WHEN David Rudder received the keys to the city of Port of Spain in May, he said “the melody is coming back”. When legendary designer Peter Elias was asked if he felt Rudder’s statement to be true, he said he was not certain if TT’s melody was returning, but he hopes so.
However, he has found some hints of that melody in the fabrics, lines and beauty of The Lost Tribe’s 2019 presentation, Taj. Elias said he was asked to design and produce for Adrian Raymond’s section, Dastkaar, and the costumes were inspired by a tribe in India.
“I have been to India and India is rich and exciting and vast. One of my favourites things in India, I remember, is something called the Bhopa Tribe.
“They, from a distance, can look African or maybe Moroccan or maybe Indonesian. That was my inspiration. They are from the Rajasthan area, that is where the Taj Mahal is from.”
He said the costumes fit in with his personal aesthetic, which he described as being “very Afro-centric, very tribal, lots of prints, lots of jewellery.”
He promised masqueraders, “There is not one component that cannot be worn outside of Carnival.”
After being away from costume design and mas for the last five years, Elias described his return as being beautiful. He believes he will continue to design costumes for the Lost Tribe in the coming years. But whether or not he takes a bigger role in the band is yet to be seen. “One step at a time,” he said.
Before The Lost Tribe, Elias designed for and brought sections with Tribe, but felt like his costumes sometimes were not a good fit there.
“I used to be with Tribe for years and I enjoyed it. Tribe is so organised. Very professional. A very well-run machine. We used to do costumes for them and very artistic, clothes, fabric and fashion. And I always felt like my section did not belong in Tribe, artistically.
“I just always thought I was off-track with Tribe.” But, in The Lost Tribe, Elias has found Rudder’s melody.
“When I went to the launch this time, back stage, they are playing this year a thing called Taj. Inspirations around the Taj Mahal. And what I liked about it, it is not typical Indian interpretations. Everything has an Indian flair. And Val (Valmiki Maharaj) has been able to create an artistic band in The Lost Tribe. It is just fabulous.”
At a time when he believes TT is at a general all-time low, Elias believes The Lost Tribe, led by Valmiki Maharaj, provides a renaissance.
He said, “Trinidad is in a drought. There is no joy. As a young person who is 18 or 20 what would they think of tomorrow? There is no voice saying ‘be great follow my lead.’ There is no voice and in this little band Val has brought all of the people who don’t fit the mainstream together. They are all together in a beautiful way that Val has brought. People who have a love of art, love of Trinidad, love of culture. It is like a melody. A renaissance. This little space.
“So for me, I pray to God Rudder is right that the melody is coming back. We have to bring back that melody...
“This band is melody. This band is what Trinidad and Tobago represents. A mixture of slim, short, fat, tall, dark, all shades, all races,” he said.
While some people may think “artistic mas or a more interesting mas” is not fun, Elias sees The Lost Tribe and its masqueraders having that same fun and “gorgeous-ness” any other band might have.
“It is Carnival. It is the same fun but it is poets, artists and viragos too all liming together,” he said of the band and its followers.
Elias said he saw the glimmer of TT’s melody in the August 5 Miss World Trinidad and Tobago pageant, held at the National Academy for the Performing Arts. “I went to the Miss World show on Sunday and I was very proud of that organisation.
“When we ran, it my team and I, it was a serious commitment. And since then, I think nobody seems selfless enough to be committed to do something for TT. This show was first class and I felt very proud of them for giving of themselves to Trinidad and Tobago...”
And although he won’t be get back in pageantry, he sees a permanent space for it. “Even the girls who did not win the show and went to Miss Universe or Miss World, their lives were changed positively.”