Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mas bands forced to downsize sections

Models showcase different costumes at National Carnival Commission’s launch of Carnival 2009, at the Brian Lara Promenade on Friday. PHOTO: DILIP SINGH

The global financial meltdown and falling oil prices are taking its toll on Carnival 2009, as some bandleaders have seen a sharp decrease in registration, forcing some to downsize their sections. Peter Samuel, PRO of Masquerade, admitted that the global recession was beginning to throw a damper on some bands, as foreigners who religiously supported them for Carnival were now pulling back.

“A lot of these people lost their jobs abroad when the stock market crashed last year, and are unable to play mas until they get back on their feet, while others are watching how they spend their money.” Prime Minister Patrick Manning told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that the Government would issue bonds and implement further budgetary cuts as a direct result of the global financial crisis. Last year, Masquerade catered for 1,000 revellers, each of whom paid $2,000 to play in the all-inclusive section. This year, it has reduced its registration capacity to 600, but promised to maintain its 12 sections at the same price for its 2009 portrayal, Let The Music Play.

Virtual standstill

Samuel said Masquerade wanted to revamp its medium-sized band, but had a change of heart, because of the global recession. “If we had only done that, our costumes would have been a little more expensive, and people would have turned elsewhere. This, however, is contrary to what Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs Minister Marlene Mc Donald stated during Thursday’s post-Cabinet meeting, that there was an increase—and not a decline—in registration at mas camps.

“There has been a 35 per cent increase in 2009,” Mc Donald insisted at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair. Vanessa Forde, president and bandleader of Classix Productions, a popular children’s band, complained that registration was at a virtual standstill, even though costumes were priced between $650 and $1,295. “Half of January has passed and only 30 parents have registered. By now, we should have had doubled that figure. Last year things were much better,” said Forde, who will showcase seven sections under the theme Hidden.

Approximately 140 children registered with Classix Productions last year. Next week, Forde said they would advertise at all primary schools to boost registration. South’s veteran bandleader Ivan Kalicharan said registration for this year was not as good, compared to years gone by. “People are not coming in the way they normally do. By the end of this month we would see how things unfold,” said Kalicharan, who will display seven sections, two of which are all-inclusive.

The price of Kalicharan’s costumes range from $950 to $1,800. Portraying A Spectrum in the Sea, Kalicharan said he wondered where Mc Donald got her registration figures from. Bandleader and managing director of Gerard Kelly Children’s Band said by mid-January he would already have closed off registration.

Scouting around

“But this is not the case. I have only registered under 75 per cent of my clients,” said Kelly, whose costumes are priced between $895 and $1,595. Kelly had plans of switching his band this year from medium to large, to accommodate 200 children, but changed his mind. Kelly said Minister Mc Donald had her facts all mixed up. Leader of Genesis, Ian McKenzie, said it was too early to tell if his band would be affected.

“By the end of January I would know how things would unfold. That’s when people would collect their salaries and pay for their costumes,” McKenzie explained. Involved in mas-making for more than 25 years, McKenzie’s medium-sized band will grace the streets of Port-of-Spain with its portrayal Glitz and Glamour Vegas, comprising ten sections, two more than last year. McKenzie said they had catered for 800 revellers, who would have to fork out between $2,500 and $2,995 per costume.

“Right now, people are scouting around for deals to suit their pockets. They have been taking Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s call to tighten their belts.”


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