Despite negative reports of the impact of the recession on Carnival, south mas-makers are on the ball, producing big bands for the San Fernando street parade.
Bandleaders Aaron Kalicharan and Lionel Jagessar Jr are moving at a fast pace constructing costumes and working long hours to hit the road on February 12 and 13.
Kalicharan was preparing Elixir of Life at the Harris Street mas camp when Newday visited the band’s headquarters.
Both Kalicharan and Jagessar are carrying on in the footsteps of their fathers who created award-winning mas for decades. Kalicharan said his band continues to enjoy growing participation among masqueraders.
“Despite the fact that the country is experiencing a downturn in the economy, Carnival is shaping up to be as grand as last year and the year before. People are buying into the mas just as much as they did in previous years. The mas camp opened in March 2017, just after Carnival, as workers drafted and planned for the 2018 Carnival parade. South Carnival never diminishes, in fact it get better each year,” Kalicharan said.
Kalicharan, 33, took over the band from his father, Ivan, five years ago. The mas camp was flooded with colourful beads, fabrics and feathers as master craftsmen put costumes together. Inspired by the free-spirited dances on the streets for Carnival, Kalicharan named the band Elixir of Life, which depicts freedom and excitement associated with movements of the winds. Elixir of Life, he says, is about the search for eternal life.
“We will see free-spirited royalties in the presentation of kings, queens and empires,” Kalicharan said. The costumes carry various precious gems and metals as it is believed that these stones bring eternal happiness, he said. He said the band provides the ultimate experience in south Carnival.
“It is about more than the glitters and feathers in costumes. It is about the people and the music, it is about the parade in south that makes Carnival so special.”
Elixir of Life is made up of sections titled Oscar Heyman Peridot, Alexandrite Diamond, Mali Garnet, Lonon Blue Topaz, Black Diamond, Jack Du Pose and Peach Cushion Sapphire. According to Kalicharan, the costumes are lightweight and easy to move about on stage.
This year Kalicharan’s band copped its 25th Band of the Year title in San Fernando with its presentation of Zante. It was the 11th consecutive victory for the band. While it is a good feeling to win, Kalicharan said this means they have to work twice as hard to improve the mas each year.
Consistently impacting the Carnival scene in the South, Jagessar recently launched his Eminence presentation at South Park Mall in San Fernando.
Opting for an open-air launch, he said he wanted to reach a wider audience and also to present his new costumes to the public at the mall.
“It is certainly a different concept but the response was overwhelming as people of the different age groups were interested in the costumes on display,” he said.
Costumed models paraded through the crowds to the sound of soca music as children and older folks danced along. At the mall, people who never played mas were fascinated by the costumes on display, he said. He also included students of the Penal Secondary School in the launch and they played calypsoes and soca tunes on the pan.
Jagessar said he has been selling costumes based on colour-combinations instead of sections in the band. Speaking about masqueraders’ response thus far, he said he does not foresee any problems with presenting a large band for Carnival 2018. He said he observed that in January people hold back from spending. However, there has been a good flow of masqueraders registering to play with Eminence.
“We have adjusted the prices on costuming to meet the need of those who want to play mas but cannot afford the bigger costuming,” he said.
The band located at Gransaul Street, San Fernando marks its 40th anniversary this year.