Tobago bandleaders upset: Mas ‘just bathsuits and beads’

A masquerader, left, dances with a dame Lorraine at the Tobago Carnival media launch on Wednesday at Shaw Park Cultural Complex.  File photo/David Reid
A masquerader, left, dances with a dame Lorraine at the Tobago Carnival media launch on Wednesday at Shaw Park Cultural Complex. File photo/David Reid

The leadership of the Tobago Carnival Bandleaders Association is upset over the plans for mas in the island’s carnival, which takes place from October 28-30.

The association’s interim chair Jemma Bedlow said as a veteran bandleader, the Carnival appears to be more about feting than showcasing the artistry of mas practitioners.

“Tobago carnival is about feting. That is what it is all about,” a peeved Bedlow told Newsday. “This was a rush. It was not sorted out properly. Is like a fete, because if you are telling us that you don’t want a repeat of Trinidad Carnival in Tobago and to develop our own brand – it is not happening.

“It is a repeat of Trinidad Carnival with bathsuit and beads and thongs and all dem nonsense. This is not how I thought our carnival was to be. We should have had our own style of carnival here.”

Bedlow said while the mas fraternity cannot get away from the swimsuits and beads, “because that is what the young people like,” there are older people who would like to jump in a band. “And what we have for them?”

She said, though, at least one of the bands will be playing a sailor mas.

“But the rest is just bathsuit and beads. That is not a brand. We should have our own brand, like how Peter Minshall used to bring his Carnival, with clothes, and just mix it. But this brand of Tobago carnival is the same as Trinidad.”

Bedlow also complained about the absence of a competitive element to the mas. She claimed the Trinidad bands that were supposed to “come and link with Tobago bands” have changed their minds because there is no competition. As a result Bedlow said the Tobago carnival resembles the Tobago Fest, which was once one of the island’s popular events.

“You are having a Tobago carnival, but for me, it is like Tobago Fest. So if you want to change it and say we having our own carnival where the juniors were excluded, fine, I don’t have a problem with that.

“But where is the interest? Where is the brand?”

Bedlow also has issues with the venues set aside to host some of the events.

“Tobago carnival in October and you put out the calendar of events and you only having J’Ouvert in Crown Point on October 29 with who want it down there for their own use, and you having night mas in Roxborough.

“What in Scarborough? Parade of the bands on Sunday, October 30, starting from the I Love You Tobago sign?”

She said the association had submitted recommendations for kings, queens and individuals, “But all of that was excluded.”

Despite her concerns about the mas component of the carnival, Bedlow said she is keeping an open mind.

She said some of the bands affiliated with the association have expressed interest in participating in the carnival: “But not the majority. Preparations are going ahead and they are putting everything in place so, they are just waiting on time. Bands have launched and are selling what they could sell to take part in the October Carnival.”

Bedlow said for her, the ideal situation would have been for the Tobago bandleaders to launch their respective presentations and prepare for next year’s carnival.

“But if people are coming to Tobago to take part in the carnival all are welcome. Let’s see how it goes.”


"Tobago bandleaders upset: Mas ‘just bathsuits and beads’"

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