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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Stick fuh so

“Tell yuh muddah doh cry, tell yuh sister doh cry, tell yuh children doh cry. If yuh loss yuh teeth, real bois man doh cry. If yuh die yuh die, real bois man doh cry.” That chant, together with the sound of the drums, resonated throughout Guaracara Park, Pointe-a-Pierre, drawing stickfighters into the gayelle like moths to a flame. Organised by the Ministry of Community Culture and Gender Affairs, the Nation Carnival Commission and the Regional Carnival Committee, the finals of the National Stick fighting competition were held on February 3. The crack of the rope sounded as loud as gunshots, as colourfully dressed jab-jabs started off the event by standing face to face in the gayelle, beating each other with ropes.

Two stick fighters engage in battle during NCC stick-fighting at Guaracara Park last Wednesday. Photos: Rishi Ragoonath

Four of the nation’s top gayelles—Princes Town, Gran Chemin, Talparo and Longdenville—all squared off against each other for the chance to be called the top gayelle. The four were divided into two groups. Three members of each gayelle were required to compete individually to determine which camp would advance. Starting off the fighting were the Gran Chemin and Longdenville gayelles, whose members, even though they displayed skill with the bois, were conservative in their strikes. “Doh dance. Pelt wood. What happen to allyuh. Is wood we want to see,” one spectator shouted from his seat.”

“Why you doh hush yuh tail,” was the immediate reply from another, much to the amusement of the crowd. Longdenville went on to win all three battles to make a clean sweep of the first round fights. The second group was much more entertaining, with the members of the Talparo gayelle taking the fight aggressively to Princes Town. As Talparo’s Moses Ralph squared off against his much younger opponent Anderson Marcano, his aggression quickly made him the least favourite fighter in the gayelle.

“Advantage stick. Da man playing advantage stick,” members of the crowd shouted angrily as they booed Ralph. The crowd became even more incensed as Ralph dealt Marcano the first “buss head” of the event. This was loudly contested by the Princes Town camp, which claimed Ralph’s strike was illegal and made by a stabbing motion with his bois. Nevertheless, the judges awarded the bout to Ralph, reminding the crowd that once blood flows in the ring, the match is over. The medical technicians on hand to treat wounded bois men were kept busy, as a few minutes later, during the second match between Princes Town’s Peter Odile and Ralph’s son Evon, the bois accidentally flew out of the latter’s hand and struck a spectator.

The injured man, bleeding profusely from a wound just between his eyes, was immediately treated and taken out of the venue. The younger Ralph went on to draw blood from his opponent, ending Princes Town’s chances of making it to the championship round. The third fight in the round also ended with a “buss head,” only this time it was Gilbert Fredericks who tasted his own blood at the hands of Princes Town’s Terrence Marcano. In the bout to decide which gayelle would take home the $5,500 third prize, not a bois was thrown, as the members of Gran Chemin all conceded victory to the Princes Town stickmen. This forfeit, much to the crowd’s dismay, was because all six bois men from both camps were related.

After a series of hard-fought battles, Longdenville’s Daniel Bartley sealed victory for his gayelle as a crushing blow from his bois landed across the left side of Fredericks’ face, “bussing” his head for the second time that night. As he doubled over in pain, the crowd went into an uproar, as Bartley was hoisted onto the shoulders of his fellow stickmen in celebration. The other aspect of the competition featured the individual fights for the title of King of the Rock, with the finals being between Evon Ralph and Anthony Bineal.

Even though it lasted only a few seconds, the silence that descended over the crowd of spectators at Guaracara Park felt like minutes as all eyes were fixed on the gayelle, all eagerly anticipating the first blow. The chant of the drummers immediately changed to “Pretty man nuh play in de Gayelle,” and the bois men stepped up their game in anticipation of the $13,000 prize for placing first and winning the King of the Rock title. It took all of the allocated three minutes, as well as two additional minutes of fighting, for the judges to bring the competition to a close and declare Ralph the official King of the Rock 2010 winner.

Bineal took second place and $8,500, while the third place prize of $5,500 went to Nigel Jones. So intense were the feelings among the spectators, that a few rushed into the gayelle, causing the ringmasters to call for police to maintain order. “Now that is stick,” one visibly pleased woman said. “Long time you could not have stick without the police being called into the gayelle. “Is long time I eh enjoy myself so,” she said.

Cori Baynes

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