The T&T Guardian spoke to three T&T practitioners of oral performance arts, from different generations. Last Thursday we spoke with storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas, active since the 1970s...
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Carnival 2015 is up and running
It is the first quarter since Carnival 2014 and at least five mas bands have already revealed the launch dates for their 2015 presentations. The question though is how prepared is the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and its special interest groups, namely Pan Trinbago, Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) and the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA)?
The bands to release their launch dates are Harts (June 27); Fantasy (July 26); Paparazzi Carnival (July 31); Yuma (August 8); and, Islandpeople Mas (August 15).
Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz said this week that his organisation is ready for Carnival 2015. “We have already submitted plans to the NCC, since the end of March. Pan Trinbago ain’t sticking. We are aware that funding for Carnival is dependent on the national budget to be read in the next few months, so we are not waiting,” he said.
“In fact, Pan Trinbago closed registration for Panorama 2015 on March 20, so no bands can come after this and wish to be in the competition.”
The Pan Trinbago “wish list” includes an increase in prize money and enhanced programming of its productions. Diaz said the Grand Stand and The Greens would be retained as these facilities are very popular amongst pan lovers. He said: “Pan Trinbago is about the strongest of all the NCC SIGs, especially as we are the only one consistently filling both the North and Grand Stands with our shows.”
Come Carnival, Diaz said that a special effort will be made in producing the organisation’s Groovy Soca competition. He added: “Pan Trinbago is also pulling out all stops to ensure that more steelbands produce mas on the road. Given All Stars success this year in winning the Band of the Year title the pan fraternity has been revitalised and is energised and focused on regaining its rightful place in mas on the road for 2015.”
Also in ready mode is TUCO, according to general secretary Wayne “Kassman” MacDonald.
This week he said: “We have already completed a document stating the timelines for all shows in 2015 and we are now working on the adjudication process.
Tuco is taking results from competitions of all categories very seriously. Results must not just seem fair but the adjudication process must be transparent, able to stand up to any scrutiny.
We have two working committees as well; one doing a review of judges and past performances, and the other is getting feedback from our membership.”
Tuco has already red-circled Friday, January 16 as the day most calypso tents will premiere their season. The organisation has also scheduled the 2015 National Calypso Monarch semi-final (Kaiso Fiesta) at Skinner Park, San Fernando, for noon on Saturday, February 7. Dimanche Gras will be held on Carnival Sunday night (February 15), at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, three nights after the finals of the Extempore and Categories Monarch are held at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain.
As far as mas is concerned, bandleader Rosalind Gabriel has filed a pre-action protocol letters against the NCBA.
Gabriel, producer of two mas bands—Colour my Culture and Festival of Colours—has been in a dispute with the NCBA since Carnival. Her letter was dated May 7 and a response was requested by last Wednesday. This week Robert Amar said he has been in a state of dismay and shock after the NCBA disqualified his band, Charm, in this year’s Band of the Year competition.
“This year, we did everything by the book, and we went to the four venues as directed. But, when we got to the Adam Smith Square venue it was announced that my band was not the competition but was just ‘making a pass through’. I was told that Charm was not registered,” Amar said.
Pulse understands that Trini Revellers has also filed a pre-action protocol letter against the NCBA.
Also contacted this week, NCBA chairman David Lopez said: “Right now we are emerging from a development strategy plan for Carnival until 2017. Our committees shall commence meeting all our members from June.
Now that we have received Rosalind Gabriel’s pre-action protocol letter it is now a legal matter and our attorneys will deal with that and it shall take its course.”
And so, it seems that Carnival 2015 is off to a better start than that of preceding years with all of its stakeholders already out of the blocks, all proclaiming that it will be a festival to eclipse all preceding years.
Had Dana Seetahal SC been alive and seated in the congregation at All Saints Anglican Church last Saturday to hear the glowing tributes paid to her by her Bishop Anstey High School (BAHS) alumnae she would have been most impressed.
The Hilarians organised a memorial service for Seetahal, presided over by Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley, and they, graduates of every era, attended in their numbers. Also officiating at the service were Fr Ashton Gomez and Rev Marva Kellman.
Musical items were performed by BAHS senior choir, under the direction of Lorraine Granderson, with accompaniment by Michael Clarke; soloist Tova Miller, who starred in the recently held Jesus Christ Superstar; and The Lydians, under the baton of Maestro Jesus Beltran Acosta Ruiz, with accompanists Lindy-Ann Bodden-Ritch and Myrtle Cumberbatch.
The Lydians gave the congregation a special treat by performing excerpts from the Messa Da Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi which the choir will premiere on Thursday, June 5, at St Finbar’s RC Church, Diego Martin. This recital continues on June 6 at St Finbar’s and will be reprised on June 7-8, at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Port-of-Spain. Proceeds from these recitals will benefit the restoration funds of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Rosary RC Church and Holy Trinity organ, and the Oxford Street Home.
Tributes were delivered by Seetahal’s sister, Susan Francois; Hilarians board member Wanda Bernard; and, alumnae representative Dr Jennifer Rouse.
Rouse was particularly poignant in her tribute and won sporadic applause throughout. She even had attorney Douglas Mendes SC nodding his head knowingly when she noted that "men are the embroidery on the seams of your life," a statement made by former BAHS principal Stephanie Shurland to one of the graduating classes of yesteryear. Rouse added: “Ms Shurland represented part of the legacy of the school’s three 'S' principals - Shrewsbury, Sutherland and Shurland, who collectively established a principle by which the school was governed. So that, although Dana was three years younger than my classmates, the older girls had a responsibility to model the tenets of that principle for the younger ones to emulate.
“My comment therefore was in the context of what the old Hilarians principle represented - whereby we (as girls/females) had to be whole first, so that the males who were drawn/attracted to us would enhance [the substance] of what was already there. As opposed to waiting for men to complete us.”
Rouse drew mirth when she said: “Based on the statement, it's little wonder that most of us (i.e., old Hilarians) have remained unmarried, another set married without changing their last names; and others married and hyphenated their last names.”
The benevolence of the Hilarians continued after Seetahal’s requiem at Martin’s piano bar on Woodford Street, Newtown, where a fund-raising soup was held for convalescing BAHS alumna Carol Martin. This was a very successful venture attended mostly by alumni of BAHS and Queen’s Royal College, including former Intercol footballers Ian Jeffers, Rolph Clarke, Garnet Harris and Andre Pollard, and Dr Rhoda Reddock, Claudia Applewhite, Ann Marguerite Moore, Jennifer Joseph, Jackie Padmore, Lyn Marie Osbourne and Jackie Williams.
Today is 20 days since the “assassination” of Dana Seetahal and the apprehension of the perpetrators of this foul deed remains pending?
Calypso godfather dies
I end this week on a sad note with the passing of Frank Smith, New York’s “Godfather of calypso”. Aged 92, Smith was the proprietor of the famous Rainbow Terrace, the premiere calypso showplace in Brooklyn in the ’70s-’80s, on Nostrand Avenue. The calypsonians who honed their art at this venue and those whose careers soared after performing at the venue include Sparrow, Cro Cro, SuperBlue, Calypso Rose, Shadow, Swallow, Baron, Bro Valentino, Nap Hepburn, Conqueror, Count Robin and De Fosto.
This week Cro Cro (Weston Rawlins), who Smith used to call “son,” said: “He was a true lover of the art form and would go the distance for calypsonians. Frank was also the first black man to own a gas station in Brooklyn (CLR Auto Service on Fulton Street). He really helped black people. Back in the day, when Michael Gould opened B’s, we used to have some good clashes between B’s and the Terrace calypso tents.”
Smith was called “the Mayor of Brooklyn” because of the many Trini compatriots he assisted when they first migrated to the US. Smith’s funeral is today at St Barnabas Church, at the corner of Elton Street and Dumont Avenue.
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