THE Hasely Crawford Stadium came alive on Saturday night as the six bands in the Tribe family showcased their costumes and concepts for Carnival 2020. Costumes popping out on stage from Tribe, Bliss, The Lost Tribe, Harts, Rogue and Pure kept the crowd wailing with excitement from start to finish.
Tribe's Legends of the Far East and Anansi from The Lost Tribe both pay homage to ancestry and the stories of, and from the ancestors of Caribbean people. Harts Carnival's theme Metanoia seemed fitting, as Tribe was recently awarded the right to use the name Harts by the High Court: metanoia is defined as a change in one's way of life resulting from a spiritual transformation. This change was also evident in a plus-sized model being featured by Harts, a decision affirmed by the supportive screams from the audience when she emerged onto the stage.
Newsday spoke with a second-time plus-sized model from The Lost Tribe, Sonja Pollonais. Pollonais, while being dressed by at least two people before going on stage said, "Last year was really fantastic. It was nerve-racking being the first plus-sized model to get up on the stage and do that.
“But they loved it, and so I am excited to be back at it this year again – still as nervous as I was last year." Pollonais' nervousness was not evident, however, as she strutted across the stage in the costume Anansi, designed by RisAnne Martin.
Bliss's theme Nectar is said to celebrate ten years of mas from the band known for glitz, glamour and bliss. The 2020 theme plays on flowers and like all other bands, it invites masqueraders to bask in the sweetness that comes through the experience of life and mas.
Behind the bright lights and images displayed on monitors throughout the venue, backstage resembled a kingdom of bees. Designers, dressers, tailors, models, makeup artists, tanning artists, airbrush artists and hairdressers were moving about calmly but rapidly. Among them were marshals and organisers, communicating by radio, many seemingly exhausted from what would have been months of preparation – ensuring a timely flow onto the stage for the long-anticipated show.
Bliss designer Andrew Charlett said his work on 2020 Fleur Sauvage was a crazy process of preparing, but he enjoyed hearing the energy of the crowd from backstage.
Makeup artist Gabriella Santiago of Lala Makeup Land said it was her first year at a Tribe band launch, and while it was fun, it was hard work – by that point she had been at work for nearly 12 hours.
"It was a great experience. I did about nine faces. There were so many models – about 22 for each band – doing face and body makeup."
The detail and precision of the work of the face and body makeup artists were evident both up close and even from the farthest edge of the jam-packed stadium.
The presentation by large band of the year for Carnival 2019, The Lost Tribe, which celebrated five years on Saturday, has become an anticipated feature of the Tribe band launch, according to one patron. Including choreography by Bridgette Wilson, it was powerfully executed before a backdrop of images of the landscapes and peoples of Africa, the land of Anansi's origin.
Wilson said, "This presentation was really hectic, because rehearsals started only two weeks before band launch because I have been juggling a hectic schedule."
In spite of the limited time, she spent time researching and understanding the essence of Anansi as a character and the stories connected to this character.
"We spent a lot of time with each dancer and each model to explain each character to them and the role each played in the grand scheme of these Anansi stories."
Wilson said she hoped the presentation would remind the public The Lost Tribe is not a "stand-up-and-pose band. It is very much of a character band, expressing these characteristics in human form."
Creative director of The Lost Tribe Valmiki Maharaj said this year the band is presenting what he called the story of stories– "Stories from Anandi, the King of Stories" – and the costumes, such as Eniyan, designed by Peter Elias, "represent the elders who told the stories of Anansi. They are the ones who brought it and carry it from generation to generation."
These stories, he said, connect people to their ancestors and ancestry, and pay homage to those who came before, while keeping people connected in a time to come.
"We hold the responsibility of stories for our future."
Lawyer and founder of local TV and online programme the Business of Carnival Carla Parris said she was impressed by the presentation from The Lost Tribe.
"It was absolutely fabulous and captivating. I look forward to seeing what those beautiful costumes will look like on the road."
Pure Carnival, now celebrating its first anniversary, has chosen the theme Ascension: Rise of the Elements. This, the band said, is a manifestation of its team harnessing their skills to create an experience unlike any other, "(The) heights of Carnival not yet seen..." which may be interpreted to mean an ultra-exclusive, all-inclusive carnival experience.
Rogue will celebrate its third year on the road in 2020, and the theme, I am Bada-- ('badas), is said by the band to represent the tough, uncompromising or intimidating traits within each person. The costumes at first glance seem to have borrowed elements from a range of ancient military themes such as weapons and armour used by the ancient Chinese and the Vikings.
The presentation incorporated soca, hip-hop and dancehall, with the crowd erupting at the dance routine which took place throughout the presentation of costumes, to songs such as Blessed by Jamaican recording artiste Shensea.
The layout of the venue and stage had improved since Festival of the Bands 2018. The monitors seemed to have been more complementary than a necessity, as the wide stage was optimally used, allowing everyone to see what was happening on stage with ease. The venue seemed full to capacity – even the VIP sections, which may be seen as concerning in the case of an emergency.
Tribe's Festival of the Bands, based on evidence on social media and comments from those who attended, was yet another successful and high-energy teaser to whet the appetite of masqueraders for Carnival 2020.