Monday, March 02, 2015

Laventille Rhythm Section plays a lively sailor mas

Members of the Laventille Rhythm Section take aim aboard their “warship,” the Bismarck, at Queen’s Park Savannah, as part of the Carnival Tuesday winning big band of the year (costume) presentation by the Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra, called Ships Ahoy at a French Festival. PHOTO: MARIA NUNES
While the dust from Carnival has settled, many will recall with a broad smile the infectious, dedicated mas played by a small group of revellers from the LaventilleRhythm Section: a knot of “sailors” with their own home-made float: a gunmetal grey warboat called Bismarck, which sailed with the Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra this year to help them win the Large Band of the Year prize in the portrayal Ships Ahoy at a French Festival.

Led by Trevor McDonald, this small section in All Stars truly “played a mas,” for they stayed in character all day long, to the delight of all around. 
As photographer Maria Nunes, who chronicled the band on Tuesday, observed in her photo blog the next day: “All you could do was smile and marvel at the cannon that blew powder...the radio phone made of a juice carton that blew powder out of its antennae...the two telephones attached on either side to the deck of their battleship Bismarck that they spoke on all day...the radio tower for the ship complete with plastic bottles for either end...the mechanisms they made to make the cannon blow powder...the name of the cannon ‘Look Trouble Now’...the time they must have taken to make this mas and make sure all their elaborate powder puffing mechanisms worked...oh my goodness...all they did was fill my heart with joy. They were the spirit of Carnival for me yesterday.” 
The T&T Guardian visited the revellers at their “headquarters” at Marcella Street, Laventille—the backyard garage of an old house, where the friends have been gathering to lime for years. 
The float, say the men, was inspired by the German battleship Bismarck launched in 1939. 
“The Bismarck name came from an old man I met liming in a bar in Diego Martin,” said one of the men, Koro Hills. 
Bismarck was among the largest and most powerful battleships ever built by Germany for World War II, with a revolutionary design for its time. 
At the Battle of Denmark Strait, Bismarck destroyed the battlecruiser HMS Hood, then the pride of the Royal Navy. This lethal power captured the imaginations of the Laventille Rhythm Section revellers, who, in true Trini fashion, adopted the Bismarck’s myth of sinister, steely invincibility, while enjoying hours of seriously silly fun with the idea. 
They built a second deck on their “warship” (its maiden voyage was actually in 2014 under another name), and improvised a bigger, altogether more impressive powder gun than the more modest one they’d built last year. Their ammunition? Tubs of baby powder, of course! 
Their gun or cannon, Look Trouble Now, took its name from a line in Machel Montano’s song Like a Boss; the Rhythm Section players all loved its bouncy energy. 
Last year, their boat gun was a smaller affair, through which a hose channelled pluffs of powder. “But we went to ‘Senate’ and we got a lil money to improve the artilleries...” said Colin Mitchell, explaining that the ‘Senate’ referred to Trevor McDonald, the president of Laventille Rhythm Section, who stood behind everybody quietly, in red shirt, buzz cut hair, neat moustache, and a proud smile. 
“We don’t ask for handouts,” emphasised Mitchell; “We dip and we take out from our own pockets to do what we do.” 
“Yes, we sponsor our own selves. We don’t wait on people,” confirmed McDonald. 
A core of four people conceived of the Bismarck mas, with engineering help from Koro Hills, a multitalented welder, joiner and carpenter. 
Said Koro: “Ormand Morgan first came to me with the idea of taking an old fridge on the road, make it look like a boat, and roll it on wheels through town...we could discard it later...But I thought, I can’t afford to build something and just throw it away...So I decide I going basic, the real thing...”
So he built a realistic looking ship from wood, on a wheels base, in 2014, and added the top deck this year. He even says that if you add fibreglass and an engine, it could function as a real boat. 
“My partner Wayne ‘Diving’ Mitchell came up with the top deck and big gun idea this year. Then they came to me to fabricate it,” said Koro. 
Kelvin Serrette was the wiring man. “It’s a simple 12-volt car battery, hooked up to some fog lights, and a motorised ‘boom’ gun....and we ran some switches,” he said. 
The big gun was made from a length of four-inch PVC pipe, with a hole for inputting powder ammunition, and an air conditioning car blower fan to help blast the powder. Powder was not the only ammo—there were also tennis balls! • Continues on Page A30 
The boat’s steering wheel was made from a U-shaped piece of one-inch thin PVC pipe, with battery powered triggers to pump powder through the big “boom” gun. 
For the whole of Carnival Tuesday, from 9 am to 9 pm, the Bismarck crew shot strategically timed, impressive blasts of powder, and talked on their “phones,” planning battle strategy. Their equipment never once broke down. 
“Diving’s leg hurt him the next day, you know...whole day he firing!...Man was standing up on the top deck, and meanwhile a partner on the phone was controlling the targets, while the man operating the ‘boom’ taking instructions: Coro saying, alright 90 degrees, or 45 degrees, y’understan? And FIRE!” 
Included in their crew was a musician and mas man “imported” from Tobago, Anson Beckles, part of the Laventille Rhythm Section, who blew his trombone to add to the mas. 
Their mas had everyone from little children to big people coming up to touch their boat on the street, wanting to play with the boat like a huge toy on the road. It was very interactive, as people came up to spin the satellite radio, ride along or take photos. 
The Rhythm Section mas players welcomed it all, stopping with a smile for anyone interested, letting hundreds of people explore and become part of their fun. 
What made them decide to play with All Stars for the second year in a row?
“Well actually, we used to be playing with MacFarlane...But he ended up pausing...” explained a member, “And Carnival is in our blood, so we decide we not staying home. We want to do a creation. And come out with Carnival still. Because it inside ah we blood, as T&T. So that’s what made us go and join with All Stars. 
“We didn’t have to go with All Stars. We coulda go with Exodus, with Despers, with a band from South. We just feel to go with All Stars...And why not All Stars? We think of ourselves as stars already...all of us are blinking stars! ...So...”—it was a case of a constellation of energies meeting.
But really, the Laventille Rhythm Section players had already played all other kinds of masquerades in past years—except for sailor. They really wanted to play a sailor mas. And it was easy with All Stars, you just paid your very reasonable $100 band fee, and were totally free to come with your own style. 
“Ah was scrubbing deck last year,” said Mosely, with some pride. 
“This year, on the Avenue, so many people’s children wanted to play on the boat. So we gave them the green light, we lifted them up on the boat,” shared Mitchell. 
Many people from their own community joined them, too, all decked out in white sailor’s uniforms. “They enjoyed themselves. You know, you just see a happy enjoyment?” 
Laventille Rhythm Section’s sailor mas parodied soldiers fighting a war. 
“But a war in a nice way, man...” said Mitchell: “—because is just love coming back at you. You pelt (baby powder) bombs, you get love.
Source: Trinidad Guardian

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