Saturday, March 10, 2018

Pretty mas killing ancestral mas in Carnival

What traditions are we losing in our Carnival, how can we bring them back and what have we not yet explored? This was the main theme of mas band Vulgar Fraction’s Carnival post-mortem session, Independent Mas Speaks, held at Granderson Lab, Belmont. The panelists were political and social critic Rhoda Bharath, cultural researcher Arielle John and cultural activist Amanda T. McIntyre, and the panel moderated by Robert Young of the Cloth.
Bharath, who views Carnival through the lens of ancestor veneration, said she was shaken when two regional visitors said T&T’s Carnival was very commercialised and had no cultural elements, based on their observations. She said the ancestral mas and cultural mas felt like they were being subsumed by pretty mas, although these were all valid ways in which to experience mas, depending on the personality of the masquerader.
Bharath said Carnival comes out of yards, and it is essential for yards to take themselves to another level in educating people about mas. She said they should be continuing the work outside of the season and there is now no excuse for not recording, storing, archiving, representing and re-presenting themselves.
Bharath called on the National Carnival Commission (NCC) to put more effort into having a separate route for ancestral mas and traditional mas because there was an audience for them. She said she was not advocating for handouts but better organisation. Bharath said she didn’t believe that Carnival is dead or dying, but it can be floundering and directionless, and this could be remedied by thinking about the underpinning of the Festival.
John said in her research on the divine impulses that we celebrate within the mas, she has begun the establishment of a counter-Trinity in Carnival of the Mother, Maiden and Crone as evidenced by the Virgin Mary, the Orisha deity Oshun and the Hindu goddess Kali. She said the Virgin Mary represented the oppression wrought by European Christianity and the history of subjection and subjugation which came with it.
John said Oshun, who embodies sensuality and love, is the easiest entity to find in the Carnival. She is represented by women in their costumes, the flag women and the jammettes who were some of the earliest originators of the Carnival rebellion. She said Kali is the great destroyer, the goddess of death and rebirth, and she is evident in the stick-fighting rituals and the warring factions of the steel bands as they fought for recognition. John said while there is violence in Carnival, it is part of ritual and can be viewed in a positive light. She said we need to interrogate who the onlooker is who denounces it as barbaric.
Bharath said there are traditions in dance to be explored, especially as they relate to the various deities. She said more research and discussion need to take place on the traditions which both enslaved and bonded Africans would have brought to T&T.
McIntyre spoke about the Culture of Consent campaign and the uproar about the police warning against assault, linking it to Vulgar Fraction’s presentation Playing White in We Sh##hole Country. She said there was a sense of entitlement, or ‘playing white’, in how those with more power related to those with less, for example between rich people and poor people, men and women, and adults and children.
Bharath said we have lost sight of our culture, which has always had non-verbal cues for asking and giving consent. She said we are failing to teach young people the codes which used to exist in households, like the look which brought instant obedience. John questioned why men only respected women’s agency and right to say no when the law was watching them.

Friday, February 16, 2018

2018 Queen and King of Carnival

Roxanne Omalo achieved her goal earlier today, when at about 1.45 am, she was declared the 2018 Queen of Carnival while veteran masquerader, Earl Thompson won King of Carnival for a Peter Minshall-designed costume.

Omalo was the last of the 10 queen finalists to perform during Dimanche Gras on Sunday night at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. She won for her portrayal of Lilith, Mistress of the Eternally Dammed.
The costume, from Antourage Productions' presentation Dance of Mystery, was a mix of vibrant red bands with black and gold accents, framing Lilith's large skeletal frame. On either side of Omalo, were the large faces two monsters, baring their sharp white teeth.
There was no third place queen this year, as the South Queen of Carnival, Gloria Dallsingh – with her costume Gem of the Ocean – tied with Krystal Thomas – with her costume De Head Huntress – for second place.
Speaking with reporters shortly after being crowned queen, Omalo said, "Eight years I've been playing but I told (my team) that before ten, I would win it and I did it tonight. Varma Lakhan and Antourage Productions, well-done."

Thompson's portrayal of Death And The Maiden, The Fancy King Sailor Plays Pegasus, was a crowd favourite from the preliminary round last Tuesday.
The costume is the presentation, The Eyes of God, a collaboration between Minshall's band, The Callaloo Company and Exodus Steel Orchestra.
Sans wheels, the flying horse costume was dependent on Thompson's skill and Minshall's training to ensure its fabric wings stayed unfurled for the judges to fully appreciate the hand-painted images of a naked masquerader on one wing and a skeleton on the other.
"He (Minshall) demonstrated to me, what to do and how to do it. In terms of moving the costume and how to keep the wings flying," Thompson said.
Last year's winner, Ted Eustace from the band Paparazzi, placed second with Dos Bandditos while there was tie for third place between Ravi Lakhan – Balrog, Bringer of the Apocalypse – and Marlon Rampersad – D Midas Touch.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

NCC hat-trick for Ronnie & Caro

Ronnie and Caro Mas Band have retained their National Carnival Commission (NCC) Band of the Year title for their 2018 presentation of Life’s Checkered Board.
The large band, owned by veteran soca artist Ronnie McIntosh and his wife Caroline, copped their third consecutive title when the results were announced yesterday.
The band had previously won the Medium Band of the Year title for four consecutive years between 2008 and 2011, before it grew into a large band.
In an interview at the band’s Woodbrook mas camp just before he began celebrating with staff last evening, McIntosh said while they were happy titles were not the driving force behind the band’s annual presentations.
“When we first started we were not concentrating on the titles. We won the first year we came out, but that really was not the plan,” McIntosh said.
Saying the band was focused on providing good customer service, he said most of their 1,000 masqueraders were returning customers and foreign nationals.
“Customer service is one of the things that’s making us famous and making people come back and recommend us to other people,” McIntosh said.
He also said his masqueraders did not need much prompting to stick within their sections at judging points and were synchronised for much of the parade route.
“Presentation is important. It does not mean that you have to do theatrics, drama and fireworks. It is just how you come across stage and give the judges and people an opportunity to see the band and costumes,” he said.
In second place in the large band competition was The Lost Tribe’s presentation Seven followed by Paparazzi Carnival’s Nomadik Nation.
The top three results were the same for the Port-of-Spain City Corporation’s Downtown competition for Carnival Tuesday. It was the fifth time that Ronnie and Caro had won the corporation’s Carnival Tuesday title.
In the medium band category, K2K Alliance’s We Stand United beat Republic Bank Exodus Steel Orchestra’s The Eyes of God, which was designed by former multiple Band of the Year winner Peter Minshall. In third place was Jus Wee and Friends’ presentation Wee Take Flight. Like Ronnie and Caro, the win was K2K Alliance’s third title in as many years.
Large Bands
1. Ronnie and Caro Mas Band - Life’s Checkered Board - 1275
2. The Lost Tribe - Seven - 1245
3. Paparazzi Carnival - Nomadik Nation - 1204
Medium Bands
1. K2K Alliance - We Stand United - 1270
2. Republic Bank Exodus Steel Orchestra - The Eyes of God - 1235
3. Jus Wee and Friends - Wee Take Flight - 1198
Small Bands
1. Tribal Connection Cultural Promotion - Call of D Tribes - 1192
2. Utopia Mas - Folklore: A Collection of Animal Tales - 1191
3. Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors - Masters of the Art - 1182
Mini Bands
1. The Orginal Jab Jab - Spirit of D Whip - 1196
2. Simply Cultural - We Claiming We Space - 1184
3. Rhapsody in Blue - Blue Madda Dan Dem - 1164

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Minshall, Montano rule at Savannah

As the reign of the Merry Monarch came to a fantastic finish yesterday, The Eyes Of God, a production of legendary masman Peter Minshall, took centre stage at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.
Minshall, who re-entered the big stage after an absence of several years, produced a sailor band accompanied by melodious sounds from the Exodus steelband, much to the delight of masqueraders and spectators alike.
The Eyes Of God was produced in collaboration with the Calaloo Company and featured a black and white colour scheme of white sailor pants, white sailor caps and white T-shirts with black writing which drew much appreciation.
Bikini and beads also had their usual spot on the big stage as frenzied frolickers portrayed brilliant, intricately-woven costumes displaying a kaleidoscope of colours.
Earlier, it was not unusual that the Harts band was at the entrance to the Savannah stage promptly at 8 am. The 11 sections were in keeping with the band’s theme Shimmer and Lace, with costumes featuring lace, sheer body suits, capes and some bling.
Large band Ronnie and Caro’s Life’s Checkered Board also put on a fantastic display with sections like Fight to the Finish, Game Changers, Game Haters and Lovers of the Game which told a story: life is like a game of chess where people must play wisely and create their own niche, as the journey is only for a time.
The band, which is in its eleventh year, has copped a hattrick with its previous wins.
Band leader Ronnie McIntosh, who briefly spoke afterwards, said the tough economic times had some effect this year as their numbers were down.
“This year we have about 1,100 masqueraders. We were eventually sold out in the end, but when people are faced with one month-end salary before Carnival it is hard and we understand that,” McIntosh said.
“But our foreign customer base has increased. We treat everyone really good because Carnival makes an important contribution to our economy...people are spending their money and customer service must be important.”
Another large band, Paparazzi, which had an estimated 1,500 masqueraders, was spectacular with its presentation Carnival is Nomadik Nations. The sections, including Red Light District, featured cultures from around the world.
Legacy’s We Jamming Still created its concept from the 2017 Road March by the Ultimate Rejects.
Band director Mahindra Satram-Maharaj said although the song was last year it was very relevant today given the financial constraints faced by many.
“It shows the resilient of our people ... that despite in the face of adversity we persevere and find solutions,” Satram-Maharaj said as sections like Hope and Unity crossed the stage. Just after noon, however, there was a lull when party band Fantasy Carnival took much longer to cross the stage as revellers were reluctant to exit. With its presentation the Isle of Olympia, Fantasy was accompanied by soca star Machel Montano, who delivered his runaway hit Soca Kingdom from one of music trucks.
K2K Alliance and Partners also weaved a theme of hope with its presentation We Stand United, as it honed in on unifying topics such as love, faith, brotherhood, family and resilience born through struggle.
There were also some small band’s like Masters of the Art, which featured Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors showcasing traditional fancy sailor mas.
Some 75 bands were registered with the National Carnival Commission (NCC). The results for Band of the Year are expected to be announced today.

Geisha Kowlessar

Source:Trinidad Guardian

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Minshall mesmerises Savannah stage

Persistence and dedication paid off for two veteran masqueraders who secured victory in this year’s Carnival King and Queen competition following years of unsuccessful forays in the annual contest.
Earl Thompson and Roxanne Omalo improved on their fifth and seventh place results in the preliminary round of the competition, as they dazzled both the judges and the modest audience and outshone their 18 competitors at the Dimanche Gras show at the Queen’s Park Savannah on Sunday night.

Thompson, whose costume “Death and The Maiden The Fancy King Sailor Play Pegasus” was designed by acclaimed designer Peter Minshall, was crowd favourite as he utilised his theatre experience to animate the costume.

Minshall’s interpretation of the Greek mythical creature was an intricately designed black stallion with hand painted wings which featured a dancing skeleton and a semi-nude masquerader.
Thompson slowly trod on stage with a pre-recorded introduction voiced by Minshall and performed to a pan rendition of Bach’s eerie Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, played Republic Bank Exodus Steel Orchestra, the band he will perform with on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

The costume was Minshall’s first since 2016 when his moko jumbie and ballet-themed costume—The Dying Swan, Ras Nijinsky in Drag as Pavlova—failed to win despite receiving widespread acclaim. In an interview after being crowned Thompson said he was able to improve his performance through first-hand demonstrations from Minshall, whose Callaloo Company he has been a member of for almost 27 years.

“It (preliminary performance) was me not understanding the costume and what it was meant to do. Over the past few days, I was well schooled and taught how to do it by Peter. He demonstrated to what to do and how to do it,” Thompson said. Thompson said the performance was assisted by Minshall’s deceptively simple design.
“A costume designed by Minshall is literally one that you would die to want to wear because of its balance and the thinking behind it,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s only narrowly beat defending monarch Ted Eustace, who came second.
The 30-foot tall costume “Dos Bandditos”, comprised of two sombrero-wearing skeletons riding two menacing skeletal dragons, which Eustace controlled mechanically.
Eustace’s brother Curtis missed out on a record tenth win in the competition as his costume “Kamatachi- D Chinese Demon Butterfly” failed to make the top three despite topping the preliminary round.

The older Eustace appeared to suffer a costume malfunction as one of the wings of his monstrous colourful butterfly appeared to be fractured when being set up backstage. Ravi Lakhan and South King of Carnival Marlon Rampersad tied for third place.
Rampersad’s mother Gloria Dallsingh, who also won the South Queen of Carnival, tied for second place in the Queens competition with last year’s winner Krystal Thomas.
However, they were no match for Roxanne Omalo, whose costume “Lilith-Mistress of the Eternally Dammed” was easily the largest in the competition.

Her costume, designed by Varma Lakhan, featured a crimson and black skeletal figure carrying a scythe, being led by a pair of demonic figures that released fireworks as she performed before the judges.
Despite its size, Omalo, a perennial finalist who never won, was able to effortlessly manoeuver the costume across the stage while dancing freely compared to other competitors who carefully negotiated the props positioned for the Calypso Monarch competition.
“I just had to know how to control the costume on stage because in the preliminaries the stage is free. I guess because of my expertise I knew when to turn and how to execute it and here we are tonight,” Omalo said.
Omalo almost did not make it to the final following a mishap with the costume earlier this week.
“This year we started off very rocky because the costume broke on the morning of the preliminaries, so we had to go back to the drawing board,” Omalo said.
She went on: “I was in position 10 so I knew whoever was before me, I had to close the show with a bang and I did it.”

Omalo, who has participated consistently over the past eight years, said the victory was a dream come through as she predicted that she would gain her first crown before she made decade in the competition.

Carnival King
1. Earl Thompson - Death And The Maiden The Fancy King Sailor Play Pegasus
2. Ted Eustace - Dos Bandditos
3. Ravi Lakhan -Balrog “Bringer Of The Apocalypse” and Marlon
Rampersad - d Midas Touch
Carnival Queen
1. Roxanne Omalo -Lilith-Mistress of the Eternally Dammed
2. Krystal Thomas - De Head Huntress
and Gloria Dallsingh - Gem Of The Ocean

Source: Trinidad Guardian

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Soul Food: Black Eye Peas and Rice

Ainsworth Mohammed and Peter Minshall showcased costume options to their 2018 Carnival contribution The Eyes Of God, Soul Food: Black Eye Peas and Rice, at Kaiso Blues Cafe, Newtown, last Friday evening.
Essence of Mohammed’s and Minshall’s The Eyes Of God, is to return to a pure idea of mas which was steelpan, sailors and a flag-bearer (Flag Woman) as opposed to what we see now; beads, bikinis and feathers. The band is black and white with no frills
It was after a religious event where someone said to Peter Minshall: “All men are equal in the eyes of God” and he responded, “Would that mean ‘all gods were equal in the eyes of man’.”
Our national anthem states: “Here every creed and race, find an equal place” and Soul Food: Black Eye Peas and Rice plans to visually depict such. Imagine seeing a sea of white, a sea of pureness, above it flags and wings with eyes (of God) looking back at you, the people, and down on the masqueraders coming on the road for carnival. That is original carnival in it’s purest sense. The eyes are the window to the soul therefore the band celebrates the soul as well.
After 50 years, Minshall aims to portray a vision of our true selves that we don’t see anymore as American cable news, reality TV, and TV boxes with foreign programming has changed our people’s mindset and the original purpose and meaning of carnival.
The Eyes Of God, Soul Food: Black Eye Peas and Rice aims to bring us back to the original essence of carnival that is “pan, mas, and flags.”
A quote that has driven Mr Minshall, according to Kathryn L Chan is: “You may give your island, which regards itself rich on the dregs of Western culture, something of itself.”
The band is being produced and brought out by a committee in keeping with the meaning behind the band, “All ah we is one.”

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