BANKER by day, Carnival king by night.
Nigel Baptiste, the president of the Bankers Association, exchanged the banking hall for the big stage of the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, on Thursday night, making a surprise appearance in the Senior Kings and Queens of Carnival competition in a costume inspired by the zodiac.
Baptiste danced Taurus Raging Through the Fields of the Universe, a dazzling tableau of celestial orbs and symbols designed by the poet Dawad Philip for the band Trini Revellers. The costume was meticulously constructed over a period of five months.
Why this turn to mas?
“I play for fun and once I am having fun, I am happy,” Baptiste, the managing director of Republic Bank and a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s advanced management programme, told Newsday. “Of course, the fact that it was a lovely design and was well constructed made it easier to cross the stage.
“This king was entirely the brainchild of its designer. This is just my second year portraying a king.”
The costume was one of 45 kings and 43 queens vying to advance beyond the preliminaries.
Also making the audience starry-eyed was Raymond Mark with Suzaku!, a sleek costume that became luminous in the dark; as well as Ted and Curtis Eustace, with their particular brand of fantasy, which had its fans. Ted topped the kings in What Lurks in the Night, with Curtis placing third as Pescado Azul – Mystery of the Ocean.
Individuals from the Belmont-based band The Palace of the Peacock – based on the novel by Wilson Harris – also drew a positive reaction. One of its kings, Tekel Sylan, placed tenth as A Peacock becomes the Windows of the Universe.
Thursday’s preliminaries went on well beyond midnight. While there has been concern over the years about flagging quality, the event drew a modest crowd of about 1,000 patrons, according to some estimates, even though it was broadcast live.
The queens were generally less well received than the kings, with costumes such as Kanya the Jellyfish, worn by former queen of Carnival Stephanie Kanhai, failing to make much of an impression.
Others appeared to rehash old themes, as if the impact of the economic recession had finally made its way to the stage. Roxanne Omalo, the defending queen, is again out front, placing first in the preliminaries as Solar Goddess of the Sky.
While there was concern about wind and the removal of the North Stand, replaced this year by the North Park, there were no noticeable mishaps.
Baptiste, who wore one of the larger costumes of the night, said, “I got conflicting views in relation to the likely wind impact but on the night, I was comfortable throughout.”
Overall, audience members felt the standard left much to be desired, with tired themes and lacklustre concepts drawing criticism. The absence of Roland St George, who died last month and who always brought a high standard to the big stage, was felt.
Last year’s winner Earl Thompson was not listed among the competitors.
On Twitter, artist and photographer Peter Sheppard noted the unimaginative repeat of animal themes, remarking “Tonight’s King and Queens preliminaries was brought to you courtesy the Emperor Valley Zoo.”
The finals, with the top ten kings and queens, take place on February 27.