Two weeks ago, 23-year-old Jovon “Seggy” Mc Gill told relatives he would not live to see the end of the year.
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Let the mas begin
Against the backdrop of the turmoil surrounding the official Parade of the Bands route in Port-of-Spain is the news that Carnival 2014 could very well have a dozen new masquerade bands on the already congested route. Joining newcomers like K2K Alliance and Paparazzi Mas are Petle Mas, Carnival Passion, Flirt and Passion.
A man with loads of experience as a show promoter, Glenroy Watson has turned mas bandleader. Also the owner of Outside Woman Restaurant, Watson’s band Flirt is located at 4 Phillip Street and will present La Isla de Calor for Carnival 2014. The band comprises nine sections, designed by Roger Hicks and Gilda Lewis. The theme of the mas is inspired by “an island of heat” and designs include sections exotically named like Exotico, Provocado, Embramar, Ardiente, Caliente, Encantador and Picante.
Asked why he made the switch to mas, Watson said: “Over the years, I find that not much is given to masqueraders. I feel bandleaders can do more for the people who spend their hard-earned money to play mas. I am offering something new and something novel. First off, the entertainment in my band is going to be off the chain. We have entertainers from Jamaica and top local soca stars performing all day Monday and Tuesday, as well as a retro truck by King Papa Rocky and Starchild, plus old-school calypso and soca artistes.”
New mas band Carnival Passion successfully launched its presentation, Tabanca, at the band’s camp, at 89 Tragarete Road, Woodbrook, a fortnight ago. Bandleader Gerard Weekes, a past King of Carnival, is confident that his band’s debut on the streets of Port-of-Spain will be a success. He said the band’s production team is served by a wealth of experience, by craftspeople who have previously worked and played with “the best in the business,” including Peter Minshall, Brian Mac Farlane, Barbarossa and Poison.
Weekes is an experienced masquerader having portrayed characters with Minshall presentations in 1987 and ’88. In the ’90s he also performed as a character for David Rudder’s performances. Last year, portraying Ai Tu No Yorokobi, Joy of Peace in Japanese, from Mac Farlane’s presentation of Joy, Weekes reached the pinnacle of his mas career by winning the King of Carnival title.
In terms of leading a band Weekes has some experience as, from 1986, he produced the Carnival Monday night band Night Rivals. Asked why he decided to step up from being a masquerader to being a full-fledged bandleader, Weekes said: “Our celebrated designer, Brian Mac Farlane won’t be a part of Carnival. The loyal masqueraders who have been part of the Mac Farlane family are now in search of a home and leader. In so doing we’ve become nomads, finding ourselves wandering through the streets of Port-of-Spain. We all have a passion for mas and Carnival, as well as a tabanca, thus the name of the organisation and the band.”
Tabanca will have nine sections, namely Passion Dreamer, Desert Queen, Nomads, Gypsies, Persian Wanderers, African Wanderers, Pierrots, Warriors and Warrior Princesses.
Registration for Tabanca began on January 6, and Weekes said the response has been overwhelming, “especially from foreigners.”
Another new mas band is Passion, based at 12 O’Connor Street, Woodbrook.
The band will hit the streets with Passion, expected to have 800 masqueraders. Band spokesperson Sheena Tang Nian revealed: “Passion is the brainchild of four friends—Mark Paguandas, Shival Maharaj, Christian Nath, Anthony Harrysingh. They are service providers so they have experience in Carnival and mas from the other end of the spectrum.”
The band will comprise seven sections, some of them being L’Spirit, Lust, Love, Vanity, Pride and Carpe Diem.
The main designers have worked with almost all of the large mas bands in Port-of-Spain in the past.
“We all have passion; passion for mas, passion for life, thus the name of the band,” said Tang Nian.
Passion’s music on the road will be by Lalo Sound System, served by two well-known DJs, Chucks and Jerome.
Designers and their sections for Passion are L’Spirit, Sonia and Nathania Mack; Love, Rawle Permanand; Lust and Pride, Richard and Anthony Hall; Zeal, Stephanie Ramlogan. Tang Nian said Passion will not produce participants in this year’s King and Queen of Carnival competitions but will definitely be competing in the Band of the Year competition.
Safari is the title of Masquerade debutante Petle Mas, which is led by Petle Claverie, a former section leader of Poison and Dream Team. Its mas camp is based at 15 Warner Street, Newtown.
Popular St James J’Ouvert mas band Cheers is launching its second edition all-inclusive J’Ouvert band on January 31, at 7 pm, at Cheers Pub, corner of Mooneram and Quamina Streets. The band’s organising committee comprises members of Cheers Pub and Unity Tassa, consisting of close friends and associates. Theirs is called This Party Is It.
Yasmin Boland, a band official, explained: “We are doing a party twist that spins off of the past year and the series of THA Elections, Chaguanas West and St Joseph by-elections and the local government elections. Last year our committee was very successful in providing our membership with a safe fun-filled party experience for our initial presentation—Section Unity 34.
Boland, who runs Cheers with her husband Steve, added: “Our objective is to continue providing all of our registered members with a safe and enjoyable J’Ouvert experience. This year, we estimate a band membership of 400 revellers. It is our intent to offer a body paint party on the road and a popular DJ, liquor, chasers, bottled water and ice will be provided on route to all registered members. We hit the road at the start of J’Ouvert at 4 am. Breakfast will be served on the parade route.
Cheers and Unity Tassa have hosted several social events of which part of the proceeds are donated to several charity groups and NGOs. For Christmas the organisation staged a successful Christmas parang lime.
Registration is at Cheers Pub, and music on the road will be by Unity Tassa Group and Element One Sounds.
Renowned for ruling the roost in children’s mas, Rosalind Gabriel and Village Productions is celebrating its 21st anniversary as a producer of adult mas. This year, the band is presenting Festival of Colours, designed by Follette Eustace. Music will be by Michael Tilokee of Studio 9, the same road music Gabriel has used for over ten years. Based at 26 O’Connor Street, Woodbrook, sections of Festival of Colours include The Colour of Steel, Wild Hibiscus Bloom, Masquerade, National Pride, Buccoo Blue and Rainbow Country.
Speaking to Pulse this week, Gabriel said: “Festival of Colours draws off the theme of our Junior Band, Colour My Culture, also designed by Eustace, to compliment and enhance the “on-the-road” presentation for 2014. Norvan Fullerton and groups from the Prime Minister’s Best Village bring to our adult band the same deep love that he has fostered over the years, intent on knitting villages and communities through arts, culture and friendly competition.
“This is a group of parents of children who play with their children on the road, friends and family of the Better Village communities, and we have always welcomed members of the public, local and overseas, who want to play mas with joy and dignity.”
Gabriel continued: “Both our bands have grown organically over the years. Well designed, well constructed costumes, used many times by our children to showcase our culture. We get stories of children taking costumes abroad and using them in ‘show and tell’ and costume competitions and walking away with prizes. We welcome anyone to join us who shares our ideals.”
Touching on children’s mas, the Diego Martin Carnival Committee (DMCC), under the chairmanship of former National Carnival Commission commissioner Donald Little, will be staging its annual children’s Parade of Bands on Sunday, February 16, from noon to 6 pm, at Tru Valu car-park in Diamond Vale, Diego Martin.
Schools in Diego Martin and its environs are being invited to participate. Said DMCC organising committee member Christine Martineau: “This activity is one aspect of several endeavours which we embark upon during the Carnival period/season to revive and encourage community spirit within Diego Martin and its environs.
“Due to the low turn-out in previous years, our main objective this year is to inject and resuscitate community spirit and participation in Diego Martin/Diamond Vale and environs. The bands will assemble at Bagatelle and parade through the Diego Martin Main Road turning left on to Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard to Tru Valu car-park where they will be judged. We have a music truck on the road.
“We cover the whole spectrum of mas, from low end to high end. Inclusivity is paramount. The categories range from ole mas, traditional mas, and costumed mini, small, medium, large bands.”
For information: Stella Richards-Alleyne (497-0067) or Herbert Tyson (632-a3080/797-6747).
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