Jerimiah brings red dragon to life

Jerimiah-Khalil Daniel gets into character with his signature roar as red dragon.  - Photo by Faith Ayoung
Jerimiah-Khalil Daniel gets into character with his signature roar as red dragon. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

FEARLESSLY parading through the streets of Port of Spain in shimmering red and gold fabric, here comes one of Trinidad and Tobago's youngest traditional dragons – Jerimiah-Khalil Daniel.

The nine-year-old standard three student eagerly hopes more young people continue to become interested in traditional Carnival mas.

Daniel, who attends the Crystal Stream Government Primary School, Diego Martin told Newsday Kids the dragon was not his first stint at traditional mas. He has also done sailor mas and portrayed the midnight robber.

Jerimiah Khalil-Daniel, traditional dragon masquerader, gets help form his mom Shakeela Daniel to put on costume during a photoshoot at Woodford Square, Port of Spain. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

But at age three, he explained, "When I met the dragon, I just really liked it and I wanted to try it." He then became the youngest person in Trinidad and Tobago to portray this character, and the local fraternity opted to reserve the colour red to him.

His mother, Shakeela Daniel, runs the band The Clan Mas, which features many traditional characters. She, too, played the dragon while growing up as it was a family tradition.

The costume consists of a jumpsuit, large, wide wings, a dragon head and a tail.

The National Carnival Commission, on its website, says the character is one of the most beloved.

It adds, "The dragon is a metaphorical representation of the forces of nature; a fiery beast from hell that comes to bring destruction to all.

"...The dragon cannot cross (holy) water to continue his path of destruction. His frustrations come across as a dance while imps tease and restrain him."

Jerimiah Daniel portrays the red dragon at the NCC's Youth Extravaganza at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Daniel said he loves traditional mas and when it comes to the dragon, "I like how it moves, how it looks and how you're supposed to play it."

He has seen dragons of many different colours including orange, blue, green and black.

Once music begins to play, he transforms and begins doing his dragon dance, swaying from side to side, roaring, and even crouching on the ground.

He said he helps his mother make the costumes by braiding and cutting out the scales.

Asked if he ever toppled over in such a big costume, he said yes, but he just begins dancing wherever he may have fallen, and continues his act.

Jerimiah Khalil-Daniel, traditional dragon masquerader getting help form his mom Shakeela Daniel to put on costume on January 25. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

"(It happens) when there is strong breeze," he said, laughing.

Asked how he manages a costume of that make and size, he began by saying, "Whew!"

"It's real weight and real hot, especially if you're in the sun, but I keep it on the whole time."

He said other children often come up to him for photos when he is in full costume, but if they appear scared, "I take off the dragon head to show them I'm a normal child just like them."

His favourite part is the movement depicting a roar. He admitted, he roars aloud sometimes but since the music is usually very loud, "no one hears it."

He recalled being scared when he just started public performances, but, "now that (I) grow up big, it doesn't scare me any more." In fact, he has the most fun when he is performing in front of others.

His classmates think it is "really cool" and his teacher "real likes it."

Jerimiah Khalil-Daniel, traditional dragon masquerader poses for photos for Newsday on January 25. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

Asked what it is like to be known as Trinidad and Tobago's red dragon, he said, "I feel amazed!"

A lover of both soca and calypso, he said one of his favourite local songs in recent years was Hard Fete by Ian "Bunji Garlin" Alvarez in 2023.

He said his costume for Carnival 2024 is "much bigger" than any other costume he has ever had, so he is very excited.

Other traditional characters he likes include blue devils, imps and the bookman.

Jerimiah Khalil- Daniel traditional dragon masquerader poses for pictures for an interview with Newsday january 25. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

He thanked his mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunt and cousins for supporting him.

When he's not roaring around town, he said he enjoys playing football, video games, riding his bike and watching TV. He hopes to become a policeman when he grows up.


"Jerimiah brings red dragon to life"

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