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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Au Courant presents: The Cycle: Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 2011

Just when you thought that was about it for band launches and new mas for Carnival 2011 Au Courant enters the arena. On his face book page Brian Wong Won calls it "Most innovative and creative presentation for Trinidad Carnival 2011". Looking at the designs and the concept I think it is a welcome shot in the arm for Carnival 2011.
The band seems to be made up of 5 sections/acts, that complete a cycle and the band boasts elaborate and crafted mas and a performance.

Take a look at  the rest of this new addition to the presentations of Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival 2011on the Au Courant website  
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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Is there class in Carnival?

Often the celebrity is spotted in IslandPeople mas.
Here, Anya Ayoung Chee, right, parades with a friend.
 Photo: courtesy IslandPeople Mas
The spice of our island is quietly rearing its head. Carnival 2011 is near, and with the emergence of brand new soca music, the conclusion of band launches, and the ongoing hustle to register at mas camps where limited costumes remain, the scorch of the season can be felt. Anxiously, masqueraders from across the world wait with bated breath for that moment in time when all inhibitions will be thrown out the door. Revellers will dance in the street, party on the sidewalk, and drink festively. But the question that remains in the back of many people’s minds is, “Has Carnival been diluted?”
Carnival only for elite?
Over the years, world development, and by extension, the development of human beings, has fostered a whirlwind change in our island’s Carnival industry. The costumes have transformed from lengthy, bulky and heavy, to beads and bikinis, feathers and costumed embellishments, highly reflective of Brazil’s sexual staging of a similar festival. The music, too, has changed, with a greater embrace to popular foreign culture with its hip-hop beats, and even dancehall persuasion.
More than anything else, though, the financial climate of Carnival has changed. A band considered to be “the best to jump with on the road” can cost a masquerader in excess of $3,000, this even as the average man on the street is paid a minimum wage of $10 per hour.
Who then are bandleaders catering to? Is it safe to assume that Carnival is now an elitist party, where only those who can afford the exorbitant cost of a costume from the popular bands, and drink free cocktails at $650 all-inclusive fetes, can truly be a part of the cultural and seasonal landscape of our island?
Lewis denies class targets
While there remain public fetes that still draw large audiences, mainly from the lower echelon of our society, there is no denying that the bulk of Carnival’s engagements target the “haves”. Island People’s Derrick Lewis enlightened the T&T Guardian on how he perceives the ever-evolving event and Carnival-masquerade industry, and why it’s not a matter of class, more than it is the privilege factor. “Class is a factor, but not as big as it is played up to be, and certainly not the defining element.
“I think demographics and psycho graphics are playing a more prominent role than ever before, and choice is driven much of the time by the consumer who is looking for more and more service,” said Lewis. He added, “People are defining their targets much more strategically now. The marketing of a band, or an event has become more sophisticated than in years gone by,” he said, explaining that image and economic brackets were certainly included in modern day marketing layouts within T&T’s Carnival. Lewis, however, disagreed that class was a target that stood alone when it came to today’s event and masquerade-band marketing. “I think that based on the middle class being so big in Trinidad and Tobago, as compared to other places in the Caribbean, class boundaries are not defined here,” said Lewis.
“I think there’s more of a movement among local promoters and bandleaders, to offer a privilege to patrons, most of whom desire greater privileges. “At Islandpeople Mas we have one common target, ‘real’ passionate Carnival people who are looking for a creative, service filled, safe, Carnival experience come 2011.” Lewis said in local society there were people from all walks of life who wanted to be treated like a VIP, and would pay more to be treated as such. He said the words “uptown” and “downtown” that were so loosely used, really weren’t properly defined, and he personally did not believe they should be used in setting marketing targets for events and mas bands.
Polarisation in event promotion
The bandleader and educator agreed that the cost of mas today, as opposed to years gone by, was a big factor as to why some people stayed away from Carnival, and hinted that there certainly had been a movement toward polarisation in the local promotion industry in recent years. He, however insisted that social class was not a contributing factor, adding that privilege was key.
“The value and importance of Carnival of ‘we’ has started to move towards, Carnival of ‘me’,” said Lewis, citing that while the festival began many years ago as a national and cultural engagement, various societal elements, inclusive of crime and development of other ills, had diverted the natural course of the festival. There’s no denying that over the years a shift as taken place. Whether the shift has taken away from, or added to the notion of “the greatest show on earth”, is based on individual perception. One thing is certain though, and that’s the fact that one must be financially secure to engage in most of what’s offered within T&T’s Carnival.

Aba A Luke

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Learning about the material world

MIX IT UP: All ready for Sunday market is this little lady in her costume
called Mix and Match.

In their attempt to contribute towards keeping the mas artform alive the team of the Carnival Babies Mas Band combines Carnival and education, while also incorporating a bit of social work in the mix. The band on November 6 launched its 2011 presentation, titled Material World, at the Port of Spain Waterfront, where several of the ten sections were revealed.

“The mission of Carnival Babies is to educate children about mas on the whole especially the creation of costumes. We will be presenting an educational theme each year. For instance in Material World we will teach the children about the different materials used in making costumes. They will learn why we use certain materials and how they are used,” Mollineau said.

“One of the great things about the band is that the children get to participate in the creation of their costumes, making the mas experience all that much more special. Apart from the primary schools, we are hoping to get the orphanages and other children’s institutions involved as well. While we wait on responses from companies we are using our resources to get the work started. The band will participate in all the competitions,” Mollineau said.

“We are teaching the children the use of many different types of materials that can be used to create costumes, which is really just about anything you can find. They will learn what materials to use in order to create the desired effects and shapes. So we have sections such as Feather World, Stretch To Fit, Frills And Thrills, Sponge Dolls and Crafty Corner,” Mollineau said.
By Wayne Bowman

Friday, 12 November 2010

Going wild for Indian mas

LEFT: Saia-Ann Sultan portrays a Sub Chief.
RIGHT: Cherrese De Abreau in the Grass Dancer costume.
 Photos: Innis Francis
Over the years, San Fernando bandleaders have made a name for themselves in Carnival with the presentation of native Indian bands. So it was no surprise when, around midnight last Saturday, models manoeuvred authentic costumes from Lionel Jagessar and Associates at the Space nightclub in La Romaine. Around the Tepee was the theme chosen to depict the legendary mythology of the North American Indians, from the inception of time to when they were discovered by Christopher Columbus.
The band’s C2K11 presentation consists of nine sections predominantly comprising costumes with coloured feathers, designed into beautiful spectrums. The costumes are expected to attract much attention during the revelry on the streets of San Fernando come Carnival next year. The venue was somewhat inadequate for the launch, considering the elaborate and lavish costume detail, including feathered boas and huge headpieces. The mas couple—Lionel and Rosemarie Kuru-Jagessar—have 32 years of experience in bringing mas to the streets of the southern city.
Rosemarie is the reigning National Queen of Carnival, the title she copped with her portrayal of the Sacred Water Bearer Waka-Nisha, and was the first person in the history of Carnival to parade an Indian mas and win the national title. “Everything about our presentation, from the designs to wire-bending to construction is my husband, Lionel. “God blessed him with the talent, and even the children have the talent. “They are all about keeping the culture alive,” she boasted. Some of the sections that were on display were Grass Dancers, Sub Chief, Ceremonial Dancers, Keeper of the Fire, Fox Hunter and Eagle Dancers.
“Our costumes are colourful. Carnival is colour and we need to keep the young people in San Fernando. “We had to keep our traditional theme but with a conventional outlook. “People were telling us, our costumes not naked enough, but how naked can you go with Indian costumes? “We tried and came up with these costumes, and I know it would be a big hit for Carnival,” Kuru-Jagessar said.
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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Mas back in Savannah

Flashback: Harts revellers play mas in Port-of-Spain this year.
After some three years of being out on the streets, described by some as a horrible experience, bandleaders will see a return of mas to the big stage at the Queen’s Park Savannah for Carnival 2011. Minister of Art and Multiculturalism Winston “Gypsy” Peters made the announcement yesterday as he checked out existing structures at the Savannah to see what improvements could be done. “This tour is just to take a look at what we’re supposed to do to bring Carnival plans to fruition for 2011. “We’re putting Carnival back in the Savannah,” Peters said.
The Parade of the Bands was moved from the Savannah some three years ago by the former PNM administration for the construction of the National Carnival Centre, which is still to be completed. Masqueraders were made to pass along judging points on the street outside the Savannah. Accompanying Peters was Kenny de Silva, who has returned as chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC), and other board members. “This structure is not what we would like,” Peters said, referring to the Grand Stand. He said the plan was to move the Grand Stand further east in line with the North Stand and to establish an active, year-round Carnival “place” in the Savannah for tourism purposes.
Peters said culture should be one of T&T’s main revenue earners in the diversification thrust. He said masqueraders, bandleaders and calypsonians were elated about the return of mas to the big stage in the Savannah. He dismissed questions about the headache of masqueraders having to wait for hours to cross the stage. “Carnival without bacchanal is no Carnival. However, we’re working on plans to alleviate the problem,” he said.

People’s band
One of the ministry’s plans is to bring out a “people’s band” where the People’s Partnership Government will provide music trucks and “anybody could bring their costume and come,” Peters disclosed. The aim is to draw away some of the Savannah masqueraders and decrease the crowd there. “People will go to that (the people’s band),” Peters said. “I hope to see the return of antique costumes and creativity. There are no restrictions. If you are unemployed, make a mas face and come.” Peters also dismissed questions about taking away sales from mas designers.
“That’s not my concern,” he said, frankly. “They are bringing mas from India and China and I don’t know if they are taking away jobs from the people and suppressing their creativity.” Asked the cost of the exercise to beautify the Carnival “place” in the Savannah, the minister replied: “Whatever it takes for us to be here. “I’m not saying we’re sparing no cost. The whole country is under financial constraints but Carnival is also a business.” De Silva said his passion was Carnival management and said the NCC board held its first meeting on the site yesterday afternoon. A Ministry of Works engineering team and an architect also were supposed to visit the area to begin preparations, De Silva said. “I’m looking forward to coming up to everybody’s expectations,” he said.

Mas men respond
Luis Hart, of the band Harts, said he was “ecstatic” about the return of mas to the Savannah. “It’s what we were begging for. Masqueraders missed the thrill of crossing the stage.” He said being on the street was horrible. “They’re putting Carnival back where it’s supposed to be,” he said. Dean Ackin, of Tribe, said masqueraders would be happy about the move. “My only concern is managing the flow of bands to the Savannah.” Ackin said the National Carnival Bandleaders Association (NCBA) had been meeting this year with stakeholders, including bandleaders, to come up with a plan to ease the masquerader backlog. “They have some good plans which they suggested to the NCC. I’m looking forward to this year.” Dane Lewis, of Island People, said moving mas back to the Savannah would give masqueraders the “climax” they had been missing on the street. “The big stage provides that climax experience we have been missing for the past three years,” Lewis said.
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Friday, 5 November 2010

Minaj gets wining lesson

Nicki Minaj performs during

the Localize Itt Concert on Saturday

Internationally acclaimed rapper Nicki Minaj left Trinidad over the weekend with a greater appreciation for the country of her birth, a love for local delicacies like pholourie, roti, and red mango, and a lesson on how to do a good Trini wine. Minaj, a St James native, who was christened Onika Maraj, arrived in Trinidad last Friday to headline the Localize Itt Concert, held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, on Saturday. Donning a fashionable red and white ensemble with red and gold accessories, leopard-print ankle-boots and sporting a blonde wig, the 25-year-old took time out of her 40-minute performance to allow fans to help her sharpen her wining skills, as she admitted that she had not yet mastered the indigenous dance. “Show me how to wine!” she said. Her request was answered instantaneously as several excited fans volunteered to show her how it’s done.
A young male, clearly overjoyed and eager to display his wining skills and steal a hug from the super-star, shocked even Minaj, as he acrobatically gyrated on his head. “Stop it! Stop it!” she jokingly told him, as loud cheers and applause erupted from the crowd. The self-proclaimed businesswoman who was a drama major at New York City’s LaGuardia High School of Music and Art also called on patrons to work hard to achieve all their dreams and encouraged female fans to “get their own.” “Go to school and stay in school. Ladies don’t depend on a man for anything. Get your own,” she declared. Minaj worked the stage with confidence and pizzazz but disclosed that she was “emotional” as she was happy to be performing in her native country.
“This is the most emotional show I’ve ever had to do,” she said.

“I don’t even know how I’m holding up. It’s been a long time coming back here and you guys have treated me so beautifully. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.”Opening her performance with Itty Bitty Piggy, Minaj had young and not-so-young fans singing along, word for word. Well-known for her trademark over-exaggerated vocal inflections, Minaj made smooth transitions singing her verses on popular international hip hop and R&B tracks, including DJ Khaled’s All I Do Is Win, Drake’s Up All Night, Sean Kingston’s Letting Go (Dutty Love), Trey Songz’s Bottom’s Up, and Young Money’s Bed Rock. Her popular hit Your Love and the newly released single, Right Through Me, went down well with the crowd, who showed Minaj that her earlier fear of “people not being familiar with my songs” was definitely not the reality.

Assuring that she was “almost positive” that she would be back on local soil in 2011 for Carnival for the first time, Minaj then closed at around 10.55 pm with Kanye West’s popular track, Monster, and waved goodbye to a crowd which, she said, “welcomed me with open arms.” The fun was not over yet, however, as soca artistes such as Makamillion and the Millionaire Family, Buffy, and Soca Monarch winners JW and Blaze delivered energetic and spirited performances. Earlier, patrons got another potent taste of local culture when D Project Records artistes Nebula 868, Judah, Terri Lyons and 3Suns took the stage, representing the red, white and black to the fullest. Local dancehall artiste Squeezy Rankin also came in for high praise from the crowd with his song Nah Play We Tune, in which he called on DJs, and Sport Minister Anil Roberts, to ensure that more local content is played on radio.


Promoter of the Localize Itt Concert and D Project Records CEO, Darryl Braxton, told the T&T Guardian that he was pleased with Minaj’s performance as well as the event’s turnout. “I think it flowed well. Nicki’s performance was good and it also served to showcase our local performers. I think the show was nice and clean incident-free. It was nice to see the young people come out. “I think for what it was and the fact that so many different things were going on that could have deterred people from coming, I was satisfied with the turnout.”

Monday, 1 November 2010

In this T&T Guardian file photo, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism
 Winston Peters (Gypsy), left,
 is captured at a function with fellow calypsonian
 Opposition Councillor Franz Lambkin (Delamo).
All systems are go for Carnival 2011, according to Arts & Multiculturalism Minister Winston Peters (Gypsy).
Speaking off the record at a reception for cultural personalities last week Friday at Knowsley Building in Port-of-Spain, the minister said a new National Carnival Commission (NCC) Board was to be installed soon. The man shortlisted to be the new chairman is Kenny De Silva, a former chairman of the Commission. Up to last Wednesday afternoon, however, De Silva said he had received no instrument of appointment.

The composition of the new board augurs well for C2K11 especially as other names mentioned include experienced veterans in Carnival, including Don Sylvester and Cyril Collier, in addition to the heads of Carnival’s Special Interest groups (SIGs), including Keith Diaz (Pan Trinbago); Lutalo Masimba (Bro Resistance), (Tuco); and Wrenrick Brown (NCBA).
Peters also said the Parade of the Bands competition would be returning inside the Queen’s Park Savannah, its traditional home, instead of proceeding along the outside southern perimeter of the venue. He added that a main stage would be returned, with north and grand viewing stands. Himself being the National Calypso Monarch of 1997, and a multiple champion in extempore competition, Peters said there was every likelihood that next year calypsonians would be required to sing two selections for the national monarch competition, a move welcomed by many of the veteran calypsonians.         Contacted on Wednesday, Tuco president Lutalo Masimba (Bro Resistance), with a chuckle in his voice, said: “As far as I am concerned this decision can only be taken by the membership of Tuco and the jury’s still out on that. We are discussing it, though.” Concurring with Resistance was former national monarch Michael Osuna (Sugar Aloes), who said: “While I consider this is a progressive move, it is not a decision for any minister to make. Only Tuco can make this decision. But, I am for the two songs as it will separate the men from the boys in the competition.”

Before C2K11 comes around, however, Peters has given his endorsement to this evening’s Extemporama being held at SWWTU Hall, on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, from 8 pm. A virtual clash between the best exponents of extempore, representing the three zones of Tuco, Peters affirmed the event was not a competition, but a chance for “bragging rights in the genre.” Tonight’s zonal war is billed as “De Councillor vs De Minister” as many people expect it to come down to a face-off between the arts minister and COP Councillor Phillip Murray (Black Sage). Widely regarded to be the world’s best extempore artistes, Peters said he didn’t intend taking any prisoners tonight as he knew each contestant would be gunning for him.
In mirth, he said: “It will be fire in town on Friday night, and I intend getting them before they get me.” Also in the fray tonight are Contender, Fire Ball, Gary Ranks, Black Sage (North); Lingo, Lady Africa, Sheldon John, Dion Diaz (East); Brian London, Abebele, Short Pants, Gypsy (South). Peters was complimentary of the young people venturing into the realm of extempore, singling out Fire Ball and Bunji Garlin, adding that they brought their own unique but entertaining treatment to the art form. Hosted by Mervyn Telfer and Shirlaine Hendrickson, this evening’s show also features former calypso monarch Relator, with musical accompaniment by Moods.
Tunes for Panorama 2011
As far as pan and the 2011 National Panorama Competition are concerned, calypsonians have already completed their “pan songs,” including De Original De Fosto Himself, Crazy and Eunice Peters.
Four hot tracks for Panorama 2011 are:
• In She Rainorama sung by De Fosto—composed by Winston Scarborough;
• Desperadoes Coming Down sung by De Fosto—composed by Winston Scarborough;
• A Raging Storm sung by DeFosto—composed by Winston Scarborough;
• Percy on Me sung by Crazy—composed by Edwin Ayoung & Winsford Devine.
Calypso tents
The calypso tents are also gearing up for a bumper C2K11 season.
Speaking with Pulse on Wednesday, Calypso Revue producer Sugar Aloes said all systems were go for the season. He said auditions would commence on November 14 and continue every Sunday, at 11 am, at a venue to be announced. The regional tents operated by Tuco are also in their final planning stages, as well as the Icons tent operated by another former national and Independence monarch, Weston Rawlins (Cro Cro)
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