Some people don’t want to deal with big mas bands for Carnival. They may love the costumes but not the crowd where it’s easy to lose your friends and difficult to get a drink.
This is why Avinash Singh and Jayson Maharaj have created JAM The Band – a small, all inclusive, “boutique band” with premium vibes. For years, the duo have been designing costumes for bands in the US and the Caribbean, including St Lucia, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Jamaica, US Virgin Islands, and St Vincent and the Grenadines through their Carnival design and production company, Jam Design Concepts.
Singh told Sunday Newsday people have been asking for such a band and they finally recognised there was a “need” for it after stepping aside as creative directors at Passion Carnival. “A lot of people are fed up with having to play with these large bands and getting lost in that crowd. So we want to cater for a safe, comfortable space for masqueraders to enjoy Carnival.” The band has six sections so far and the bandleaders hope to keep the number at around 800 masqueraders. It’s presentation is Flutter – The Winged Kingdom. “We felt as though Trinidad Carnival girls love pretty, beautiful things and costumes that comprises of bright colours. Most things that have those characteristics flutter and have these pretty, amazing wings so we tried to mimic that with the costumes.”
They mimicked butterfly, bumblebees, phoenixes, dragonflies and more for their sections and gave them fairy names. So far, the sections are Cleo, Celestine, Arabella, Willard, Vivi, and Cali but there will be more by the mas camp opening, the location of which is yet to be confirmed, in August. Singh explained that because they associate with many carnivals around the world, some bands, such as Contact Mas from Barbados, Euphoria Mas from Miami, and King Leo Production from Guyana, decided to market certain sections to their following.
Jam Design Concepts has been in operation for the past eight years, designing and mass producing Carnival costumes. It all started when a friend approached Singh to design a costume for a new band he was starting called Passion. “At that point I didn’t know anything about Carnival or mas but I used to do a lot of drawings and sketches of clothing and costumes from my art background in form six. He asked me to do a sketch for a costume, which I did, and it sold out in a week or two. It kind of just snowballed from there.”
In fact, he said after that he had to leave his job as a flight attendant because Carnival “consumed” his life as people requested more of his designs. He lamented there was nowhere to learn the art of carnival costume design so he succeeded through trial and error. “We have a lot of young designers who message us for guidance so we do workshops and small internships where we teach them how to do things and help them along with the process.”
Singh admitted he had no idea how to actually build the costumes he envisioned and so called on his friend, Maharaj and they started the company together. Maharaj continues to bring Singh’s ideas to life and guides him when he is being unrealistic in his designs. “It’s a good partnership and we have a really good team of people around us. It’s always an adventure.”
He added, “Our aesthetic is bikini and beads so we didn’t divert from it. We kept to what we know our clientèle want from us.” He said a few bands could step away from that and do it well but in business you have to give people what they want and many masqueraders want beads, feathers, and skimpy costumes. And their costumes continue to be popular as evidenced by JAM’s band launch at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain on June 29. Singh said the idea and process of launching their own band was emotional because initially he felt insecure and sometimes frustrated. However, the launch was very successful. He said they got good feedback from those who attended, and the band already had sponsors which made him feel positive about the new venture. “We are a new band but we aren’t a new brand. People know the calibre of Carnival costumes we would have created so sponsorship was easier to come by because we have a body of work to show for it.”
Despite the “skimpy” aesthetic, Singh noted that the frontline costumes are customisable with high-waist and full suit options for women, and boardshorts for men.
Visit jamthebandcarnival on Instagram for further information.