Etienne Charles’ riddim, brass and mas will spell an eagerly-anticipated return of live brass to the streets of Port of Spain next year for Monday and Tuesday mas.
Charles announced the 2023 theme, Revival – a new band with an old concept – during its launch on September 16, prior to his performance last weekend at National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port of Spain.
Charles was in Trinidad last weekend to perform at Jazz for the Cathedral, a fundraiser for the restoration works on the Trinity Cathedral, Port of Spain. The show also featured David “Happy” Williams, Ray Holman, guitarist/composer Theron Shaw, and vocalist Vaughnette Bigford.
“I am looking forward to being back on the road for Carnival 2023, this time with a new team, new management and a new name.
“Same energy, same vibe, same good music, same type of special guests,” the acclaimed trumpeter and composer said.
“We are reviving the energy of the road after being on our couches during a global shutdown and we revived live brass on the road.” Charles originally came up with the idea in 2016.
“(That year) our very acclaimed musician-trumpeter Etienne Charles came to Trinidad to do some research and was dismayed by the lack of brass on the roads of Trinidad Carnival. And those of us old enough to remember, brass on the roads, all the big bands, all the music and musicians and artistes singing, and they were replaced by DJs and music trucks,” said Laura Dowrich, leading Charles’ band’s public relations.
The band then took off from 2017-2020 before Carnival was twice cancelled because of the covid19 pandemic.
“In 2017, he was on the road Carnival Monday with live brass. It was a sight to behold,” Dowrich said.
“I remember we were jumping in the band and we were passing Bliss and half of Bliss ended up coming into the band and jumping with us. People were amazed because there are so many of them who have never had the experience of live brass.”
Charles, speaking on the run-up to the band’s Trinidad Carnival debut, said, “(Prior to the pandemic) we also revived brass on the road in Toronto in 2019 for Caribana and on the road in London in 2019 for Notting Hill Carnival.
“The impetus for this (comes from) years of not hearing brass on the road after growing up in Trinidad and hearing it.
“So when I came home to do my Guggenheim research for Carnival (in 2016), A Sound of a People, and I am on the road Carnival Tuesday, and I didn’t hear one trumpet blow, and didn’t see one drum knock, I was immediately confused.
“I told my friend Maria Nunes that I have to do something about it and it all came to fruition.”
Charles said bandleaders and promoters have regarded live brass as “an expense and not as a necessary element of Carnival,” essentially diminishing the quality and historicity of the annual national celebrations.
He complained that there are significantly fewer fetes booking live brass bands during the Carnival season and even fewer bands booking brass sections for the road.
“The live music industry in Carnival has steadily decayed gradually over the last 15-20 years. Many organisers opt for the scenario where the artiste sings accompanied by a backing track played by a DJ,” he said, describing the practice as “essentially karaoke.”
That, he said, changed when he and his team put into effect the plans made in 2016 for the following year’s Carnival.
“We secured a truck. A concrete plan formalised and crew formed in 2016. I announced my first Carnival band in January 2017 (and) response with support was immense.”
Charles will perform with Lima Calbio, Roger George and Keith Prescott (also known as Keith Styler) on vocals; Dean Williams on guitar; Leston Paul on keyboard; Rodney Alexander on bass; Tamba Gwindi and Kayode Charles on percussion; Tony Paul on saxophone; KJ Marcell on drums; and Shaka Charles on trombone.
DJ Adrenaline will also provide music.
Hats, backpacks, food and drink packages are available for masqueraders. Charles said there will be an eco-conscious element to the band, with disposable cups made from corn, hats made with real straw and T-shirts made with recycled material, all being used.
Registration for the band opened online on September 17 at etiennecharles.com.