Wednesday, December 12, 2007

SOUTH MAS

Poetic Mastery
As designer presents thrilling trilogy




“I was very happy playing with Peter (Minshall). He used to call me his ‘high priest’, and if he had continued with his band I would not now be doing mas in San Fernando.”—designer Dawad Philip
By Carol Quash



Is there a link between mas and poetry? For poet, bandleader and designer Dawad Philip, mas is poetry. “Mas is an extension of my poetry and to make the distinction between the two is somewhat impossible.”
According to Philip both mas and poetry have taken him around the world. “I write poetry and the mas themes I choose to explore comes from that literary discipline. I have read my poetry in various parts of the world, and I have designed costumes for local, regional and international Carnivals.”
Mas In My Blood
But his local and international acclaim cannot only be attributed to his involvement in mas and poetry. Philip is the man behind the inception of the now popular annual San Fernando Jazz festival, which has taken place on the ‘hill’ since July 2004. In addition, he was a journalist and editor with the Daily Challenge in New York, regarded as “the only all black newspaper in that State.”
But, after 25 years in the profession, Philip said the mas in his blood was too strong a temptation to resist. “I got out because the mas and creativity pulled me. I grew up in a yard where mas was everything, and from a child people recognised my talents and gave me little tasks to do.” He said eventually he was designing costumes for his school ‘s Carnival “jump up.”
Since then, he has copped approximately 50 Band of the Year designers awards on the local, regional and international scene.
Philip was content to work with designing icon Peter Minshall for a number of years. “I was very happy playing with Peter. He used to call me his ‘high priest’, and if he had continued with his band I would not now be doing mas in San Fernando.”
Following Minshall’s exit from the mas scene, Philip did a short designing stint with Trini Revellers, before accepting an invitation by then mayor of San Fernando, Ian Atherly, to assist in revitalising mas in the Southern city. “I left New York to do it because I love it.” He now works in collaboration with Clyde Flanders to take We People Mas to the streets of San Fernando.
The Trilogy
His band’s presentation for C2K8, Dante’s Purgatory (Purgatorio) is the second part of the Divine Comedy trilogy by poet Charles S Singleton. “This year we did Dante’s Inferno, next year Dante’s Purgatory, and following that Paradise.” Philip promised that the presentation will be complete with the theatre and drama dynamics.
Why this trilogy? Philip said his upbringing in an area where mas was everything had a major role to play in his choice of this theme. “I come from the belly of mas in San Fernando. As a child I grew up with the idea of portraying Dante in mas for many moons, but I was waiting on the right time to do it.”
According to Philip, the colour coded sections of Purgatorio will portray the seven deadly sins—greed, envy, lust, wrath, sloth, pride and gluttony.
“In purgatory those sins are what you are judged on. Those are the sins which you will be required to be rid of before rising to a higher level.”
Philip is confident that his presentation will continue to be a success because of the love and effort he puts into it. “The number of people in a band is less important to me than the integrity of a band. I believe that where I am that is where the party is. I don’t have to follow a crowd.”



“I was very happy playing with Peter (Minshall). He used to call me his ‘high priest’, and if he had continued with his band I would not now be doing mas in San Fernando.”—designer Dawad Philip
©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited
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