Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 2nd 2014 Contents CONTINUES FROM PAGE B4
Sound engineers are stumped by
Hall s challenge to reduce a sound
system designed for a band of thou-
sands to one suitable for a group of
50.A regular music truck is a behe-
moth, hauling walls of speakers on
20- or 30-foot customised flatbeds.
Compromise arrives in the form of
a three-ton truck.
Seven days before Carnival, some
issues are resolved and replaced by
others. There are now two masks.
Split the band in two---one section
for each mask? Perhaps.
Attention to detail will elevate cos-
tume to masquerade.
"Peter has specified the lips are
two different colours," Hall explains.
"The top lip is different from the
bottom lip---this is what will make
the mouth stand out."
The purpose of this mas is to make
a statement about corruption and
about mas itself.
Hall is very clear: "I am not
inventing anything." The band is not
the creation of a mas character, it is
the revival of a masquerade first per-
formed by Gene Miles, subsequently
imitated, and now fallen out of fash-
Salazar s performance as queen
of the band is central to reimagining
Miss Miles now.
"Traditions are important and
useful, but they are only really useful
if you understand what in them is
contemporary to help us survive,"
A new generation of artists rein-
"This is what Peter has done in
the mas," Hall continues. "Peter has
taken characters that are normally
speech characters and turned that
speech into something visual and
In Minshall s Danse Macabre
(1980), the king of the band is the
midnight robber presented as a giant
puppet. In Carnival Is Colour (1987),
the pierrot Grenade becomes a danc-
ing death clown, as Hall describes
it. Several bands will present new
forms of traditional masquerade this
Carnival. They are not necessarily
endangered; indeed some are thriv-
ing. Cat in Bag Productions, from
artist Ashraph, will play bats. The
presentation is called Suck It and it
shares a theme with Miss Miles.
The bat is a statement about "the
bloodsucking nature of corruption
and graft in contemporary T&T,"
says Nicholas Laughlin, who has
played with the band since its incep-
This is Cat In Bag s fifth year on
the road. Back in 2009, Ashraph and
fellow artist Shalini Seereeram drew
inspiration from the 3Canal song
Tin Cow, Fat Cow, and put out a
band of a few dozen members.
This year the band has around 70
members. The secret efficiency is in
effect: veteran wire benders Clyde
Bascombe and Kendall de Peaza have
helped shape the frames for the head
pieces, over which papier mâché is
laid to create the bat masks. The
band will pass through all four judg-
ing points---Adam Smith Square,
South Quay, Piccadilly Greens and
the Savannah---on Monday and
Tuesday. And it will not be alone.
Laughlin does not entirely accept
the notion that Carnival is creatively
bankrupt. He sees dozens of small
bands every year: "It s just harder
to see and hear them among the
hordes of Carnival-industrial pretty
Bands like Cat In Bag and Robert
Young s Vulgar Fraction weave in
and out of the spaces left by the
mega-bands. Young also expects his
group to be bigger this year than
"People have been calling me from
abroad, friends I haven t seen in
years, saying they are coming in and
want to join the band," he says. "That
hasn t happened before."
Vulgar Fraction s Black I is an
interpretation of black Indian mas.
Young s Carnival season is a fluid
exchange of skills and experience.
Vulgar Fraction has been learning
about the black Indian tradition from
the Warriors of Huaracan, a band
with a history stretching back to the
early part of the last century.
In return, the Warriors have drawn
on Vulgar Fraction s resources to
assist with their own costume pro-
The Warriors directly influenced
Hall. Narrie Approo has played black
Indian mas since he was 11 years
old; he is now 86. He has played
many other characters as well,
attracting the attention of younger
artists and mas makers in the
"For two years, I followed Narrie
around," Hall recalls. What Approo
showed him was the space available
at Carnival on Monday afternoon,
when the big bands are not clogging
the streets, and the masquerade
comes to the fore. For Hall, Carnival
and mas are not the same: "There
is no connection between mas and
sitting in a traffic jam."
Traditional mas has not gone
away, but its creators must annually
restate it to assert its relevance.
To figure out, says Hall, "how to
get it to live in that noise."
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt March 2, 2014
Bandleader Ashraph and Veronique
Majani working on head pieces for
Cat In Bag's 2014 presentation
Suck It, at the mas camp on Carlos
PHOTO: GEORGIA POPPLEWELL
Minshall's Miss Miles design is
based on a particular photograph of
"This is what Peter has done in the mas," Hall continues. "Peter has
taken characters that are normally speech characters and turned that
speech into something visual and bigger."
A statement about corruption and mas itself
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