SAILING TO VICTORY: Masqueraders in Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra’s winning Carnival presentation Sailors on Shore Leave At A Tropical Fiesta parade at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain on Carnival Tuesday. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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SAILORS AHOY!

All Stars Steel Orchestra wins first ever Carnival big band title

By Michelle Loubon

“I felt happy. Exceptionally hap­py!”

Captain of Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra Beresford Hunte made this comment in the aftermath of the band’s victory in the Large Band category of the National Carnival Bands’ Association’s (NCBA) 2014 Parade of the Bands competition.

The results were released yesterday. 

Hunte, former captain Neville Jules, arranger Leon “Smooth” Edwards, drillmaster Nigel Williams and die-hard supporters like Cecil “Jimo” Jones were in a celebratory mood at the band’s headquarters on Duke Street, Port of Spain, yesterday.

The Band of the Year victory came on the heels of All Stars copping second place in the National Panorama Finals last Saturday.

Hunte said it was a “double-wham­my” celebration since All Stars was the first steelband to accomplish such a feat as contrary to the popular view, Silver Stars Steel Orchestra won the Band of the Year title in the 1960s when it joined for­ces with another band.

The theme of All Stars’ presentation was Sailors On Shore Leave At A Tropical Fiesta. The band scored 2,365 points.

Sprinkling powder, masquera­ders from sections including Sunrise to Sunset, Dance Dance, Aloha, and Fiesta Royale pranced across the stage at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. 

 Asked how he felt about the triumph, Hunte said: “The writing was on the wall. I have been playing with them since the 50s, 60s and 70s. I was at home (Diego Martin) when I got the news. I did not believe it, so I went on the NCBA website and checked it. I thought it was a hoax...a trick, but it was not a trick. But I knew we would win; we placed third last year.”

Commenting on Silver Stars, Hunte said: “The year they won, they were playing for a mas band. They were not playing mas like All Stars.” 

Asked if he felt traditional mas was dying, Hunte replied: “No, it is very much alive in the country areas. We have been playing sailor mas for donkey years and we will continue. It is not a one-off event. It is the mas we play for all occasions.”

Hunte said the strategy was playing sailor mas for both days.

“We played the same sailor mas on both days. We did not switch,” he said.

“As a child, I would play sailor mas. I got powder in my eyes, ears and nose. I enjoyed playing sailor. On Carnival Tuesday, I had a real fiesta.” 

Joining Hunte at the panyard were more than 1,000 sailors who danced to Road March champion Machel Montano’s “Ministry of Road”, Farmer Nappy’s “Big People Party” and other songs such as “Li­quour Con­quer Meh” and “Excitement”. “Excitement” was composed by Edwards for their successful street party.

Apart from the renowned All Stars tenors, Hunte said they enlisted the support of Laventille Sound Specialists, Harlem Syncopators, Tunapuna Vibes Engine Room, D Mar­-

­ching Band and Tripolians for Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

Sharing his sentiments on Panorama where All Stars finished one point behind repeat champs Phase II Pan Groove, Hunte said: “We don’t go to lose, but the jud­ges’ decision is final.”

He paid kudos to Edwards’ excellence.

“He can take ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and make it sound like a symphony. 

“We are coming back next year. We are a fighting band,” he added. 

 Sharing his general sentiments on Carnival, Hunte said: “There were some bands with heavy trailers and it created a problem for people. We had to use the Piccadilly Greens route and then head to the Savannah. Some of the mas bands were blocking up the route.

“The whole thing went wrong when they introduced Socadrome to solve the problem. The same band­leaders came up with the idea for Socadrome, then they decided they wanted to be on the road. I was not part of that.” 

“I not going to any ’Drome.” I will build a ’drome in the back there (panyard) in the drain, but I am not going to any ’Drome,” he added.

In second place in the Large Band category was Paparazzi Carnival with Centrestage while Just We $ Friends placed first in the Medium Band category with Jus Wee & Friends.

• See Page 4 for the full 

list of results   

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