Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Carnival time again

IT'S THE simple things that make it what it is and hopefully that will never change. Just when you thought nothing could top Machel Monday, you pass by a panyard in time to hear the band running through the full tune it will play at tonight's Panorama finals.

Where else in the world can you walk freely into a practice session of any renowned symphony orchestra and stand gaping at the wondrous sounds? Only in Trinidad and Tobago.

And when that band happens to be two-time defending national champion PCS Silver Stars, it doesn't get much better than that.

On Thursday night, the cosy little panyard on Tragarete Road was packed with locals and tourists alike, with those fans at the front brought into the act by conductor "Bravo", who had them singing: "It's showtime...now is showtime...practice, practice, practice...".

And everybody was smiling in delight, from a combination of the sweet music under the stars and just knowing that this is the best week of the whole year.

Right outside the panyard, a jouvert band had speakers set up on the pavement, under the big banner proclaiming what it was portraying come Monday morning in the first session of "The Greatest Show on Earth". And there was a group of limers dancing around as those making the costumes for No Drawers and Chocolate looked on from the band house.

Heading home close to midnight and turning on the radio, it was time to catch former extempo king Gypsy, now the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, making an appearance on stage for "Kaisorama" at the Queen's Park Savannah, reminding everyone that he is still the best, telling an opponent about the size of their "battleship".

Then later, sitting in an armchair in front the TV, first guest artiste David Rudder revived a recent favourite, "Trini to de bone", and then moved into the crowd in the Grand Stand to get most of the spectators on their feet for another classic, "High Mas", leaving Black Stalin to bring down the curtain with his all-time great, "Feeling to Party", which is what the majority of people are just itching to do come Monday and Tuesday, preceded by Fantastic Friday last night, Panorama finals tonight and Dimanche Gras tomorrow.

And everybody is home for the festival. Down at the Chaguaramas Golf Course on Wednesday, there were three tesses finishing up on the ninth hole and when you heard one of them cuss out loud after hitting a bad shot, you knew they were Trinis back from the cold.

With great timing, they walked off the course to be greeted by a fellow-golfer and New York girl, via Trinidad I'm sure, who offered them ice-cold beers from the cooler in her car. What a woman! What service! Only in T&T!

The week leading up to Carnival 2011 had started at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, where I had to thank my daughter for me finally making it to one of Machel Montano's concerts, which was undoubtedly the show of the year, and for those of us who don't get out much, maybe the show of the decade.

From 7.30 p.m. onwards, the venue filled up like time-lapse photography until, when opening act Benjai came on, the place was already almost packed to capacity. And Benjai was "good company" with "Trini", one of the megahits of the season, which had the masses swaying in unison.

And there was no problem with a little kick on your ankle or a bounced knee or a spilled drink. Sorry would suffice and everyone was smiling there, too, which is still how it is most of the time all over Trinidad and Tobago.

The visitors had already arrived, from Barbados to hear Lil' Rick and there was even a Venezuelan flag, which was acknowledged by Puerto Rican Pitbull, part of the cosmopolitan cast put together by Montano, which even included a troupe of ballerinas.

The all-star line-up was capped off by an appearance by Calypso King and Queen of the World, Mighty Sparrow and Calypso Rose, who gave some of us goosebumps when they took the microphone for "Congo Man" and "Fire, Fire", respectively.

Sparrow was not moving too gingerly, but his voice is still intact, and he and Rose deserve every accolade they receive, even with Brian Lara having a bit of fun with the great man by putting on his crown upside down and over his eyes.

Earlier, Kes The Band had followed Benjai and what struck me at my first sighting of Kees and his brothers performing was how an old s--- talker like my friend "Bunny" Dieffenthaller could make such talented children.

Just kidding, Bunny, who was one of the premier old mas bandleaders back in the days when such topical presentations preceded most Carnival fetes.

He must be really proud of those "wotless" boys, who will spread the good name of T&T all over the globe in years to come. And they were gracious enough to share the stage with two veterans of the artform in Explainer and Baron, providing proof that timeless calypsoes like "Lorraine" and "Ah Feeling It" never die.

Oh yes, there was Machel, who was a shoo-in for the Soca Monarch title last night just based on his popularity, what with more than 30,000 people at the stadium for his return last Monday—one of the highlights of a T&T Carnival which still has some way to go before Ash Wednesday.

Be sure to savour it!