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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tribe ties final carnival knot

Tribe Carnival tied the fi nal knot of its bejewelled rope around the mas industry with an emphatic no-expenses-spared three-tier presentation, on Saturday night, at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain.
The Dean Ackin-led mas makers paired the Bliss brand with their marquee Tribe mas during a theatrical, simultaneous-showing on a two-level pyramid designed stage.
The clattering bois and screams of live stick fighters atop a dramatic DJ-played Afrikaans rhythm pulled the massive “Soca Monarch-sized” crowd into the opening of their Forbidden (Tribe) and Secret Garden (Bliss) presentations.
Both were consistent in design, staying true to their respective brands of bubble gum bright elaborate feathered head pieces (Tribe) and detailed gem studding with matching custom-made jewelry accessories (Bliss).
With all the talk of evolving design in mas Tribe/Bliss has stuck to what they know best, selling the experience of carnival. The Woodbrook-based band seemed more focused on the glitz and glamour of creating a larger than life occasion than actual costume design.
The dramatic musical score, dynamic electronic visuals and stunning firework display outshone the costume design. Widely popular DJ Private Ryan, hovering above the crowd from the stage's upper level, also did his part to add to that grandeur with his trademark cuts and samples on pop dance music during an hour-long set following.
Tribe also delivered on décor transforming the outdoor venue into a raving club with pulsing lights and fog machines. And this time around they threw in a glittered curve ball.
Earlier, Ackin hosted a backstage limited release, media-only showing of the band's new nostalgic line: The Lost Tribe. The presentation, which challenged the band's young design team to create costumes using no feathers, was the most refreshing part of the night.
“It is said T&T has lost touch with our culture and who we are as a people. We are a lost Tribe searching for home,” Ackin said of the presentation that features not a single feather.
The influences of mas design greats Peter Minshall, Wayne Berkeley and Stephen Derek were hard to miss in the display. In 1999, Peter Minshall presented a band called The Lost Tribe.
Lead by creative director Valmiki Maharaj, with consultation from fashion designer Anya Ayoung-Chee, the experimental project, a refreshing innovation in design from the band, is the latest step in their apparent quest to corner the market. The question is would this lost Tribe, from the previously criticised “too commercial” band, now find a home in the heart of the mas purists?
Judging from Saturday's display and keeping in mind their new-found alliance with mas veterans Harts, Tribe is poised to dictate the direction of mas for the foreseeable future.
Ackin's willingness to entrust the creative to young upcoming talents like Maharaj and his 29-member design team is heartening.


    It also signals the changing of the guard with the emergence of talents like Maharaj, Ayoung-Chee and Leah-Mari Guevara

    Michael Mondezie

    Sunday, June 07, 2015

    ADDICTED LAUNCH ATOMIC TODAY!

    Atomic is you: An energized individual in a larger environment of energy.

    Atomic is your energy: that energy that enables action, that creates, that affects change, but never dies..

    Atomic is Fusion. Ideas shared, goals collected, talents amalgamated, 
     Energies combined, and goals achieved.

    We are Atomic
    Our energies have combined

    And we're about to explode. 

    Thursday, May 21, 2015

    A Blissful leverage

    After Lil Hart died in October 1990, her children took over the running of the iconic Carnival band, Harts. Pragmatic by nature, her son Luis was always looking for ways for the band to up the ante. For a while, he felt the band needed to introduce highly visible security because outsiders were coming in the band and ruining the masqueraders’ experience. It was something that his father Edmund had resisted, but in 1991, Luis finally brought in security for the band. It was a new thing in Carnival, but now, it’s a basic requirement for most bands.
    In 2016, 25 years after the Hart children took over the band, they will be making another hugely significant step when they join forces with rivals Tribe Carnival, by way of Tribe’s companion band Bliss. This means that Tribe will be managing some elements of Harts’ back end operations like road management, distribution and technology systems. There will also be a new all-inclusive section produced by Bliss in Harts.
    One of the key benefits of this arrangement for the bands is the leverage they will have with suppliers when negotiating prices for materials and other supplies.
    Tribe/Bliss bandleader Dean Ackin, left, chats with Luis Hart of Harts Carnival about their plans for 2016 at Tribe mas camp in Woodbrook. PHOTO: FRANKA PHILIP
    The T&T Guardian caught up with Luis Hart and Tribe/Bliss bandleader Dean Ackin at Tribe’s offices in Woodbrook. Hart explained that while he was very keen for this arrangement, he first had to convince the rest of the Harts family and their close band associates.
    “Over the years, I’ve taken my family through a lot of changes kicking and screaming. For example when I wanted to put security in the band, I had to argue that the outsiders were ruining it for the band,” Hart said.
    “I had to explain to my family that we weren’t giving up our identity, in fact we were adding to it. We’re enhancing what we’re giving. We owe it to masqueraders to give them something better.”
    The news that Tribe will be managing Harts was initially met with some scepticism on social media sites, but Hart and Ackin said the feedback they received from Harts masqueraders has been largely positive.
    “I think they understand the concept,” Ackin said. “Once they realised it wasn’t a merger, they were cool.
    “Tribe is its own band, with its own clientele and experience. Harts has its own clientele and experience. The bands aren’t coming together, it’s the management that’s coming together,” Ackin stressed.
    This arrangement came about because Ackin and Hart share similar ideas about the business of Carnival. The two men are friends and they have been speaking about ways of taking Carnival forward for several years.
    “We relate very well, we both understand the brand of what Carnival is,” Hart said. “You can talk about it being culture from now until whenever, but the truth is, it runs on principles of business. That is 
    where we’ve come together, and we’re going to see how best we can move forward with it.
    “When we order materials, we can leverage and now get better prices for the quantities we’re buying,” Hart said. “Carnival is an expensive endeavour and you won’t believe the effort that we (the bands) take to keep our prices the same. We are trying to see how we can minimise that impact on the masquerader.”
    Another benefit in this coming together is the production element. Harts has an established production factory which has served the band for many years. This production team makes the headpieces, collars and harnesses.
    “We will share that technology. We can do stuff for Tribe. The work like headpieces, collars—we can do that for them. We will be sharing that workforce,” Hart said.
    One area in which Harts differs from Tribe, its companion band Bliss, and other large bands, is that it isn’t an all-inclusive band. Most of the masqueraders in Harts pay to access the drinks carts, and those who don’t, patronise streetside vendors.
    “In recent years, we’ve been getting people saying they want the all-inclusive option but there are still many people who love their carts. We realise that is something we needed to fine tune, so we can get the best of both worlds,” Hart said.
    “By introducing the all-inclusive section that will be produced by Bliss, Harts masqueraders will now have that additional option.”
    Essentially, what Luis Hart, his brother Gerald and their team hope to achieve with this Tribe and Bliss collaboration is a better all-round experience for their masqueraders.
    Hart said he expects that the link up will give his people a more finished, polished experience while keeping the family feel they’ve been used to.
    On their Facebook page, the message to loyal band members about the collaboration with Bliss was, “The music, energy, fete and fun you’re accustomed to will be even more intense as Bliss will only be adding to the Harts experience as we take Carnival to the next level… As always, it’s 100 per cent fete and we will always strive to make the Harts Carnival experience a better one for you.”
    Luis Hart puts it quite succinctly: “If we give people the most beautiful costume and they don’t have a good time, they won’t come back; if you give them a crocus bag, they have a ball and they get what they want, they will come back again next year. So sometimes the experience on the road may be even more important than the costume, so we are striving to give our people the best Carnival ever.”
    Franka Philip

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Herbie Hancock: Breaking the Rules | Mahindra Humanities Center

    Every year after carnival, there are official and unofficial post mortems of the festival, and every year the cries get louder and louder as to the uncreative desert that seems to be expanding like the Sahara across the geography of Trinidad’s carnival, and her satellite carnivals.

    At a recent UTT post mortem I attended there were observations made by some of the masters students on the lack of creativity in mas and music, the unoriginal concepts in design, and the various effects this was having on the festival, like the ominous elephant that the empty north stand has become.

    Thinking about the problem post independent, post oil boom, generations are having with creativity across the carnival landscape, it is clear that we lost the creative edge. Creative and critical thinking seems to be a rarity in a society where it was once abundant. In an age when access to knowledge and information, is at our fingertips at almost any second of the day to help build on creative expressions, we have gotten stuck in the business language of spin, 'service', and 'experience', forgetting that creativity is what filled the stands in our recent past.

    In the lecture 'breaking the rules', Jazz pioneer Herbie Hancock talks about breaking the rules as an avenue to creativity.  In a society like Trinidad's where rules and laws are broken on a daily basis it’s ironic that when it comes to mas and creative thinking, there are, or seem to be unwritten rules that ‘designers’ appear to be both  limited  and defined by.

    In this era of  universal education, and a  growing middle class, the society is clearly not producing pioneers like before, designers today seem to lack the courage and imagination  to create new passages, or even develop on older traditions, our traditional mas seems to have no direct attachment or influence to our modern ‘expression’ and therefore has nothing to stand on except for repetition.

    Hancock  explores these avenues in this lecture, he says breaking the rules was an essential part of his creative development. Observation and study of the environment can provide all the tools for new expressions in creativity, shattering the written and unwritten rules of the old yet building and reconstructing on some of the very foundations. George Bailey and David Rudder did it, The Mighty Sparrow , Peter Minshall, and recently  Machel Montanto all broke the unwritten rules and excelled, what’s stopping the rest?

    Listen, learn, and enjoy.


    Thursday, March 05, 2015

    MAS ASSASSIN'S TOP TEN TRINIDAD CARNIVAL MOMENTS 2015

    For the first time in years I was assigned to the bench for a carnival. The
    massassination.blogspot.com
    evil that is chikV caught up with me in January did battle with me for a week went its way and two weeks later came back with a crippling vengeance , I had little choice but to sit quietly and grumble to the virus, well played chikV well played..

    So from the bench I watched whatever I could of carnival from the living room TV from social media, and the radio, and it is from there I will call my top ten aspect of carnival 2015.

    1)Machel Montano:  
    A friend said to me that ‘Machel saved carnival this year’, a feat that is super human in my book but in truth he arguably (if you listen to the 15 tunes the stations played most of the season) released some of the most popular tunes for the season and the hype generated for his concert was exceptional, his soca monarch performance sans all the usual special effects and monkey tricks was still that of a boss truly leaving his rivals still performing in the 1990s it seems.
    For the road we all knew ‘like a boss was going home with the title, but it was his duet with Angela Hunte ‘Party done’ that was my favourite I hope she writes and performs with him again.
    Hats off to the HD BOSS OF MONKS MM.




    2) Destra’s ‘LUCY’:
    Now I’m not  the biggest  Destra fan myself, but with one song 'Lucy’ Destra had all my support for one of the sweetest songs for carnival 2015. What made it so sweet in my opinion is that is the story of most of us that love carnival in Trinidad. Destra sang about the character Lucy, but how many of us were good boys and girls until we went to our first school fete or were on the road for jouvay when that spirit, that good vibe of carnival energy combined with the music changed us forever!





    ‘Lucy' easily could have been a groovy monarch winner, I pictured Destra finally winning an official title with a voice and a song that could not be beaten but at the final hurdle something went wrong,.
    You know how some people fall apart at an exam, I get the impression competition does that to Destra, maybe she should forget the stress of soca monarch or get a new team when it comes to competition. But LUCY was indeed a big winner in 2015.


    3) The Soca Drome
    Last year I was totally against the socadrome concept, I felt it represented an anti carnival spirit separating ‘them from us’, a move of an elitist minority that wanted to profit on every aspect of mas. This year after seeing it on TV I think it should stay, the flow of bands at the Queens Park Savannah at least on television was exceptional without the monotonous constipation that is Tribe and Bliss, big and small bands alike crossed the stage early starting as always with Harts at 8am. By midday most  of the big competition guns had already crossed the stage and Minstrels, Gorillas,   Pan sides etc, all what seemed like sufficient time to cross the stage, and perform, on occasion I changed channels to see what the’ drome was saying’  and to me it was exactly what I did not want to see headpieces here and there and masses of flesh with the dash of an individual here and there, seasoned masquerades told me they hated it for the second year running , but for the sake of the viewing audience it’s a good thing, they need to move it to Chaguaramas that will be even better.






    4) Olatunji Yearwood,
    Last year I went to the soca monarch semis especially to see this artist called ‘Olatunji’,
    I loved his Taliban tune and thought this guy could wreck shop if he did it right, however his 2014 performance in Arima for me was a great disappointment. But before the year ended and it seems even before the 2015 season began his song Ola  was had most of us caught up in its groove, this was indeed a big tune that dominated the carnival season all the way to the soca monarch final. Congratulations to Olatunji.


                                                   
    5) Groovy Soca :
     this was a big year for groovy  but I’m old enough now to now that this does not mean power is dead, it just means that 2015 was a groovy year , to be honest  if the title was around in the 80’s David Rudder would have been a groovy monarch, or Kitch or Lord shorty !
    But groovy dominated the airways sweet sounds of Raze, Lucy, Cloud nine, OLatunji  and the list went on gave carnival a laid back vibe that was  a welcomed change to that of a power dominated carnival.

    6) The All stars double:
    As a child all stars was my favourite band  for two reasons All stars was my uncles favourite band and their name was all stars, the name gave me the idea that the pan side had to have the very best musicians in the country and so were unbeatable!
    This year All Stars not only won Panorama but also for the second year won the prestigious carnival title of band of the year, a title I felt they deserved. Watching all-stars cross the stage was a dramatic scene of officers of various ranks, sailors’ big guns pan and powder. A display of mas most of us might have only heard about but never seen, reminds me of a saying to move forward we sometimes have to step back.


    6a) Band of the year. Who really won?
    The Tribal connection Pawnee section photo via facebook
    While it has not exactly made ripples on the face of carnival there is a question among carnivalist as to what band actually won band of the year? Yes the official results placed the Massy All Stars with Ships Ahoy at a French Festival top of the large band category with 2,392 points, thus making them band of the year, however the winner of the ‘Mini ‘band of the year title Tribal Connection Cultural Promotions earned 2,518 points with their presentation ‘From the Dark Hills of Dakota’ earning even more than the overall winners but because of size were not the overall winners, an achievement,and an injustice in the eyes to some. 



    7) Television coverage of carnival,
      TV coverage was mediocre this year, being stranded at home I did appreciate the live coverage of fetes and competitions throughout the season. However I was disappointed by absence of kiddies carnival on from the channels, I also understand that live feed s did not always give the international audience what they wanted or value for money at times.
    On Monday and Tuesday Ctv Cnc3 and channel 4 all covered the festival, channel four covering the southland mas  and seriously has me considering mas in San-do now as Port of Spain  has become a bit of an old cliché. Coverage of the socadrome was in my opinion just as much a disaster as the venue
    Itself people being interviewed could not hear questions because of background noise masqeraders were often lost in shadows, and because everybody wanted to get on camera you had to watch sometimes a section for maybe half an hour so you know I went back to the superior coverage at the savannah. It was good TV but it could be so much better.
    Oh yeah Paul Richards of CTV seems to be their go to man for EVERYTING! One will think by now channels can afford specialised experts depending on what is being covered.



    massassination.blogspot.com
    photo;Jeff Mayers
    8) Queen of carnival 2015 Stephanie Khanai
    If Carnival ever had a Cinderella story it was that of Stephanie Khanai in her winning costume
    Sweet waters of Africa. In my opinion this moko jumbie queen crossing the sage with such an aquatic flow has not been seen since Minshalls queen of 1995 'Joy to the world' yet the queen of a small band with limited resources and budget  said to be inspired by the music of Ellah Andell effortlessly crossed the stage of the QPS and won the crown proving once again that passion simplicity and creativity can overcome the brute force of big budget any day.








    9) The Photography of Maria Nunes, and LeslieRobertson Toney
    The warship Bismark Photo by Maria Nunes
    Some of the most detailed, dramatic, and visually stimulating photos I’ve seen this season came from the lens of Maria Nunes and Leslie Robertson Toney. Nunes took some iconic photos of all stars crossing the stage that made me wish i was in the midst of it all and Robertson Tony captured from her DSLR and phone moments of traditional and children’s mas that give hope that the culture is far from dead.





    10) Arts in Action:
    I had the privilege of accompanying the Arts In Action team to see them
    perform and teach primary school children about environmental conservation through the performing arts, using almost if not all the disciplines of carnival art to educate and  entertain the younger generations to learn through theatre and group participation the importance of looking after the environment.

    I think the use of characters influenced by local myth and legend topass a message on to the younger generations to be a fantastic approach to both cultural preservation and social studies and awareness.  

    massassination.blogspot.com
    Arts in Action performance

    massassination.blogspot.com
    The children being edutained

    massassination.blogspot.com
    Arts in action Performer. (photo mas assassin)


    While chromatics has not made my top ten list this year I’m still going to close of this post with his summary of this season because nobody does it better than Mr Don’t Care!



    Monday, March 02, 2015

    Laventille Rhythm Section plays a lively sailor mas

    Members of the Laventille Rhythm Section take aim aboard their “warship,” the Bismarck, at Queen’s Park Savannah, as part of the Carnival Tuesday winning big band of the year (costume) presentation by the Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra, called Ships Ahoy at a French Festival. PHOTO: MARIA NUNES
    While the dust from Carnival has settled, many will recall with a broad smile the infectious, dedicated mas played by a small group of revellers from the LaventilleRhythm Section: a knot of “sailors” with their own home-made float: a gunmetal grey warboat called Bismarck, which sailed with the Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra this year to help them win the Large Band of the Year prize in the portrayal Ships Ahoy at a French Festival.

    Led by Trevor McDonald, this small section in All Stars truly “played a mas,” for they stayed in character all day long, to the delight of all around. 
    As photographer Maria Nunes, who chronicled the band on Tuesday, observed in her photo blog the next day: “All you could do was smile and marvel at the cannon that blew powder...the radio phone made of a juice carton that blew powder out of its antennae...the two telephones attached on either side to the deck of their battleship Bismarck that they spoke on all day...the radio tower for the ship complete with plastic bottles for either end...the mechanisms they made to make the cannon blow powder...the name of the cannon ‘Look Trouble Now’...the time they must have taken to make this mas and make sure all their elaborate powder puffing mechanisms worked...oh my goodness...all they did was fill my heart with joy. They were the spirit of Carnival for me yesterday.” 
    The T&T Guardian visited the revellers at their “headquarters” at Marcella Street, Laventille—the backyard garage of an old house, where the friends have been gathering to lime for years. 
    The float, say the men, was inspired by the German battleship Bismarck launched in 1939. 
    “The Bismarck name came from an old man I met liming in a bar in Diego Martin,” said one of the men, Koro Hills. 
    Bismarck was among the largest and most powerful battleships ever built by Germany for World War II, with a revolutionary design for its time. 
    At the Battle of Denmark Strait, Bismarck destroyed the battlecruiser HMS Hood, then the pride of the Royal Navy. This lethal power captured the imaginations of the Laventille Rhythm Section revellers, who, in true Trini fashion, adopted the Bismarck’s myth of sinister, steely invincibility, while enjoying hours of seriously silly fun with the idea. 
    They built a second deck on their “warship” (its maiden voyage was actually in 2014 under another name), and improvised a bigger, altogether more impressive powder gun than the more modest one they’d built last year. Their ammunition? Tubs of baby powder, of course! 
    Their gun or cannon, Look Trouble Now, took its name from a line in Machel Montano’s song Like a Boss; the Rhythm Section players all loved its bouncy energy. 
    Last year, their boat gun was a smaller affair, through which a hose channelled pluffs of powder. “But we went to ‘Senate’ and we got a lil money to improve the artilleries...” said Colin Mitchell, explaining that the ‘Senate’ referred to Trevor McDonald, the president of Laventille Rhythm Section, who stood behind everybody quietly, in red shirt, buzz cut hair, neat moustache, and a proud smile. 
    “We don’t ask for handouts,” emphasised Mitchell; “We dip and we take out from our own pockets to do what we do.” 
    “Yes, we sponsor our own selves. We don’t wait on people,” confirmed McDonald. 
    A core of four people conceived of the Bismarck mas, with engineering help from Koro Hills, a multitalented welder, joiner and carpenter. 
    Said Koro: “Ormand Morgan first came to me with the idea of taking an old fridge on the road, make it look like a boat, and roll it on wheels through town...we could discard it later...But I thought, I can’t afford to build something and just throw it away...So I decide I going basic, the real thing...”
    So he built a realistic looking ship from wood, on a wheels base, in 2014, and added the top deck this year. He even says that if you add fibreglass and an engine, it could function as a real boat. 
    “My partner Wayne ‘Diving’ Mitchell came up with the top deck and big gun idea this year. Then they came to me to fabricate it,” said Koro. 
    Kelvin Serrette was the wiring man. “It’s a simple 12-volt car battery, hooked up to some fog lights, and a motorised ‘boom’ gun....and we ran some switches,” he said. 
    The big gun was made from a length of four-inch PVC pipe, with a hole for inputting powder ammunition, and an air conditioning car blower fan to help blast the powder. Powder was not the only ammo—there were also tennis balls! • Continues on Page A30 
    The boat’s steering wheel was made from a U-shaped piece of one-inch thin PVC pipe, with battery powered triggers to pump powder through the big “boom” gun. 
    For the whole of Carnival Tuesday, from 9 am to 9 pm, the Bismarck crew shot strategically timed, impressive blasts of powder, and talked on their “phones,” planning battle strategy. Their equipment never once broke down. 
    “Diving’s leg hurt him the next day, you know...whole day he firing!...Man was standing up on the top deck, and meanwhile a partner on the phone was controlling the targets, while the man operating the ‘boom’ taking instructions: Coro saying, alright 90 degrees, or 45 degrees, y’understan? And FIRE!” 
    Included in their crew was a musician and mas man “imported” from Tobago, Anson Beckles, part of the Laventille Rhythm Section, who blew his trombone to add to the mas. 
    Their mas had everyone from little children to big people coming up to touch their boat on the street, wanting to play with the boat like a huge toy on the road. It was very interactive, as people came up to spin the satellite radio, ride along or take photos. 
    The Rhythm Section mas players welcomed it all, stopping with a smile for anyone interested, letting hundreds of people explore and become part of their fun. 
    What made them decide to play with All Stars for the second year in a row?
    “Well actually, we used to be playing with MacFarlane...But he ended up pausing...” explained a member, “And Carnival is in our blood, so we decide we not staying home. We want to do a creation. And come out with Carnival still. Because it inside ah we blood, as T&T. So that’s what made us go and join with All Stars. 
    “We didn’t have to go with All Stars. We coulda go with Exodus, with Despers, with a band from South. We just feel to go with All Stars...And why not All Stars? We think of ourselves as stars already...all of us are blinking stars! ...So...”—it was a case of a constellation of energies meeting.
    But really, the Laventille Rhythm Section players had already played all other kinds of masquerades in past years—except for sailor. They really wanted to play a sailor mas. And it was easy with All Stars, you just paid your very reasonable $100 band fee, and were totally free to come with your own style. 
    “Ah was scrubbing deck last year,” said Mosely, with some pride. 
    “This year, on the Avenue, so many people’s children wanted to play on the boat. So we gave them the green light, we lifted them up on the boat,” shared Mitchell. 
    Many people from their own community joined them, too, all decked out in white sailor’s uniforms. “They enjoyed themselves. You know, you just see a happy enjoyment?” 
    Laventille Rhythm Section’s sailor mas parodied soldiers fighting a war. 
    “But a war in a nice way, man...” said Mitchell: “—because is just love coming back at you. You pelt (baby powder) bombs, you get love.
    Source: Trinidad Guardian

    Friday, February 27, 2015

    Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83


    One of the most iconic figures of science fiction and the Star Trek universe has crossed over to the final frontier. Leonard Nimoy 'Mr Spock' may your memory Live Long and Prosper.

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