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The ghost of Carnivals past
Friday, March 6, 2015

Yesterday, we featured the first part of writer and filmmaker Dalton Narine’s look at old-time Carnival. Today, Narine concludes with a scathing look at present-day Carnival. 

Ah, The Ghost. 

In such company, how sated was your humbled one? Does guava cork?

A chant of “We want more” was floated by the dragonflies of yesteryear buzzing around our heads. So the Ghost of Carnival Past and I crossed town to a popular photo studio where Stephen Lee Heung’s Paradise Lost was museumed.

Milton’s legendary poem served as designer Minshall’s big-big-big-time launch on the road. It was 1976, mas in Panavision, a technique of cinematography that afforded the band a wide-angled view of a brand new Eden of costumery and storytelling. I remember jabbing at the old muse’s elbow. “This band was the best I’d watched in all my born days.” Hardly surprised, was he. 

Back on the pavement, we reached Maraval Road in two-twos. Less than a blink and we were combing TTT’s copious (in those days, yes) files for Callaloo Company classics, such as Jungle Fever; Danse Macabre (including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – the finest collection of characters, my heart tells me); Carnival of the Sea (Devil Ray, Splash, Oil Slick…), Papillon, River, Callaloo and The Golden Calabash.

Fully arrayed were other spectacular presentations, like most of Edmond and Lil Hart’s bands, especially Flag Wavers of Siena, some Raoul Garib gems and Wonders of Buccoo Reef, a depiction by Irwin McWilliams that still mystifies for its pre-Cousteau ecology theme.

Fast track to the general mas in the post-Mancrab era. It’s Saturday. Time to catch the Children’s Carnival celebrations. Show off the new kids on the block to the Muse. Even boast about the cleverness of the generation for perpetuating the art form through the youth movement. Carnival Past embracing Carnival Future.

By dawn the following morning, though, the old fella looked drawn out and  withdrawn. Hours earlier, he’d struggled to bring himself to fathom Panorama, to little avail. He’d scoped out supporters of various steelbands who thought theirs had won. 

As we drove past the hospital on the way to champion Renegades Pan Theatre, a weak lamp-post bulb barely picked up a shell-shocked figure bearing the cross of defeat as he stumbled to his own panyard down the street. It was All Stars’ flag man.

As we drove past the hospital on the way to champion Renegades Pan Theatre, a weak lamp-post bulb barely picked up a shell-shocked figure bearing the cross of defeat as he stumbled to his own panyard down the street. It was All Stars’ flag man.

The Muse sighed, then unravelled his emotions about a competition that had become so grand, its scale of importance left so much melancholy for the losers.

But, there it was in the rearview, larger than life, bigger than the imagination—the crowds, the psychedelia, myriad drums, a million notes, stellar egos, stylish arrangements, tongues tripping like trapped mice. How to regard the breadth of this Trini cacophony—this post-modern circus for the Pontius Pilate in all ah we?

Yet, if it’s in we blood, as composer/arranger Ray Holman believes the man in the street believes, who am I to equivocate?

Back in the car, we had a good laugh, the Muse and I, when a soul man DJ popped up on the radio to bray: “In a competition like this there are no losers. It’s a victory for culture.”


Speaking of which, Dimanche Gras, a well-intentioned, though most boring Carnival event performed on a titanic stage situated between parallel streams of pappyshow and we-culture, an iceberg audience bobbing and weaving like flotsam and jetsam pushing south, past the abattoir (no metaphorical offence given) near the estuary of the Dry River - well that show came and went like death on a slow boat to China. Wouldn’t you know that the Kings and Queens packed sparklers to doll up their acts like cheap lipstick, and the Calypso contest left even the house lights on doze? A collective nod-off it was. We got the hell out of there, sanity intact, and waited for tomorrow, please God.

The intent was to lime till J’Ouvert woke up, though she never really sleeps as much as recover from a pre-party buzz, hit, whatever; drink-ah-rum, even. So we had was to put that event in a nutshell, as well. The mudders and painters coming down like the ol’ Dry River in heat and no bands such as Sheppy’s or Carl Blackman’s to love up. No Blackman ole mas trilogy of The Wedding, The Christening and The Funeral coming out from Darceuil Lane, Belmont. No pan to rev the engine. No Bomb classic to explo. Ay, man, the DJs with their big trucks had hoarded all the dynamite. They’d sucked the energy out of the room. Out of Carnival Monday, too. Dem and the masmen.

And so we broke “biche” that dreary day. Twas the T-shirt and no bra(ss) festival, you hear me.

Tuesday jumped up early, and I took the Ghost of Carnival Past to Woodbrook to view the mas, gay nineties in style. He took it all in snide: how noisy the soca, how pelvic its mind; so ear-splitting the jam, so head-spinning the wine; how lissome the women, how tight their gear; how few the man tribe, how light their care. 

The Muse watched as one largely pawpaw-skin mas follow another pawpaw-skin mas, leaving him depressed over the schlock - and concerned about the future. 

Brothers and sisters of the soca road march era, the Ghost of Carnival Past swore up and down, like Britain, a cuss-bud ol’ lady from the 50s forever uniformed in a tattered Union Jack smock, that it was the same band passing and passing and passing. In his day, he said, his brow furrowing like the graveyard, masqueraders achieved more with less.

By noon, we’d seen enough waylay waylay. But at nightfall we returned for las’ lap. Even that was out of step and character.

Wading through the frenzy, we met a journalist from Singapore. His views of Trinidad in the Carnival?

The Good (and raunchy): “Rich, poor, black, white and people of colour all go down on the ground to party. That’s where they show their equality.”

The Bad: “Too much liming.”

The Ugly: The Ghost of Carnival Past put up his palm to the visitor’s face, interrupting him. There was a sense of staleness, he said. Ideas and themes brought off too much static. Maybe, he brain-farted, a pause to reflect on Carnival history might help alter direction. He cited the Bailey era when masqueraders participated in the production of mas, organising and choreographing their own colour plate. When lil boys would flock Samaroo’s on Observatory Street, Behind the Bridge, for swansdown to trim Native American costumes and diamond-shaped miniature cuts of looking glass to add decorative art. And a Callaloo stew turning its nose up at the stench next door - the faux-mas, the cook brewing the best the world would come to appreciate; when .... And the old muse paused, looking for the appropriate words to boil it down like bagee. 

“The most frightful thing about Carnival,” he said, taking the shortcut, “is the Carnival machinery.”

The Carnival machinery. Government, masmen, PanTrinbago, The Savannah Stage. Why not parade the mas and pan around the Savannah? Which, by the way, was an idea I floated in 1970 in a newspaper piece.

Anyway, the Muse was dead serious. Like a heart attack.

Because, just so, Boop! the apparition drop down, like Kaisoman Spoilo had bragged about himself all his life in his songs.

 Look ah want to fall, the Ghost. Dead as a herring. Piss and vinegar leaching out. All the flesh in the mas running from the Muse’s brain like maggots. The maggots turning away from all that flesh, bath suits, bikinis, baubles, bangles, beads, and faux feathers and trinkets, to boot. Was as if, like speed, flesh really kills.

You ever see more? Flesh had callously victimised Old Carnival. The brain could take it no longer, the rudeness. The slackness. And yet, that’s how the ting began – well before the manger materialised into carol. Bacchanalia was cool then, but bacchanal? 

Ha! Till death do us part, pardner. We’re in the moment.

Farewell, then.

To the flesh dem. 

And so it hang, so it swing, brothers and sisters in the Carnival. Yuh could blame yuhself. 

Or the business. But don’t blame mas. Eh-eh. 

Even though all mas is devil mas. 


Thank you.


Midnight Robber
Forecast for Overnight
Fair with winds from the east at 6 mph.
Forecast for Evening
Fair with winds from the east at 17 mph and gusts up to 29 mph.
Forecast for Afternoon
Fair with winds from the east at 17 mph and gusts up to 29 mph.
Forecast for Morning
Becoming fair with winds from the east at 17 mph and gusts up to 29 mph.
Wet me down with abeer
Friday, March 6, 2015

Most of you will not believe this but I have served as a Phagwa judge on more than one occasion, as well as attended many a pichakaaree contest, thanks to my friend Ravi Ji. So, I know a great deal about Maakhan Chor and Ranga Barase competitions. 

My favourite is the Maakhan Chor in which ten-member teams are required to form a human pyramid to get a pennant suspended many feet overhead in the quickest time. Bachon ka Khel (children’s games) is also great fun with several children participating in wholesome fun, including the sada and condense milk eating competition. 

It is why I am so excited to attend this weekend’s 24th annual Kendra Phagwa Festival tomorrow and Sunday. Holikaa Friday is scheduled for today at 6.45 pm, and Pichakaaree Sunday takes place on Sunday, from 2 pm. Both events will be held at the Kendra Grounds, located at Gilba Trace, Raghunanan Road Extension (off Southern Main Road), Enterprise. 

The Holika Dahan effigy will also be burnt tonight. Holika Dahan (Kamudu pyre) is celebrated by burning Holika, the devil. For many traditions in Hinduism, Holi celebrates the death of Holika in order to save Prahlad, and thus Holi gets its name. 

Phagwa is a spring festival also known as “the festival of colours” or “the festival of love.” It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus nationwide. Participants douse themselves with abeer (coloured water) during celebrations. 

Twelve finalists will vie for the Kendra Phagwa Festival’s Pichakaaree Championship. The 24th edition of the annual festival was launched on the occasion of Vasant Panchami on January 25, with the traditional “chulha boiling” of the first abeer and the vibrant sounds of chowtaal by the Sumatee Dabha Ramayan and Chowtaal Group. Organisers and contestants have since been busy with preparation for this weekend’s two grand events. 

The qualifying round of the pichakaaree competition was held last Saturday and a dozen finalists were chosen by the panel of judges. Several first-timers and pichakaaree veterans will attempt to dethrone the reigning champion Mohip Poonwassie. 

The finalists are Mukesh Babooram, Christopher Joseph, Ricky Khandoo, Jagdeo Phagoo, Toolsie Ramdass Singh, Nirmal Ramdass Singh, Nirmala Ramdass Singh, Kamaldai Ramkissoon, Giselle Ramoutar, Genevieve Ramtahal, Reena Teelucksingh and Poonwassie. 

One of the things to impress me about the pichakaaree competition is the social and political commentaries sung by some of the finalists. Also impressive are some of the props and costumes used by contestants. 

Geeta Ramsingh (Vahini), president of the Kendra, indicated that the 2015 theme, Enlightened Citizenship, was chosen in response to the many troublesome issues affecting our nation. Pichakaaree, she said, is a conscious, intelligent voice and the standard of pichakaarees this year is very high. It was very reassuring to see several first-timers and teenagers participating in the qualifying round, ensuring longevity for the art form. 

By the way, I have also been a judge at the inaugural Saaj Sammelan competition on more than one occasion. 

Don’t stop the party 

Contrary to this year’s popular soca item Party Done by Machel Montano and Angela Hunte, there will be no stopping the party for the short Carnival 2016 season. 

With next year’s Carnival scheduled for February 8 to 9, it is very likely that the first fete of the season will be held before Christmas. As expected, the jostling has started among fete promoters to find the best date for their events. A lot of clashing is expected. 

The earliest news reaching Pulse shows that as soon as the new year opens, with Tribe Ice and Trinity College’s Soka in Moka expected to be held on Saturday, January 2. Other tentative dates include QRC Fete Royal (January 9); Stumped!!! (January 9); Old Hilarians (January 16); Blue Flame (January 23); St Mary’s Fete with the Saints (January 23); Yorke Masquerade (January 24); Tribe Ignite (February 4). 

Dates of which one can be certain are National Calypso semifinal (January 23); National Panorama semi-final (January 24); Machel Montano (January 25); Tuco Kaisorama (February 4); National Kings & Queens Finals (February 5); International Soca Monarch Finals (February 5); National Panorama final (February 6); Dimanche Gras (February 7). 

Sparrow hails All Stars 

“All Stars forever!” said Mighty Sparrow on Monday, hours before departing for New York for a routine medical check-up. The Calypso King of the World continued, “You should hear me bragging ‘we win, we win’ when we won Panorama. 

Then there was more bragging after Carnival when we won the Band of the Year.” 

• Continues on Page A38 

Massy Trinidad All Stars and Sparrow have had a close affinity for decades, the band having won much acclaim in 1984 for its rendition of Sparrow’s Road March Doh Back Back. Said Sparrow: “Congratulate Berry (manager Beresford Hunte) and Smooth (arranger Leon Edwards) on their achievements and making me a happy man this Carnival. When I saw the band on Carnival day I said ‘now that is mas’,” 

Sparrow said he will be in and out of the country regularly this year as he is booked for several engagements. Up to last Sunday he performed at Iere Theatre Productions and Canboulay Productions’ production of Ten to One, at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (Sapa), San Fernando. 

The freak next door 

Veteran actor Raymond Choo Kong is funny but Carolyn Taylor was downright hilarious when Party Done for the Freak Next Door premiered last weekend at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s. Produced by Raymond Choo Kong Productions (RCKP) and First Instinct, the play stars Cecilia Salazar, Arnold “Peenie” Goindhan, Kevon Brooks, Trevor C Jugmohan, Choo Kong and Taylor. 

What surprised me early o’clock about the play was there was absolutely no reference to the soca hit Party Done by Machel Montano and Angela Hunte, nor even the closest connection to the bacchanal issues of the just concluded Carnival. Nonetheless, it was well-scripted and came across well-rehearsed on opening night. 

Portraying the ditzy Pauline, wife of “village ram” Ron (Goindhan), Taylor was given some really funny lines while Choo Kong, as Barry Clarke, was his normal self, portraying the stereotypical feisty “Chinee man” we’ve seen him as before. The most excitable character of the cast was Cecilia Salazar in the role of Janice, wife of Barry. Jugmohan, also the play’s producer, was casted as Alan, a deadpan character, young son of Barry and Janice. Brooks plays persistent police officer Curtis.

Party Done for the Freak Next Door was reprised last night at CLR James Auditorium, Cipriani Labour College, Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Valsayn, and runs at this venue until Sunday evening. 

Dancehall in the jazz 

Things are progressing nicely for this year’s Tobago Jazz Experience (TJE) and two Caribbean stars have been added to the mix. Jamaican dancehall stars Romain Virgo and Busy Signal have been added to an already star-studded cast for the 2015 Tobago Jazz Experience.

The two will join the legendary David Rudder who has also been added to the TJE cast along with local acts Kes the Band and this year’s International Groovy Soca Monarch, Olatunji. 

They will be part of the Experience that includes mega stars Jennifer Hudson, Miguel, Kool & the Gang and Jill Scott, in what promises to be another huge TJE. 

The Experience, which is much more than music, takes place from April 19 to April 26 and will begin in Speyside, with shows all over the island, culminating in a weekend of music, fun, food and dance at the picturesque Pigeon Point Heritage Park. 

Announcements of additional artistes will be made as the build-up to the festival continues. 

• For more information, please go to wwwtobagojazzexperience.com or the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tobagojazzexperience.

Pupils from Ramai Trace Hindu School covered in abeer during celebrations at the Tunapuna Hindu School in Pasea last year. PHOTOS: EDISON BOODOOSINGH
PoS schools ready for Milo Games battle
Friday, March 6, 2015

Carenage Girls, Maraval Boys and Diamond Vale Government will defend their Milo West Games titles, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain, on March 10. The event was launched at the Marriott Hotel, MovieTowne, Mucurapo.

Carenage and Diamond Vale dominated the 27th Milo West Games last year sweeping the West A and West B Zones, respectively.

The Milo West Games is the showpiece of primary school athletics in the North West district of Trinidad and Tobago. Several new innovations were promised by Kelvin Nancoo, chairman of both the Milo Games and the Port-of-Spain and Environs Sports Council. 

Nancoo said the Games’ organisers would be working to ensure that the West Zone remained the best in primary school athletics. Only the best six-year-olds in the West Zone will compete against each other this year, and an overall Most Outstanding performer will be chosen by Nancoo.

“Twenty-one teams will be competing and the day’s programme will be very competitive,” Nancoo said. 

Nancoo credited Milo Games for showcasing national talent, including 400 metres hurdles world champion Jehue Gordon, Simon Pierre, Fana Ashby, Alena Brooks, Honory Mc Donald and Michelle-Lee Ahye, who last weekend won the women’s 60m sprint at the Millrose Games in New York, USA.

The athletes expected to be on show include Tyrell Springer, Isaiah Gemon, Sidiann Holder, Shaniqua Bascombe, Christopher Thorp, Abigail Burton and Caliyah Wallace.

“Michelle-Lee Ahye and Jehue Gordon were both champions in 2004. Now, suddenly, Michelle-Lee has begun to shine,” Nancoo said, while predicting further international success for the 22-year-old sprinter from Carenage.

NAAA president, Ephraim Serrette said children having the opportunity to play and enjoy life was a big part of human development, and he commended the sponsors for contributing significantly to the development of many nationals over the years.

“Nestle, by sponsoring this event for the last twenty-seven years, would have created an environment and situation in which they would have produced more champions in life than in sport,” said Serrette. 

He said: “More money is needed in sport and we must remember the man Carlyle Mason who ensured youth development through Touring Teens which sparked many a athlete in the early days.”

School Supervisor 111, Olson Oliver thanked Milo for their 28 years of service to Port-of-Spain & Environs and T&T by extension. He said that Nestle had been very good corporate citizens as they have assisted the Youth of Port-of-Spain in becoming holistically developed.

Rae-Ann Clement-Harper lauded Nancoo and the organising committee of the games, as she gave the sponsor’s commitment to continue its contribution to the primary school athletics for another 28 years. This was met with thunderous applause.

“Nestle will continue to invest and support this programme and others, as it plays a holistic part in the development of our children.”

National 800 metres champion Alena Brooks, former Milo Games Champion, said: “It seems like only yesterday that I was competing. But really it was ten years ago. 

“The Milo Games was our Olympics and (it) has made me into what I am today. When you heard Mr Nancoo shout you knew to buck up. I was very proud to wear the Green of West B and as proud to wear the red, white and black of Port-of-Spain and Environs. As a young athlete, when you were chosen for the West Team or Port-of-Spain you were special and as you are aware, the West and Port-of-Spain always win. You all know that winning is a habit. 

“I have done well as an athlete, I am the 800 metres champion of T&T, I was on the historic 4 x 400 metres relay team which participated at the World Games. I have won many plaudits in America where I studied at the University of Minnesota but the Milo Games was the stepping stone. This was where the foundation was laid.

She emphasised: “Do what you have to do no matter if you don’t want to, don’t feel like doing it. The Milo Games’ vision should be shared because this is where the foundation is laid. It is here that we learn to fight and be the best we can be.”

Kelvin Nancoo, left, chairman of the Milo Games and the Port-of-Spain and Environs Sports Council, Rae-Ann Clement-Harper, Senior Consumer Marketing Manager, Nestle, David Weekes, principal, Diamond Vale Primary School, Karen Ford-Felicien, Maraval RC School and Abeyola Akowe, Carenage Girls Government, Alena Brooks, national 800 metres champion and Olson Oliver, School Supervisor III, Port-of-Spain & Environs.
Central FC, W Connection in top-of-table Pro League clash
Friday, March 6, 2015

Digicel Pro League leaders Central FC will be out to make a giant step towards a first-ever league crown when it entertains defending champions and second-placed DirecTV W Connection at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva from 8 pm.

As it stands, the Zoran Vranes-coached Central FC, winners of the First Citizens Cup, Rawle Fletcher (Round One) and Akeem Adams (Round Two) trophies so far this season sits atop the nine-team table with 38 points from 17 matches, five points clear of reigning champions DirecTV W Connection, which has a match in hand while Japs North East Stars is third with 29 points, three more than Pt Fortin Civic and Defence Force.

Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh is sixth with 23 points followed by Police (20), Caledonia (19) and cellar-placed Rangers, with a mere point.

However, tonight’s feature match at Couva is expected to go a long way in determining who will have their names engraved on the trophy at the end of the season as title winners.

But while both teams’ coaches are certain that a win for either side will increase their chances of lifting the crown, both also know it won’t decide the title as there is still a long way to go.

Speaking on the eve of the match, Vranes, who led his team to a 1-0 win over tonight’s opponent in round two league play, said: “If we win against W Connection we are in very good position but it wont decide anything because we have other matches left and we already got a lesson in the second round, losing to Defence Force and Jabloteh.”

The Central FC coach added, “It will be a tough game as always against W Connection but I believe in my players to do their best although we never know what could go wrong. It is tougher for them (W Connection) than for us. They need to win because of the points difference but if we play smartly I expect a good result for us.”

W Connection coach, Stuart Charles-Fevrier, who has led his club to five league trophies echoed the views of Vranes saying: “I don’t believe it will decide the title as all eight games that we have in the round will be important.”

“I think football is on the day,” continued Charles-Fevrier and in the modern game I don’t think any team is unbeatable. We have as good a chance of winning the game as Central. It will be an interesting game that could go either way. Our objective is to have it go our way.”

With nearly half his squad under the age of 21 this season and the team at somewhat of a transitional period, Fevrier still believes his current squad can retain the DPL title.

“We have a squad that is capable of retaining our league title and I will do every thing as coach to make our players believe in themselves because I believe they can do what is required. This season is a kind of transitional season for us with 50 per cent of our squad under the age of 21. But most of our players have been playing at a good level for the past two years.

“Now we want to turn them into winners because we are a team with a very good winning track record and we want to pass that on to our younger players, “ added Charles-Fevrier who led W Connection past Central 1-0 in the Digicel Charity Shield last September before both teams drew 1-1 in the opening league round.

Tonight’s encounter also brings together four of the season’s top scorers in W Connection’s Jerrel Britto, who along with Defence Force’s Devorn Jorsling leads with ten goals each, and Central FC trio, Ataulla Guerra (8), Marvin Oliver and Willis Plaza, both with seven and Jason Marcano (five).

Two hours earlier at Couva, Pt Fortin Civic host Stars as both teams jostle for third spot while at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya, Jabloteh meets Rangers from 6 pm, and Defence Force battles Police FC from 8 pm.

Defence Force’s Ross Russell Jr, centre, is swamped by teammates Devorn Jorsling, left and Jemel Sebro after scoring his second goal in his team’s 7-0 Digicel T&T Pro League win at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya on Friday last. Photo: Anthony Harris
Sancho backs Lara for future WICB head
Friday, March 6, 2015

Sport Minister Brent Sancho has endorsed former West Indies captain Brian Lara for the presidency of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).

Even though Lara is out of contention for Saturday’s WICB elections in which incumbent president Dave Cameron is being contested by former Barbados and West Indies pacer Joel Garner, Sancho said Lara understood the needs of the team.

Speaking in Couva on Wednesday, Sancho said, “Sports has such a tainted name to it now because when you look at all the infighting that is happening in the administration, all the different bacchanal and all the stuff that are happening, it leaves a tainted name and people sometimes wonder why corporate Trinidad does not want to get involved.

“It is because when you open the back pages of the newspaper, it is always some sort of controversy and we need to move away from that... Former players are looking to get involved in administration and I think that it is the right direction for sports on the whole. 

“I would definitely support him. Brian would have played all over the world he would understand what an athlete needs and I think this is a lot of what we have been missing. We need people at the helm that understand what athletes need and administrators are just a medium to get the best out of our athletes. We have to step aside and do what is necessary for them to continue  to move forward.”

Sancho added that although he was disappointed in the regional team’s selection for the ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, he still backs the team to beat India in Friday’s crucial match.



Brian Lara
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