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Creativity brain drain in South J’Ouvert party

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
J’Ouvert lovers from the band A&K Fashion Lab with their presentation Egyptian Mystery during celebrations in San Fernando, yesterday. Photo: RISHI RAGOONATH

While mas lovers favoured the modern and earth mas over the traditional aspect in San Fernando J’Ouvert celebrations, many observers felt this year’s presentations lacked creativity.

The thousands that came out in the wee hours of yesterday congregated at the judging points on top High Street, Cipero Street and the Southern Academy for Performing Arts (SAPA), Reinzi Kirton Highway, to witness the masses that opted to play the modern mas that was described by deputy mayor Junia Regrello as a roving street party.

But as judges and stakeholders in Carnival observed, most of the presentations were variations of printed T-shirts accompanied by powder or paint. The celebrations got off to a late start yesterday as Regrello officially launched J’Ouvert at 5.30 am at Harris Promenade in the absence of mayor Kazim Hosein.

Regrello, who is the convenor of Carnival, said while he saw nothing wrong with spectators choosing modern mas over the ole mas, efforts must be made to keep audiences interested in the traditional aspects of J’Ouvert. He lamented that the comical and interesting ole mas presentations were dying, saying that mas men needed to put more thought into their depictions.

“This year, we saw a lot of mature people sitting on bleachers, waiting for the traditional J’Ouvert mas and steelbands. My observation was that the people who play the traditional mas, that satirical or comical presentation which San Fernando has been famous for over the years, seems to be getting scarce.”

“Even the humour is going down. There were critical issues that the country faced that were depicted over the years and that created an interest and entertainment for the people. What I am seeing now is lukewarm and it seems that not enough thought is going into it. The presentation didn't really evoke anything. 

“The San Fernando Carnival Committee is offering prizes for them and they need to put thought into their presentations. A lot of it was mediocre and not the abundance of talent as we have seen in years gone by,” Regrello said.

He said the changing trend in which people, especially youths, are preferring modern and earth mas to traditional mas needs to be accepted. However, he said the prevalence of simple T-shirt mas over designed outfits may be a result of business people taking over as opposed to true mas men. 

With a few onlookers gathered outside the San Fernando City Hall for the traditional mas, Skiffle Steel Orchestra was the first act to pass 15 minutes later, playing a well-polished rendition of How She Like It by Hypasounds. Meanwhile, A&K Fashion Lab was the first modern band to reach the SAPA judging point. 

With their theme titled An Egyptian Mystery, the band’s three sections depicted various aspects of ancient Egypt.

The all-female section, Nefertiti, wearing kalasiris over their bikinis and shorts complemented with gold head pieces, depicted the style of the ancient Egyptian queen. This was followed by the black and gold-clad revellers of the Mastaba Chamber section which represented the tomb of Egypt’s royalty. The third section, Naqada, which translated means gold, represented a town on the west bank of the river Nile in the Egyptian governorate of Qena.

Jama Production’s In D Brew had a band filled with well-designed witches. Before the judges, their chief witch mixed her powerful brew to get rid of the evil spirits upon the earth. 

Although B-Man and Lord Street Fusion and Associates’ La Cooray presented T-shirt mas, their colourful outfits, especially the design depicting the “plant-like substance” found at former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s home and the Red and Ready section representing the PNM’s general election win showed some effort. 

Though clichéd, Limerz Krew’s presentation of Jail Break was also one of the few creative designs with their black and white-striped outfits.

House of Jacqui’s presentation of Where Fashion Meets J’Ouvert was packed with energetic masqueraders revelling under the artificial rain created by a water truck and hose. However, their presentation was simply variations of purple and black T-shirts.

Divas International’s Halos and Horns chipped across the judging point to Voice’s Soca Monarch-winning single, Cheers to Life. But with the “ting so sweet,” they chipped straight past the judges and had to be called back by the announcer. Penal band, DJ Laltoo’s Wet and Wild, had another year showing a variety of coloured T-shirts and vests with the only attraction being a water truck.

The celebration became a bit frustrating for spectators at SAPA who had to wait for almost an hour for bands to pass as most of them were late and having a time along the crowded Cipero Street. When mas resumed, it brought congestion at the Rienzi Kirton Highway with bands hustling to cross the judging point before the 11 am cut-off time. However, the deadline reached with many bands yet to pass.

Low turnout for ole mas

The crowd of ole mas supporters has dwindled from years gone by and though there were humourous portrayals, some of the signage used by masqueraders was sometimes crass and lewd.

With almost 30 ole mas depictions, both Government and Opposition members were the subject of caricatures. 

Finance Minister Colm Imbert was most popular, with Prime Minister Keith Rowley, Communication Minister Maxie Cuffie, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Princes Town MP Barry Padarath being the other favourites.

Princes Town hair dresser Tyrone Nanan provided some humour as he presented himself as a pregnant “Colm In Birth” who gave birth to baby Al Rawee, Fitz B-Hinds, Minister of Newness and Minister of Com-U-Nee-Cation.

Mas veterans, The Blue Boys J’Ouvert Band, brought most of the political ole mas, some of which were well received by the audience while others were not. Steelbands Pan Elders, San City, and Southern All Stars also provided sweet music on the road as well as the rhythmic Gasparillo Tamboo Bamboo Specialists.