Most of you will not believe this but I have served as a Phagwa judge on more than one occasion, as well as attended many a pichakaaree contest, thanks to my friend Ravi Ji. So, I know a great deal about Maakhan Chor and Ranga Barase competitions.
My favourite is the Maakhan Chor in which ten-member teams are required to form a human pyramid to get a pennant suspended many feet overhead in the quickest time. Bachon ka Khel (children's games) is also great fun with several children participating in wholesome fun, including the sada and condense milk eating competition.
It is why I am so excited to attend this weekend's 24th annual Kendra Phagwa Festival tomorrow and Sunday. Holikaa Friday is scheduled for today at 6.45 pm, and Pichakaaree Sunday takes place on Sunday, from 2 pm. Both events will be held at the Kendra Grounds, located at Gilba Trace, Raghunanan Road Extension (off Southern Main Road), Enterprise.
The Holika Dahan effigy will also be burnt tonight. Holika Dahan (Kamudu pyre) is celebrated by burning Holika, the devil. For many traditions in Hinduism, Holi celebrates the death of Holika in order to save Prahlad, and thus Holi gets its name.
Phagwa is a spring festival also known as "the festival of colours" or "the festival of love." It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus nationwide. Participants douse themselves with abeer (coloured water) during celebrations.
Twelve finalists will vie for the Kendra Phagwa Festival's Pichakaaree Championship. The 24th edition of the annual festival was launched on the occasion of Vasant Panchami on January 25, with the traditional "chulha boiling" of the first abeer and the vibrant sounds of chowtaal by the Sumatee Dabha Ramayan and Chowtaal Group. Organisers and contestants have since been busy with preparation for this weekend's two grand events.
The qualifying round of the pichakaaree competition was held last Saturday and a dozen finalists were chosen by the panel of judges. Several first-timers and pichakaaree veterans will attempt to dethrone the reigning champion Mohip Poonwassie.
The finalists are Mukesh Babooram, Christopher Joseph, Ricky Khandoo, Jagdeo Phagoo, Toolsie Ramdass Singh, Nirmal Ramdass Singh, Nirmala Ramdass Singh, Kamaldai Ramkissoon, Giselle Ramoutar, Genevieve Ramtahal, Reena Teelucksingh and Poonwassie.
One of the things to impress me about the pichakaaree competition is the social and political commentaries sung by some of the finalists. Also impressive are some of the props and costumes used by contestants.
Geeta Ramsingh (Vahini), president of the Kendra, indicated that the 2015 theme, Enlightened Citizenship, was chosen in response to the many troublesome issues affecting our nation. Pichakaaree, she said, is a conscious, intelligent voice and the standard of pichakaarees this year is very high. It was very reassuring to see several first-timers and teenagers participating in the qualifying round, ensuring longevity for the art form.
By the way, I have also been a judge at the inaugural Saaj Sammelan competition on more than one occasion.
Don't stop the party
Contrary to this year's popular soca item Party Done by Machel Montano and Angela Hunte, there will be no stopping the party for the short Carnival 2016 season.
With next year's Carnival scheduled for February 8 to 9, it is very likely that the first fete of the season will be held before Christmas. As expected, the jostling has started among fete promoters to find the best date for their events. A lot of clashing is expected.
The earliest news reaching Pulse shows that as soon as the new year opens, with Tribe Ice and Trinity College's Soka in Moka expected to be held on Saturday, January 2. Other tentative dates include QRC Fete Royal (January 9); Stumped!!! (January 9); Old Hilarians (January 16); Blue Flame (January 23); St Mary's Fete with the Saints (January 23); Yorke Masquerade (January 24); Tribe Ignite (February 4).
Dates of which one can be certain are National Calypso semifinal (January 23); National Panorama semi-final (January 24); Machel Montano (January 25); Tuco Kaisorama (February 4); National Kings & Queens Finals (February 5); International Soca Monarch Finals (February 5); National Panorama final (February 6); Dimanche Gras (February 7).
Sparrow hails All Stars
"All Stars forever!" said Mighty Sparrow on Monday, hours before departing for New York for a routine medical check-up. The Calypso King of the World continued, "You should hear me bragging 'we win, we win' when we won Panorama.
Then there was more bragging after Carnival when we won the Band of the Year."
�2 Continues on Page A38
Massy Trinidad All Stars and Sparrow have had a close affinity for decades, the band having won much acclaim in 1984 for its rendition of Sparrow's Road March Doh Back Back. Said Sparrow: "Congratulate Berry (manager Beresford Hunte) and Smooth (arranger Leon Edwards) on their achievements and making me a happy man this Carnival. When I saw the band on Carnival day I said 'now that is mas',"
Sparrow said he will be in and out of the country regularly this year as he is booked for several engagements. Up to last Sunday he performed at Iere Theatre Productions and Canboulay Productions' production of Ten to One, at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (Sapa), San Fernando.
The freak next door
Veteran actor Raymond Choo Kong is funny but Carolyn Taylor was downright hilarious when Party Done for the Freak Next Door premiered last weekend at Queen's Hall, St Ann's. Produced by Raymond Choo Kong Productions (RCKP) and First Instinct, the play stars Cecilia Salazar, Arnold "Peenie" Goindhan, Kevon Brooks, Trevor C Jugmohan, Choo Kong and Taylor.
What surprised me early o'clock about the play was there was absolutely no reference to the soca hit Party Done by Machel Montano and Angela Hunte, nor even the closest connection to the bacchanal issues of the just concluded Carnival. Nonetheless, it was well-scripted and came across well-rehearsed on opening night.
Portraying the ditzy Pauline, wife of "village ram" Ron (Goindhan), Taylor was given some really funny lines while Choo Kong, as Barry Clarke, was his normal self, portraying the stereotypical feisty "Chinee man" we've seen him as before. The most excitable character of the cast was Cecilia Salazar in the role of Janice, wife of Barry. Jugmohan, also the play's producer, was casted as Alan, a deadpan character, young son of Barry and Janice. Brooks plays persistent police officer Curtis.
Party Done for the Freak Next Door was reprised last night at CLR James Auditorium, Cipriani Labour College, Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Valsayn, and runs at this venue until Sunday evening.
Dancehall in the jazz
Things are progressing nicely for this year's Tobago Jazz Experience (TJE) and two Caribbean stars have been added to the mix. Jamaican dancehall stars Romain Virgo and Busy Signal have been added to an already star-studded cast for the 2015 Tobago Jazz Experience.
The two will join the legendary David Rudder who has also been added to the TJE cast along with local acts Kes the Band and this year's International Groovy Soca Monarch, Olatunji.
They will be part of the Experience that includes mega stars Jennifer Hudson, Miguel, Kool & the Gang and Jill Scott, in what promises to be another huge TJE.
The Experience, which is much more than music, takes place from April 19 to April 26 and will begin in Speyside, with shows all over the island, culminating in a weekend of music, fun, food and dance at the picturesque Pigeon Point Heritage Park.
Announcements of additional artistes will be made as the build-up to the festival continues.
�2 For more information, please go to wwwtobagojazzexperience.com or the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tobagojazzexperience.