Saturday, April 11, 2009

PATRICK AIRD: My first teacher remembered

It was the carnival of 1992 that my journey into the world of Mas actually began.

Every Trinidadian grows up under the influence of Carnival not all are attracted to it but some are.

 If I was a moth Mas was my flame and I 

simply could not resist its warmth and beauty.

After the Minshall’s Merry Monarch magically ignited my 

imagination in 1987, I started to put pens to paper and designing my own versions of what I saw that year. For the first time I truly knew what I wanted to do, the Mas Jumbie in me was born.

It was four years later and the development of my drawing skills and skills of observation, that I explained to my Mom my passion, my  family were not ‘mas people’ so she took me to the brother of an old school friend, the only person she knew of ‘in Mas’, my first Teacher in the art form Patrick Cyril Aird.

Patrick’s band ‘Patrick Aird & Associates’ was based at the back of his home on the Eastern main road in Tunapuna, just across the road from Exodus pan yard, and the sound of their practice sessions often came in the camp on the nights breeze.

At the time Patrick did not reside in Trinidad, all year he lived in the U.S. coming home for Carnival, my signal that he was in town and ready for Mas was when the blue tarpaulin went up at the back of his yard, and it was there I would be almost every evening until Carnival Monday.

My first night of my first year with Patrick was not what I expected, I had to clean up the camp, picking up scraps of fabric etc so that we could work in a clean atmosphere, at the time I mumbled to myself that it was a crap job, but funny enough, it’s been rule one of my regime ever since, rule 1Keep a clean camp.

Patrick never won a National King of Carnival title, but, I think he did reach the finals once or

 twice (before my time), his band was a small band, that went to Port Of Spain on a Tuesday and ended in Tunapuna on Tuesday night, he had no major sponsors all expenses were his, so a lot of recycling was involved. One year I had to strip a very old costume that was under the house, and clean the sequins etc, another crap job I thought, but he took those old dusty recycled pieces and turned them into another costume, that was another lesson for me, rule 2, a Mas man could always make something out of nothing, or one man’s junk is another man’s Mas.

A lot of people passed through the camp in those days, pan men, because Patrick was a player too, mas men like the late great Tedder Eustace, whom I met in Patricks camp passed through every year to check up on his old friend... My teacher always had something to tell me  about him when Eustace left.

I also met Notting Hill Carnival legend the late great Lawrence Noel, in Patrick’s camp long before I imagined coming to the UK.

He might not have been well known to mainstream carnivalist like many before him, and many after, and his name might not be widely recognised but his work featured in magazines, cards, and even Noel Norton’s important book ‘20 years of Trinidad Carnival’.

Patrick’s camp was not a limeing spot we drank listened to music but always worked, another rule that I adopted for myself, rule 3: the camp is not a limeing spot.

At first I thought he only worked from his head night after night he would give orders on a mas that to me seemed like a giant puzzle with no picture on it, until he produced the design, a skill that took me years to develop.

I learned a little wire bending and cane

 bending at Patrick’s camp decorating too; I learned how to go around the clock as the preliminaries approached, developed my cat napping skills, and appreciate being on the ramp of the Queens Park Savannah on preliminary night rubbing shoulders with the legends of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, the great, the small, the famously known and the popular in the industry, yet unknown by the masses.

In the early nineties I was taught my creative 

A, B, C,’s in the Mas camp of Patrick Aird and Associates. As a mentor Patrick was the very first, and the fundamentals he thought me stuck with me like evo-stick.

Carnival 1995 I, a young pretender felt that I had enough knowledge and experience to design my own King costume, my teacher smiled at the idea but gave me the go ahead, I transformed my mom’s house into my own camp an

d every now and then Patrick would drop in to inspect my work, looking back I was not ready for the ‘Big Stage’ but Patrick let me learn this for myself, never once did he me advise against the venture but he did feel I should have worked closer to him for guidance, but youth always thinks it knows more than experience, so I learned about my limitations the hard way.

That was my last Carnival under the wing of my first teacher Patrick Aird, the following year I found myself in Woodbrook, learning more of the exoteric and the esoteric aspects of Mas, but foundation can never been forgotten.

On Thursday the 2nd of April 2009 my Mom called me from Trinidad to tell me that Patrick Aird my first teacher in the art form of Mas passed away. 

When a mas man dies I always find myself celebrating their lives instead of mourning their passing, looking back at my years in Patricks band only brings smiles to my face and good memories.

So to my very first Mentor Patrick Aird, I can only say thank you, thank you for the Mas, thank you for the memories, and thank you for passing on to me the creative fires of my cultural heritage.

Patrick Aird where ever you are compĐÉre just for you.



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