New Chac Chac in town
...One for the paranderos this season
IN roughly two to three weeks, the 2012 parang season will be launched. Paranderos are getting out their instruments and rehearsing their renditions, both traditional and new. New groups are being formed and new instruments are being introduced into the music. One such instrument is the Space Shack.
Gyasi Wells is the inventor of the Space Shack. This new type of chac chac is smaller than the conventional style and fits into the palm of your hand. According to Wells, the Space Shack has taken the market by storm.
"I can't produce enough to satisfy the current demand. People prefer this style of chac chac because it is easier to carry and so paranderos are more comfortable with it. They find it more user friendly."
Wells is an established craftsman specialising in the field of calabash products. From successfully selling calabash bags on Frederick Street in Port of Spain, he graduated to the chac chac.
"Long time chac chac used to sell mostly around Christmas time but now with an increase in churches and bands, everybody wants the shack shack. It sells right around the year.
I have a good market there so I focus on different types of shack shacks including the dumbbell chac chac and now the space shack. The idea about the space shack just hit me one day. Instead of making the whole calabash bag, I used to cut off the top and make a flat bag. The covers just remained there wasting. It was then that I realised that I could make something with that too.
I took one cover, put seeds in it, and glued another cover onto it. Then I carved a local natural design like a coconut tree and turtle onto it. This was when I knew that I had something new for the market."
Wells joined a craft group called T&T Craft Producers that travelled to Barbados and Grenada every year. He travelled with them and made such an impression with his variety of natural products that he was invited to participate in the launching of a craft festival in Tortola. From there it was no turning back. For the past ten years, Wells has enjoyed a lucrative tourism market in Tortola.
"I don't ever have enough products to satisfy the demand. I produce a couple hundreds that increase as I go along." Wells also tutors children in various schools in Tortola.
"There are the less fortunate children who are very skilful with their hands and I work with them. I also work with children here in Trinidad, for example, at St Judes and other homes. It is a joy for me to do that."
Peak time for Wells is Christmas into Carnival.
"Not many people make chac chacs. It takes about four hours to make one chac chac. The demand is so huge that the trees in my yard are not enough. I have to go out to other areas to get calabash. Also, there is no other seed to make the chac chac like the chac chac seed. Some people use all sorts of things even stones. This could never produce the sounds of a true chac chac. I have a few plants around the house but these are never enough. Producing chac chacs is a full-time occupation." Wells regards the calabash tree as a money tree and urges people who have trees bearing calabash not to cut them down.
"If you must cut the tree to use for building purposes or anything else, you can replant a branch. The calabash grows from branches. This is how I got my bearing trees. I encourage people to plant calabash. You could make so many things with it."