Saturday, July 10, 2010

SKULLDUGGERY a mas not for the Bacchanal Elite.

I like many others around the world stayed up to watch the first launch of Carnival 2k11 Skullduggery.  I for one was not disappointed. A lot of post launch post mortems have resulted with different conclusions, some liked it some loved it, others hated it. Yet others thought it was complete and others incomplete.
I think skulduggery is a triumph, while critics call it a jouvay band, ole mas, cheap looking, etc what they all fail to realise is that, this is what Peter Samuel and Co wanted , this band is a fun band in the truest sense of the term, the fun bands of the bikini and beads stopped being fun a long time ago. Their fun with all the razzle dazzale of marketing photoshop  and now promises of ‘intimate experiences’ has the 21st century masquerader so far removed from the spirit of carnival, MAS and FUN that they will not recognise fun MAS, it if it fell from heaven with a sign saying ‘I am mas’ in neon lights.

For the weeks preceding the launch there has been articles in the Trinidad press and on the net, there have been interviews and articles on the designer, band leader and theme of the band, hinting what the band will be all about, yet many of us seemed to miss the clues .

The Promo for the launch voiced by Peter Minshall just about summarised the entire band he called it “mas resurrection, after false alarm” who can remember the theme of 2010’s band of the year?

And if you, do what was resurrected?

Carnival traditions.

Two Face.
Mas with wit, mas with mind, just like long ago...” before the ‘bacchanal elite’ led by the middle class, took over carnival, mas was much more, than the bling and vanity of today, it was a social expression, like calypso mas too commented on and ridiculed through satire the society of the time, this was not mas to a formula, this was creative expression through high thought and social observation.  Skullduggery is a mas in this creative stream, it is filled with symbolism not in just the names of the section, but the mas itself, a practice long lost to the ‘bacchanal elite’ if in fact they ever knew it.

‘Bacchanal elite’ is a phrase created by the author Earl Lovelace who states in the essay ‘In the Voice of the people’  “What we have arrived at then is an elite that I call the bacchanal elite, an elite that is familiar with the region in a way which the colonial elite was not, but has no culture beyond entertainment to fight for or to advance and that can only have money as its god.”

Skullduggery then, with its  reference to local dialect  and social symbolism, is a mas of the wider society, those that have to read the papers and witness the effects of the social skullduggery  on a day to day basis, and those who live it too. The grass roots people who suffer the violence of present day baajohns, those who know the local macco’s , who lose out because of corruption and grease hand. It those who live this life that invent the jargons and produce  the culture. It is they who understand and value the beauty in what is ours, the beauty in we, the ‘bacchanal aesthetics’ Skulduggery is their mas.

In a carnival today where themes don’t exist and fantasy plumes and glass stones, reflect the pretty but cold reality of societies soul,  Skullduggery  to the ignorant eye is almost an ‘anti mas’.   while bands today are designed  by as many contributors as there are sections  all seriously competing against each other under one banner in the name of ‘fun’. Skullduggery is designed by one designer looking at society and what it has become, satirising reality in a colourful parlance that we know.

But seem to don’t want to know.

Mamaguy(female) Source,
Trinidad Carnival Diary.
Look at Mamaguy, now Mamaguy  is classical satire, this is literally a mockery of the ‘serious fun mas’ of today,  like the Dame Lorine of the 18th century , Mamaguy pokes fun at the bacchanal elite who mamaguy their masqueraders every year with the fantasy of beauty excess and stupid expense.
Real mamaguy!

Baajohn: (Female)Photo source,
 Trinidad Carnival Diary.
Baajohn  is simply an exercise in social commentary, gun barrel  and knuckle duster t- shirts barbed wire skirts,  cowboy hats  and bullet belts,  Badjohn  without doubt reflects the insane levels of badness that permeates  today’s societies  all over the world. BaaJohns no longer carry white handle razors but are almost urban solders in the front lines of urban war zones this is contemporary mas at its most visual.
Skullduggery is without a doubt a mas with its fingers on the pulse of contemporary society, and with the trappings of plastic chains, recycled plastic bottles, and handmade paper accessories this mas not only pays tribute to the creative traditions of Trinidad Carnival, but reflects a supreme confidence in the made in Trinidad brand, and in so doing becomes a polar opposite to the themeless mamaguy of the bacchanal elite, for whom nothing made in Trinidad seems worth celebrating.

Peter Samuel.
Sonya Sanchez Arias.
Peter Samuel and Sonya Sanchez Arias in their first outing together in Carnival, have boldly taken on a challenge that no band, serious, fun, or otherwise has dared to take on in the past 10 years (except Minshall in 06). That is to address the state of the society through the art of the society in a voice that is our own a tribute that the bacchanal elite does not care to pay or wont dare to pay because... lets be honest they can’t.

So to those who think the mas needs tweaking, pants too long, to much going on ...look again , look at the mas not through the fog of fantasy but the lucidity of reality, look with the eyes of a calypso, look for the message, the signs and symbols in the transcript, and if it still look off key look at the look on key to you?

Mas Assassin.

Skullduggery Mas Camp Day One from Mark Lyndersay on Vimeo.
A quick panorama of the Skullduggery Mas camp on the evening of July 09, 2010, our first day of business for the band.

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