If there is any indication that Carnival 2023 is on its way, it is the ongoing preparations for band launchings.
Several bands like Yuma, Tribe and Kinetic Mas have set or projected dates for their launchings, along with many others.
Although some Carnival-type events were held over the last two years, 2023 is expected to be the first physical Carnival as it once was.
Some bandleaders shared what it is like hosting launchings again and preparations for next year.
Ronnie and Caro’s bandleader Ronnie McIntosh said its last two launchings in 2019 and 2020 were virtual and this year is no different.
“Our launch is close to the end of July. We do not have a specific date as yet. We are now working on designs for 2023.” He said physical launches were expensive.
“Before you sell a ticket, you have to pay. It was not working out for us so we decided from 2019 to go virtual.”
Things are looking great for the band and Carnival itself comes next year, he said. McIntosh said the band held a book-your-spot promotion and got great responses.
“People are not taking any chances not to get the costume of their choice. So there is a lot of excitement throughout the world. Carnival 2023 will be one of the bigger ones,” he added.
But the pandemic has also brought economic challenges such as increased shipping costs.
“We just completed Atlanta carnival in terms of costumes. We have some other projects coming and are already feeling the pinch, so to speak, with shipping. Shipping has almost doubled.”
He said there were no discussions about price increases and, if there were, it would be minimal.
“We are definitely trying because we still have to take into consideration that a lot of people are recovering from the pandemic. We are not here to do like everyone else.
“As long as gas goes up, bread gone up, everything gone up. We are not falling into any pattern just because things are going up, we are just going to increase prices. If there is any increase we will be very considerate and paying attention to the masquerader,” he said.
While many are looking forward to Trinidad’s Carnival, McIntosh shared some thoughts on Tobago’s upcoming Carnival in October. He said the separate event was “long overdue.”
“Rather than clashing with Trinidad’s Carnival, where half of Tobago would normally come, it is a great thing that they are doing, having their own Carnival.”
While, this too, has been generating global excitement, McIntosh hopes there is sufficient transportation to get people to Tobago.
“That is normally a problem. Even for Easter it is a big problem, so far less for Carnival. I think Carnival will be ten times bigger than Easter. I am hoping even the airlines put some sort of direct flights from certain main hubs like Miami, New York, London and Toronto,” he said.
The Carnival designers will be designing and producing a band for popular Crown Point casino and bar, Jade Monkey.
The Peter Minshall-designed Kinetic Mas was 2020’s Band of the Year. That was the last time a Carnival, as this country knows it, was held. It is a title the band intends to steadfastly defend. Its launch will also take place at the end of July.
This time the band will not use the legendary mas designer. Instead it has gone to the other end of the spectrum and has brought on young designers to its team.
The band's leader Peter Samuel said the band looked around and engaged some young designers, who are doing “different and exciting things.”
“The whole idea of Kinetic Mas, the reason we named it Kinetic Mas from since then, it is all about the movement. It is not just about what our Carnival has become.”
Responding to the statement that people often said TT’s Carnival was like Brazil’s, Samuel said, “I only wish.”
He said TT took one aspect of Brazilian mas (its nudity, feathers and beads) but if one looked at its costuming, it was fantastic. The distinctiveness of costuming is something Kinetic Mas wants to revive.
Come 2023, people would not have to wonder to which band Kinetic Mas players belong.
“That is how it used to be. You saw someone walking down the road in a Wayne Berkeley costume; you knew it was a Wayne Berkeley costume. Or you knew it was a Stephen Lee Heung or a Peter Minshall costume.
“Now for you to know which band someone is from, you have to look at the label on the pants,” he said.
The band was not only catering to the mature masquerader but also a younger masquerader who grew up playing kiddies’ mas, Samuel said.
“If you look at children’s mas, as far as I am concerned, in terms of design, it is far superior to adult mas. You have these youngsters who grew up playing children’s mas and have now reached an age, where they can no longer play that mas. If they want to continue playing mas, it is either they put on the bikini or stop playing.”
So this is what the band hopes to offer with its 2023 presentation.
“We are all very excited and it is all going to tie back to what has happened over the past two years; the restrictions we were under. That is going to be shown in the band for Carnival Tuesday.”
He promised more would be revealed at the band’s launching.
Kinetic Mas is also going to have three live brass bands on the road in its all-inclusive package. Dil-E-Nadan is one of the bands. He hinted that “icons” would be on the band’s third truck.
“We felt after being locked down for two years, people are chomping at the bits to have something.”
That’s why its Monday presentation is called Exhale.
If someone plays with the band on both days, the Monday costume is included. If someone only wants to play on Monday there is a special on that, Samuel said.
Like Ronnie and Caro, Samuel and other band organisers are taking the economy into consideration when deciding on cost.
A lot of people have not had jobs or lost their jobs over the last two years but still want to play mas, he said.
“We are now fine-tuning the last part of it in terms of costing but I can guarantee you that it is going to be less than what it was in 2020,” he added.
Samuel said while the cost of shipping quadrupled; that simply meant using local products and being creative.
“Yes, Carnival is a business and, at the end of the day, you don’t want to be in the red. But also it was about bringing the creativity back to the mas, if it meant cutting back on your profits margins.
“For me, this was very important going into next year, giving the people something back. Even our providers and brass bands have understood this.”
But there is grander idea at play in what Kinetic is doing and that is building a younger generation of mas designers and creators.
The 2021 TT Red Cross’ Society Young Designer winner Chelsea Fraser is one of its designers. Samuel attended some of the society’s workshop sessions and worked with participants. A commitment was made to hire the winner in the senior category to design for the band.
“It was so great being able to sit down and talk with her and get ideas off of her. She is very, very excited about it. We are trying to cater to the younger ones,” he added.
The band hopes to also work with other young designers interested in showing their work.
“What we really want to do, once Carnival is over, is convert our mas camp into a sort of workshop where the young people can come and showcase their work.”
Even young artists who are unable to show at established galleries, the band wants them to come and show at its camp at 41 Alberto Street, Woodbrook.
“We want to bring back the art of wirebending and papier-mâché to these kids,” he said.
Samuel believes that TT’s cultural outputs are heading for a revival and renaissance and it now lies with the younger generation.
“There is a young artistic generation out there. I have done lectures at UTT for some, who talk about design in mas, and when you ask them, ‘Are you playing mas?’, 90 per cent of them tell you ‘no.’ When you ask them, ‘Why not?’ It is the same thing, nothing out there appeals to them. They were not even coming out on the road, instead opting to go to the beaches. You have to look at that younger crowd,” he said.
Medium band-of-the-year winner and former band-of-the-year winner K2K is waiting on formal Government word about Carnival 2023.
Public health remains its priority, the bandleaders, Karen and Kathy Norman, said.
Once that formal statement is made, in a timely fashion, the band “stands ready and prepared to move forward,” the Normans said in e-mail responses to Newsday.
While the band is not a part of Tobago’s Carnival, it is excited for the opportunity it presents.