Thursday, September 13, 2012

TIME MACHINE: Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 1962.

1962 was a very eventful year in world history; there was a coup and a counter coup in the Dominican Republic, ‘The Incredible Hulk #1’ by Stan Lee and Jack Kerby made its debut.
 Rwanda, Burundi and Algeria, gained independence, Telstar relayed the first live trains Atlantic television signal, actress Marilyn Monroe died, Nelson Mandela was arrested in Howick, Spider man made his first appearance in Marvel Comics, James Merideth registered at the University of Mississippi, escorted by federal marshals, and the Soviet Union and the United States almost started WW3 and Armageddon during the Cuban missile crises.

1962 was also the year Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Great Britain, and it is the year 1962 that Massassination will start its exploration of the past 50 years of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, in the ‘Time Machine’.

Examining the Carnivals of the past we can tell a lot about the society of the time, listening to the calypso’s of the period, especially social commentary we can form a picture of the society, and the issues that affected it during any given year. Looking at the mas bands at the time and the themes that were mostly historical, it is possible to ascertain that the question of identity racial, social, and global held precedence on the minds of bandleaders, mas men (carnival artist), and the masqueraders, (the wider population).  

Coat of Arms of the Federation.
 The Trinidad and Tobago carnival of 1962 was preceded by a period of great change in the region. The British West Indian colonies saw their first real attempt at political integration in 1958 with the idea of being a single independent state, ‘The West Indies Federation’, however dramatically collapse before their eyes in January1962. This collapse saw Islands like Jamaica and Trinidad then perusing individual independence for their people that was achieved later that year, and signified a new era of nationalism, self determination, and national identity.

Carnival 1962: March, 5th & 6th.
Queen of the Bands:

Esther Theodore: Queen of the bands 1962 .
The Carnivals of Trinidad and Tobago.
M Anthony
Dimanche Gras on the 4th of March 1962, and saw the crowning of  Esther Theodore, as the ‘Queen Of The Bands’, Theodore, who won the very first queen of the bands competition  in 1959, won again in 1962 portraying  ‘Cleopatra’ from Mack Copeland’s band ‘Glory of the Pharaohs’. A King of the bands completion did not take place till 1963.

The prize included a trip to the Waldorf Astoria in New York, a prize donated by Hilton Hotel as part of its promotion drive for the newly built Trinidad Hilton hotel.
Of that trip, Theodore said, “When I went on the trip I became an ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago in the field of Carnival. It was the first time Carnival was played in New York. I had to visit several places to introduce Carnival as a tourist attraction. One of the finest places I visited was St Nicholas Arena.”
The costume she wore on that occasion was described as a masterpiece. It was designed to fit a regal figure with a train 16 yards long and embroidered with symbols of Egyptian royalty and lotus flowers representing the “sun dance”.
There were also sacred emblems of the hawk, cobras and papyrus writings.” (Louis B Homer)

Calypso King:

The Calypso King competition saw the King of 1961 The Mighty Dougla; face the challenge of an already 2 time winner The Mighty Sparrow, The Mighty fighter, Lord Blakie, Nat Hepburn, Lord Cristo, Young Killer, Young Creole, and Lord Superior. (Michael Anthony pg 328)

When the battle was over The Mighty Sparrow won his third Calypso King title with two highly critical Calypsos, “Robbery with a V” where Sparrow accused the judges of robbing him of the title in 1961, giving it to Dougla, and the immortal classic, “Federation”, where sparrow expressed the frustration and disappointment of not just Trinbagonians but the Caribbean people, and angrily   chastised the Jamaicans for leaving and in effect destroying the Federation.

“If they know they didn’t want Federation,
And they know they didn’t want to unite as one,
Tell the doctor you not in favour,*
Don’t behave like a blasted traitor,
How the devil you could say you ain’t federating no more!”
(*Dr Eric Williams then leader of the PNM)

Road March:
Lord Blakie won his second ‘Road March’ title in 1962 with a witty Calypso that maximised the use of the 'double entendre' called Maria.

“Maria girl I love you so bad.
Maria if you leave me now will be hard
I don’t know what make me love so,
But she get me sweet!
What she give me to rub I eat.”

According to historian Michel Anthony this was the first time the road march was officially recognised in P.O.S, and Blakie won a $50 dollars in prize money. 2nd place went to Nelson Caton who sang Tattle Tale and 3rd went to Sparrow who sang Sparrow come back home.

Band of the Year:

George Bailey.
 By 1962 band leader George Bailey already established himself among the pantheon of ‘golden age’ bandleaders. Battling for the B.O.T.Y title in 62, were bandleaders  with presentations, such as, Edmund Hart’s Flag wavers of Siena, Harold Saldenha’s  Julius Caesar and the Conquest of Gaul, Geraldo Vieira’s Myths, Fables, and Legends and Jack Braithwaite’s Valhalla.

But carnival 1962 belonged to Bailey, his band Somewhere in New Guinea, won the band of the year award, the people’s choice award, Edmund Hart’s Flag wavers of Siena and Cito Velasquez’s, Natures Notebook, won second and third places in the competition.

“Although the bands following George Bailey were of great beauty none equalled or surpassed Somewhere in New was this band which won Band of the Year. This meant that George Bailey had won the title four years in a row.” (Michael Anthony pg385)

In San Fernando, it was Mac Copland’s Glory of the Pharaohs that beat the competition of Clemmie George’s Fabulous East, and Irwin Simmons Relics of the Bronze Age, to claim the southlands, B.O.T.Y title.


While there was no Panorama in 62, there was a music festival that was won by the 'North Stars' that played "Voices of Spring" by Johann Strauss.
By the 31st of August 1962 Trinidad and Tobago was an independent nation, Britain’s Union Jack was lowered and the Red White and Black colours of Trinidad and Tobago were raised. Eric Williams was the first Prime Minister and the untold future was ready to reveal itself to an ambitious people.

Red with a white-edged black diagonal band from the upper hoist side to the lower fly side; the colours represent the elements of earth, water, and fire; black stands for the wealth of the land and the dedication of the people; white symbolizes the sea surrounding the islands, the purity of the country's aspirations, and equality; red symbolizes the warmth and energy of the sun, the vitality of the land, and the courage and friendliness of its people.
(source: C.I.A)

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