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Enter the dragon

Wednesday, January 11 2017

Our steel pan has grown extensively from in the days of Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), as our carnival has built a massive audience over the years. This audience has extended to over eighty countries; all of which have adopted our style. This therefore brings to the fore how much strides our citizens have made in taking our culture outside of these shores - from wire-bending to any type of technique used to present portrayals.

When I look at how the traditional characters are being treated at celebratory proceedings, I am amazed at how much we, as Trinidadians, do not appreciate our rich culture.

I must say rich because Nigeria, is also very interested in adopting our type of carnival. If we were to draw from our history, the Dragon Band was “the mas”.

The Dragon Band, together with other characters was a main part of the show piece for Carnival.

Can you imagine how the creator of this dragon character, Chinee Patrick, would feel to know that his creation is being pushed aside? Additionally, how many of our schools - both primary and secondary - know the origins of our mas, as this type of culture also displays part of our heritage! What is the NCC’s plan for educating students? What about archiving and the Carnival Institute in relation to NCC’s operation? I am truly a passionate mas player, who has been playing traditional characters (namely dragon) for many years. I know that while contributing to this aspect of our carnival I have also learnt a lot. I am now expected to and is also depended upon by many to portray this character yearly. As I reflect on all the times that I have played this character on each occasion I have qualified and have been rewarded. I must admit that I have played with some who have passed on (God bless their soul).

Though it may have not been the best way to celebrate our carnival heroes I must say that I was always encouraged to further explore my creativity in returning a totally different dragon character yearly.

Having been informed that I was the winner in my category in the 2016 competition held at Adam Smith Square, I was flabbergasted when I went to the NCC headquarters and was introduced to a young man by the receptionist who took me to a back building, where he pointed out the results to me on his computer.

There was no type of formality - instead he called someone and asked the question ‘Do you have a cheque for Junior Taylor?’ He then moved me to the front building, telling me to hold on someone will be with me a while. About five minutes later a young lady came to me and asked my name and requested identification.

I obliged and was given $1,200. To me this was just (“yuh play mas - yuh win - heh look a cheque”) distasteful! How can those who continue to document our history through portrayals for carnival not be celebrated? It is a shame to even think such! Why can’t NCC bring these persons together to celebrate and discuss these performances/ portrayal as has been done in the past? I consider this non-recognition as a step in the wrong direction. Our memories for our great cultural traditions are beginning to dim and be lost with the passage of time, due to lack of appreciation and deficiency of knowledge and understanding.

JUNIOR TAYLOR BA Carnival Studies
This letter was sent to Chairman of the NCC, Kenny de Sil

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