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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Mas in the Sea

MacFarlane in original Tobago band launch

Sandbank jam: Carnival bandleader Brian MacFarlane, in Midnight Robber garb, leads masqueraders in traditional mas costumes and members of the Laventille Rhythm Section at the historic launch of his Carnival 2010 presentation, Resurrection, The Mas, on a sandbank in the sea between Pigeon Point and No Man's Land in Tobago yesterday. -Photo: ROBERT TAYLOR

Making a symbolical link between the "dying" origins of mas and the "destruction" of the Buccoo Reef in Tobago, bandleader Brian MacFarlane yesterday created history by launching his Carnival 2010 presentation, titled Resurrection, The Mas, on a tiny sandbank in the sea off Pigeon Point, Tobago
Buccoo Reef was crucial to THE band launch, he said. Just as the reef had been destroyed and is now on the rise again, so too has mas in its purest form been destroyed and must be resurrected, MacFarlane told the planeload of media and international events specialists he flew to the island for the event.
The band will feature the re-emergence of traditional mas characters from the late 1880s on the streets of Port of Spain on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
MacFarlane said his research points were Prof Jeff Henry's book on mas and its traditions, titled Under The Mas , and the drawing done by artist Melton Prior in 1888 depicting "Carnival On Frederick Street". The famous drawing depicting traditional characters of the era, which was done for the Illustrated London News, is also reproduced on the official MacFarlane mas jerseys worn by committee members at yesterday's event.
Yesterday's first phase began with a welcome from drummers in brown cotton and bele dancers in gold-coloured gowns at the Pigeon Point jetty.

AT THE VILLA: Bele dancers hold framed drawings of Brian MacFarlane's Carnival 2010 presentation, Resurrection, The Mas, yesterday, during the second phase of the launch at a privately owned villa in Buccoo Village, Tobago.

Next, four boatloads of guests in glass-bottomed boats made the trip from Pigeon Point to the sandbank which is located roughly between there and No Man's Land. As the boat approached the little strip of beach, traditional mas characters clad in bronze, copper and gold stood in formation. A bronze-clad drummer from the Laventille Rhythm Section struck a deep note on a bass drum, signalling the start of drumming by the entire section and dancing on the tiny sandbank by the characters. The black and white pierrots cracked their whips and waded into the waters dancing. A "suck-meh-nose sailor" rose from the sea. In the middle of this, a midnight robber in a bronze hat and cape, MacFarlane, danced with the characters, while around them the sunlight bounced off the deep blue waters.
MacFarlane had made magic as only perfect timing of the tides made it possible.
The third phase - the formal presentation of the 16 sections, took place at a privately owned villa in Buccoo Village. The bele dancers, in their coppery gowns, greeted guests holding framed drawings of the sections - stickfighters, burrokeet, soumayre, red indians, black indians, clowns, suck-meh-nose sailors, fireman, dame lorraine, dragon, jab-jab, jabmolassie, bat, mad cow, minstrel and paywoo (pierrot), baby doll. These characters will be dressed in the costumes they wore in the late 1880s, the time when blacks and coloureds took to the streets, celebrating in their own way by mimicking the pomp and ceremony practised by the white elites.
"We are going back to that celebration and our mas will speak to the original costuming of that period," MacFarlane said after the final unveiling.
"They were resurrected today on the small sandbank washed in their copper and gold. We wanted to include Tobago and we wanted to have the ole time mas characters emerge from a place that symbolises life, rejuvenation and beauty. The concept and philosopy of our 2010 mas presentation is based on the rebirth of true, traditional mas characters in their purest form. The Reef is always magical ... it is a perfect backdrop for what we want the world to know about the origins of our Carnival."
MacFarlane will be going for a hattrick of wins in the Large Band of the Year category. The Rosalino Street, Woodbrook, mas camp will be officially opened on October 6.

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