz. In the animal kingdom, the males are the ones with the brighter plumage, different fur and all types of ostentatious displays to attract the attention of females. In Crop Over and carnival culture, this is seemingly reversed.
The costumes lacked any style or substance, looking like slight colour variations of each other. Barely one little neckpiece or two barely-there arm pieces. It was surprising to watch them being paraded on stage as though we were to be impressed by them. Zulu ain' even throw in one nice headpiece lordamercy.
The only adherence of the male costumes to the theme was the fact that the material of the pants was covered with stars.
Star pants? For a space theme?
The male costumes just came across as a very naked money grab from Zulu. They stripped out key costume elements, reduced it to the bare minimum while keeping a $340 USD price point. It was like, "Yea men, we gonna trot out the age-old tired excuse that men don't like nuh fancy costume so we gonna just tek wunna money and give wunna a shorts." Wuh kinda ting is dat? To paraphrase an old Barbadian saying, it felt like Zulu was trying to rub shit in yuh mout and tell yuh is pudding. We understand that costume price is based on so much more than just the costume itself but not that meagre offering for that hot price.
We didn't like the fact that it was hard to read the section names on the background screen, plus there was no repetition of the section name, information about who was the designer or who was the section leader. We had to find out that UV Vibe was the section leader for Supernova post-launch, and found the other section leaders and designers via the website.
Some of the backlines looked a little sparse, like they lacked something to push them over the edge to make them great. Backline Betties ain't the belle of the ball but cuh dear yuh could at least make dem look sweet too. Who doesn't want to look cute in their costume on Kadooment Day?
The male models. Oy vey.
Zulu effectively killed the idea that muscles equal a good band launch model. These musclebound oversized ungainly muscle men could barely walk straight, far less wukkup or move easily. The models were too stiff; how are men supposed to envision themselves in costumes when the models can't even dance properly? Even Doddy, a veteran band launch model, fell flat at this launch. The more that the male models traipsed around on stage in their little presentation segments, the more time we had to realise how pitiful the male costumes were. The male presentation and its lack of energy or vibes pulled down the rest of the presentation. The best sequence was the two models dancing to Mole's Boom Flick but even that only served to highlight what the costumes lacked.
For the women, it would have been nice to see more high-waisted options and others for body types who don't match the sleek, svelte shapes of the Zulu models. There were no plus-sized models or any realistic body types throughout the band launch. There were mostly fitness bodies on display, from both female and male models. While the physiques were impressive throughout, how are revellers supposed to see themselves in costumes where the models don't accurately represent them. We don't expect a big belly mamma jamma to come out on stage or literally every single body type to be represented but it would have been nice to see diversity in the models selected.
Then again, if Barbados markets itself nearly exclusively using white models and expects black people and other POC to come to the island, why should Zulu be forced to adhere to realistic body standards? If it ain't broke, don't fix it right?
When Zulu is good, they're good. What we loved about Zulu's presentation was that they put effort into it. Even though their first presentation set a high bar that the second one failed to clear, it was nice to see thought and effort go into the presentation. It shows that Zulu put creativity into conceptualizing and designing the launch, a quiet indication that they care about what they put out to the public as well as an indication that it won't be business as usual like the previous Zulu launches. A welcome change from just music and pushing costumes at people.
We loved the use of the newly refurbished Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre. We love the fusion of Crop Over and the arts, given that even though Crop Over and Kadooment are infused with creativity and artistry, it's still seen as 'low culture' and somehow not real art. Zulu utilized the space well and it was a welcome change of location for a band launch. Something fresh and novel, while remaining intimate. Plus it exposed a lot more people to the theatre that wouldn't have otherwise darkened its doors.
The presentation itself, styled as an Astronomy 101 lecture, utilized the intimate space of the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre which could double as a lecture hall. While Simon Alleyne as host did his job well and injected the presentation with comedic relief, sadly it didn't match the high voltage presentation of 2017 which more people came out to expect. Don't get us wrong, it was not a bad presentation (we quite enjoyed it), it just lacked the supercharged feel that one normally associates with a band launch. Perhaps the formal setting also had a part to play as well.
Initially, when we saw the Wavy Review video playing at the beginning launch we were like
We joke we joke. It made perfect sense for Zulu to push the review to remind people what the experience was like on the road with them for 2017. If it was Zulu's own video it would not have had the same impact as the Wavy Review's video and this is reflected in the way that the video went viral last year. Because Zulu allowed Wavy to review them, it gave legitimacy to the brand because the review came from an independent party and not from within Zulu. It gave Zulu a green light and thumbs up because revellers were able to see what the experience was like with new management. Zulu was smart to twist that to their advantage and push the video. They took a gamble (because Wavy could have well dragged them) and it paid off. The review was well shot, well edited and full of delicious bacchanal on the streets of Barbados.
Many of the costumes presented were immaculate. We liked 'Nebula' designed by Kat Gittens while we thought that David Dewer's 'Sagi A' design was simply immaculate. Zulu was right to close out the presentation with this one. Gorgeous design, we loved the colours (especially learning now it was meant to represent a black hole) and the model was beyond exceptional. Her body was immaculate and gave inspiration to everyone viewing her picture #bodygoals. The wonderful thing about Sagi A is that we can see a curvy person also rocking the hell out of this costume as well.
We loved some of the section names, especially 'UWO - Unidentified Wukking Object'. We loved that the band didn't take itself too seriously and decided to inject a little fun into the name of a section. We were beginning to question the section named 'Sagia', wondering if it was perhaps the name of one of Jupiter's moons or something similar. Then we came to realize it was actually 'Sagi A' which is a reference to Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Nice touch Zulu, nice touch. We love adherence to a theme and we love an obscure reference. 10 points to Gryffindor.
KEZA section leader Roseia and her daughter Mutamuliza. Need we say more? These two look like they've won the genetic lottery with their pristine bodies and sun-kissed flawless polished mahogany complexions. Plus whenever have we seen a mother-daughter band launch combo? Kudos to them both.
The website itself is also very well done, simple and straight to the point. We liked the fact that it was easy to navigate and straightforward. Prices, section names, official images and what the band is offering are all on display and easy to find. Zulu was smart to pair with photographer Andrew Browne. His gorgeous images bring the costumes to life and really sells them. His photography on the road is also phenomenal and truly captures the spirit of the brand.
In closing, Zulu has remained on track. Its offerings do not vary wildly from last year and the band has maintained consistency in its product offering. With new designers on board, Zulu has showcased that it is committed to refreshing its product yearly and always evolving and updating itself step by step. Price points have remained consistent while offering nice costumes and a great road experience. Zulu has marketed itself as 'the FUN band' and it's easy to see how they will retain that title. They have a solid quality product that they just need to hone in order to make it exceptional. If Zulu plays its card right, it may become the brand associated with consistently having a fantastic time on the road for Kadooment.