Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Stars on the route of all evil

Martin Daly logo43

Mark Fraser

 Trinidad All Stars entered Charlotte Street at its junction with Park and Piccadilly streets on Carnival Tuesday 2014 at around 11 a.m.  We arrived there after our traditional chip first to Piccadilly Greens via George and Queen streets.

Four hours later we had made it only to the top of Charlotte Street.

Exodus,also playing sailor, was ahead of us and had only just entered “the Barber Greene”. So what difference did the Socadrome make to the annual congestion on the route of all evil, namely the parade route to the Savannah?

Less bad I suppose is the answer; but there are no degrees of the hell of little or no music and no shade for the annual five to six hours of waiting.

Upper Charlotte Street is a silent desert because of the prohibition on music in the vicinity of the General Hospital. To make things worse, playing pan on lower Charlotte Street and on the Barber Greene is sporadic because the deejays and music trucks no longer give pan equal time. They just burst eardrums. I actually saw a man selling ear plugs on Ariapita Avenue.

Ent many of those self- appointed guardians of mas competition wanted the so-called party bands to come out of the Savannah parade route? Yet when some of the Carnival moneymen invest their own cream in an alternative venue they still get cuss by the self-anointed “mas guardians” and by those who say nothing about the discomfort of residents in Woodbrook when the area is bombed with fireworks in the stadium that I hear three miles away.

We are just so inconsistent about everything and so damn prejudice, to the point where the mas guardians show that they are really class guardians, having revealed their unbridled disrespect for All Stars and the entire steelband movement on the occasion of All Stars winning Band of the Year.

“Win without merit,” they screamed.  

“Caps and epaulettes are not creative,” they whined and opined in ignorance of what comprises the many varieties of sailor costume, as though they had put half a creative brain cell into importing container loads of bikinis from the Far East or in imitating Minshall’s wings and other design concepts.

Is like we sailor masqueraders following a tradition, dating back before even I was born, don’t belong in the Carnival.

Let me explain what is a sailor mas,some of what a steelband family is and what East Port of Spain offers on a Carnival day.  First just let me add a comment about the egomania of the mas guardians made by a returning resident who played in a Socadrome band: “They just liking they self to a dangerously high level that is skewing common sense.”

Sailor mas is as much about dance as it is about costuming.  It also contains elements of satirical theatre and social commentary, which mock the roll in a sailor’s walk when he first comes off the ship and is walking on his sea legs and his drunken sailor behaviour when on shore leave.

The various items used in conjunction with the costuming, the cigars, the pipes, the posey, the throwing of talcum powder all relate to the satirical portrayal of the sailor on shore.  So also in less politically correct days did we see the long nose sailors and the female underwear and hear the refrain “suck my nose”, which I heard but did not fully understand in my childhood days and knew better than to ask and risk a bouffe.  Arguably as mas sailors have become better behaved, many others in the parade have rapidly gone in the other direction.

In his history of sailor mas, Carlton Francis, renowned dancer and choreographer, identifies seven types of sailor dance.  US students have gained education credits for performing the sailor dance with the Mount Hope Connection.

I can testify from personal experience that the sailor dance is alive and well.  As the band progresses through or stalls in the streets, individual masqueraders challenge each other to dance and we have one member of our tiny group that we regularly put up to all challengers.

This Carnival, stalled but partying inside the regular Carnival Tuesday refuge of Renegades yard we danced down the place, from time to time,such being the level of camaraderie within the steelband family our wives partnering perfect strangers but fellow sailors.

The camaraderie begins from the time you walk into the panyard and there are good mornings all around. West of the bridge meets East of the bridge as residents in the vicinity of the panyard leave their homes dressed for the sailor mas. The bond is formalised when the band fee of eighty dollars is paid.

The pleasure of having been one of the Stars on the route of all evil lingers, sailor suit now washed and put away for next year.