It appears, when it comes to mas, nothing can stop players from taking to the streets for the parade of the bands.
This year, Road March winner MX Prime and the Ultimate Rejects sang, “Recession doh bother we, promote a fete and you go see, how we go party to the full extreme.”
And so it is, come Carnival 2018, not even the downturn in the economy will stop masqueraders. Bandleaders are speaking of registrations being more or less the same as Carnival 2017.
Dean Ackin, head of Ultimate Events Ltd, producers of Tribe, Bliss and The Lost Tribe mas, said both Tribe and Bliss, portraying Once Upon A Dream and Dolce Vita respectively, have already been sold-out, while The Lost Tribe’s Seven, is 90 per cent sold.
Ackin said his sales were the same as in previous years. “Most of our registration is through the mas camp and it is normal.”
On the question of the recession Ackin responded: “I think it is affecting everyone, but it depends on people’s priorities. I think our mas players know that they get value for money. Over the years Tribe has built up its reputation by delivering what they’ve promised. In hard times the stronger brands are what people will go to first, and that goes across all industries.”
Ronnie McIntosh of Ronnie & Caro mas band, which will be portraying Life’s Checkered Board in 2018, said he too is expecting the same number of masqueraders.
“It started off slow locally, but the foreign-based registrations was faster than last year. However, as of November, the locals pick up a speed so we do have a couple sections already sold-out and we expect that right-after-Boxing-Day rush.
He added: “Our prices are the same and everything is in order. Carnival has a budget of its own, and fortunately we didn’t get any price increase from our suppliers. So we expect same amount of masqueraders, though more foreigners will be playing with the band. I think what is attracting them is the customer service that we provide.”
And, Kathy and Karen Norman principals of K2K Alliance & Partners said: “Our designs remain in-house, with us doing the entire collection, with the company’s core focus being to fuse high-fashion designs with costuming and creating quality garments that can be used after the Carnival season (365-day concept).”
Their portrayal of We Stand United has thus far closed off all gowns and beaded options, though there is some capacity in the bodysuit option for the women and stretch top option for men.
Sales for Trini Revellers’ Harold “Sally” Saldenah – The Legend, is not bad, said the band’s Jeff Gillette. “Sales are not going too bad, though it could be better. People are coming to register, but not as years gone by.
But we are not bawling. The outside sections are doing pretty good thus far, we also have a few inquiries online, a little less than before, but we anticipate in January sales will pick up. We have to think positive”
Lionel Jagessar of San Fernando-based band Lionel Jagessar & Associates has no complaints about mas sales for his portrayal of Eminence. He said: “People normally come after Christmas for their costumes, and we have our diehards who are keeping us afloat.”
Jagessar said among outside sections from Christopher Bhagwandeen and another from Fyzabad, plus online sales that his children are monitoring, he hopes even more people will play mas next year. So far one of his seven sections is sold-out.
Ayana Kalicharan of Kalicharan Carnival Band, which will portray Elixir of Life, is not so happy, though. She said: “Sales are much slower than normal. We don’t have online sales nor outside sections, so we just have to play it by ear. But we will still be in the big band category.”
Anne Marie Placide whose Jus Wee & Friends’ portrayal of Wee Taking Flight is in the medium category, said: “Most of my people come right after Christmas, so I would say sales are the same so far, but wouldn’t say for certain until January.
“A couple of sections are sold-out. Also, we have always had an arrangement with some people who opt to make their own costumes, staying within the theme, and pay the necessary fees. But most of my masqueraders are foreigners and all of them are coming back with more people next year.”
Over in Tobago, George Leacock, chairman of the Tobago Carnival Committee is himself leading the Happy Lost Sailors in the traditional category on Carnival Monday, and on Tuesday takes his mas on the road in the medium band category.
Where his band is concerned Leacock said everybody makes their own costumes and they pay a band fee for food, music and drinks.
On the Tobago Carnival, he said: “I think attendance and participation is going up because of the improvement of Tobago Carnival. We have more registrations, including quite a few from Trinidad, particularly for the Crown Point parade. The route for Carnival in Scarborough, Tobago is one of the best in the world, with the sea as the backdrop.”
The band is expecting tourists from the cruise ship that will be docked on Carnival Tuesday also to get involved in Tobago Carnival 2018 both as spectators and as masqueraders, he said.
Newcomer to the band business Jules Sobion, leader of Rogue Carnival which will be playing We Run The Rogue, said: “For a first-time band it is doing exceptionally well. I still think there is an economic depression in terms of high price of mas, but people are putting money on things that they are confident about, realising the value for money.”
Two of his nine female sections are already sold out. They are Risque and Reign.
Asked about Tribe’s involvement with the band. Sobion said his Caesar’s Army was a section in Tribe but he wanted to do things differently in 2018 and bring his own band, using Tribe’s expertise in running a band with the Caesar’s Army brand. He summed up: “Experience meets creativity.”
He also said his outfit will also be bringing live music back on the road, but is yet to decide which band it will be going with. “I want to see how much we can bring back in a next-generation form.”
Another newcomer who for the first time this year delved into the mas band business is internationally acclaimed trumpeter Etienne Charles, whose We The People Monday mas band attracted a large number of masqueraders.
For 2018, he said: “There has been a tremendous response to our Brass Mas Street Party 2018 and we’re grateful for our masqueraders, organisers, crew and musicians. We’re ahead of where we were this time last year.
“We are a jersey band fuelled by live brass music. We encourage our masqueraders to decorate their jerseys however they wish. This year we had masqueraders turn their costumes into Santa Claus, midnight robbers and all kinds of other displays. As the Grandmaster Lord Kitchener said, ‘Mama dis is mas.’”