Search Mas Republic

Monday, 31 January 2011

Guardian series of Great band leaders: Legendary Band Leaders of Yesteryear

Harold “Sally” Saldenah

…Saldenah leaves his mark on Carnival

We begin a series that takes a look back at the contributions to our Carnival art form of the famous large band leaders from around 1955, the first year of the official Band of the Year competition. For the purpose of this series, we take a look at that era following World War II when designers were able to and began to more widely use their creativity and artistry to portray mainly tangible and non-abstract costumes that transformed our streets into a thematic visual spectacle of colour and living theatre.

Harold “Sally” Saldenah (1925-1985)
Harold “Sally” Saldenah had a deep love of history and researched intensely his topics to ensure that he was able to re-create the moments in time in history. These historical epics are renowned for the magnificence, colour and splendour of their costumes. In the first of his six Band-of-the-Year productions in 1955 ‘Imperial Rome, 44BC to 96AD’, he designed and created costumes using velvet, leather and copper to portray centurions, gladiators, vestal virgins, Caesars and Nero, even his soldiers in short skirts to be as “real” as possible. Ken Morris was the one employed to fabricate the copper breastplates. He went on to become a master of the art of copper crafting. 
The use of foils and copper and having ‘sections’ in a band were innovations introduced by Saldenah.

His first major production was ‘Quo Vadis’ in 1953, based on the movie of the same name, and featured Roman soldiers with helmets made of papier mache painted to look authentic. Noble Khan, religious leader, ex-senator and long-time NCBA executive, who was the king of one of Saldenah’s winning bands, ‘Pacific Paradise’ in 1965, cites Saldenah and his chief designer Norris Eustace (brother of the late four-time King of the Band winner, Teddy; brother to mas designer Follette and uncle of nine-time King of the Band winner, Curtis) as masters of colour design, blending and crafting in their creations. The Harold Saldenah Award is given to the most colorful band each year in tribute to this.
Later, band leaders such as Bobby Ammon, Edmund Hart and Stephen Lee Heung were among those influenced by Saldenah and who went on to become legends in their own rights. ‘El Dorado, City Of Gold’ in 1968, the last of his six victorious presentations, in which he used a lot of foils, has been described as creating a glistening spectacle in the setting sun at the Queen’s Park Savannah. He won six Band-of-the-Year titles (1955, 1956, 1958, 1964, 1965, 1968) before moving to Canada in 1977 where he assisted his son Louis with his Toronto Caribana bands. Following that hiatus he returned to Trinidad in 1983 to produce the last three of his bands.
In 1976, to commemorate his 25th year as a bandleader, Saldenah produced his ‘A Sailor Is a Sailor’, recreating each of his previous bands in the form of a traditional fancy sailor.  In 1983, billed as the 200th anniversary of our Carnival, he returned to T&T to present ‘Masquerade to Carnival’, 40 sections in tribute to the history of the festival, with costumes celebrating the various traditional characters of mas.

The “Saldenah” legacy continues today in the mas arena, albeit in Toronto’s Caribana, with son Louis winning some 15 Band of the Year titles in his 30 years of producing bands there.  In 2009, he paid tribute to his father in the band ‘A Tribute To Harold Saldenah’. In 1972 Harold “Sally” Saldenah was awarded Trinidad and Tobago’s Public Service Medal of Merit Silver for Carnival Development.  He died of cancer in 1985.

The following is a listing of his presentations:

1953-‘Quo Vadis’; 1954-‘Conquerors of Kisra’; 1955-‘Imperial Rome 44BC to 96AD,’ 1st; 1956-‘Norse Gods and Vikings,’ 1st; 1957-‘The Glory That Was Greece’; 1958-‘Holy War,’ 1st (Tied); 1959-‘Cree Indians of Canada’; 1960-‘Siam 1250-1767’; 1961-‘Zambesi Head Hunters’; 1962-‘Julius Caesar's Conquest of Gaul’; 1963-‘Controversy of Time’; 1964-‘Mexico 1519 to 1521’, 1st; 1965-‘Pacific Paradise’, 1st; 1966- ‘Asia’; 1967-‘Epic of the Zulus’; 1968-‘El Dorado, City of Gold’, 1st; 1969-‘Psychedelic Latin America’; 1970-‘Atlantis-Land of Seven Cities’; 1971-‘Festival of the Tembu Warriors’; 1972-‘Fantasy in Jewels’; 1973-‘Fashionable Sailors from Paris’; 1974-‘Sun Kingdom of the Amazons’; 1975-‘Cult of the Leopard’; 1976-‘A Sailor Is a Sailor’; 1983-‘Masquerade to Carnival’; 1984–‘Name that Tune’; 1985-‘We Mas Have Class’.

Band of the Year Titles: 1955 ‘Imperial Rome 44 BC to 96 AD’; 1956 ‘Norse Gods and Vikings’; 1958 ‘Lost City of Atlantis’; 1964 ‘Mexico 1519 to 1521’; 1965 ‘Pacific Paradise’; 1968 ‘El Dorado, City of Gold’.

Nasser Khan

Monday, 24 January 2011

CARNIVAL STORY (aka TRINIDAD CARNIVAL) video newsreel film

Here is a blast from the past of Trinidad's carnival in the late 1950's enjoy...


Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


As the 19th century drew to an end the ruling classes saw a rise in acts of aggression and sexual profanity, in the portrayals of African masqueraders. The period became known as the ‘Jamette Carnivals’.

The word ‘Jamette’ comes from the French word ‘diametre’ and referred to the class of people ‘below the diameter of respectability’ ...the upper classes were distancing themselves from the lower emphasize the immorality...and hence the inferiority of the Africans. ( Liverpool Hollis)

During the 19th century Africans had to exist in deplorable living conditions. These conditions were witnessed in their most extreme form in the barrack yards of the capital. Due to these conditions the barrack yards were the epicentres for crime, prostitution, and other forms of lawlessness. The barrack yards being the homes of Trinidad’s Afro-Trinidadian lower classes were also the bastions of African cultural resistance and identity.

Out of theses barrack yards came some of the most iconic characters and symbols of defiance that Trinidad’s carnival has ever produced. As the century came to an end these characters, and ritual practitioners would directly confront the laws and institutions of the establishment that seemed to exist solely to erase their cultural identity.

From the poverty ridden, crime infested environments of the barrack yards the Jamette emerged. If the stick fighter was the warrior King of the Kalenda, and the Cannes Brulees procession, and the male personification of African defiance, the ‘Jamette’ was the Queen, her very physical presence was the personification of colonial defiance.

Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, 10 January 2011


Six time Calypso Monarch Leroy Calliste ‘The Black Stalin’ went to the Skullduggery mas camp and composed this catchy song for the band . I loved the tune so much it inspired me to do this little clip.

The Costumes were designed by Sonya Sanchez-Arias

and original photography by Mark Lyndersay

Mas Assassin.

If you wish to know more about Skullduggery see the website at

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Gypsy to make stick fighting a sport

Stick fighter Moses Ralf, left, shows his skills
as he attacks Henderson Marcano in the gayelle.
  Unable to resist an extempo challenge, Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Winston “Gypsy” Peters clenched the microphone to the delight of a crowd gathered at Kings Wharf, San Fernando on Friday night. Firing back witty responses to calypsonian Neil “Abelele” Baptiste’s lyrics, Peters stole the spotlight, if just for a few minutes, at the Small Money and Associates Carnival Band launch.
Peters made an impromptu visit to the event after officially attending the launch of the national stick fighting competition held within sight of the band launch. In an interview in the gayelle (stick fighting ring), Peters said he wants to develop the artform into a real sport. Peters said, “Stick fighting is something that is dear to my heart.  I was raised on stick fighting, raised in the gayelle. I will like to see stick fighting as a real sport where people would have gears and stuff and take it to the next level.”
Although the artform seems to be dying, he said the number of young people seen at the event indicates that it might be resuscitating.  “We must not let these artforms die,” he added. Despite criticisms regarding his decision to create a People’s Band this year, he said, “The People’s band will be the biggest band for Carnival. The People’s band will have stick fighting.  Stick fighters everywhere come into the People’s band!”
The minister said he wished there could be more creativity in Carnival costumes instead of the usual bikinis and beads. “You cannot distinguish between a Trinidadian band and a Brazilian band.  I wish they would become more creative and play the mas that we know to play.  Let us go back to portrayals,” he said.  Businessman Steve Grant, who has been promoting the artform for the past 30 years, agreed it was dying.  However, he said they were in the process of trying to revitalise it.  He said competitions would be held every Friday and Saturday until Carnival Tuesday.  Several people, young and old, had gathered around the gayelle to see the stick fighters in action.

Sascha Wilson

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Genesis 1: Creation’

In the Old Testament, there is a story told of King David dancing through the streets of the City of David in a procession filled with musicians, elders and other officials, celebrating the placement of the ark of God in a special place he prepared for the holy object.

Parish priest of the St Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church, Petit Valley, Joe Harris, used this example to explain the concept behind the decision to launch the Word and Associates Roman Catholic mas band for Carnival 2011.

Entitled Genesis 1: Creation, the 12 sections of the band will tell the story of how the world was created according to first chapter of the Bible. But Carnival and the Catholic Church have been inextricably linked for as the festival traditionally takes place in the days immediately preceding the Lenten period of fasting, prayer and reflection.

Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating certain foods, including meat. The 40 days of Lent, recalling the biblical account of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, serve to mark an annual time of turning. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of. The consumption of this, in a giant party that involved the whole community is thought by some to be the origin of Carnival.

However, even before the rise of Christianity, there have been practices that are similar to Carnival. In the Ancient Greece, for instance, in honour of the Dionysus (the god of fructiferous forces of the earth, vegetation, wine-making and the patron of a theatrical act), it was a large religious festival – the Dionysia, which included: merry dances, an execution of joking songs, competitions of poets and awards for victorious actors, and also the masquerade procession, where in front of it always had been the funny “ship” with a costume group. Authors of the Ancient Rome named it “carrus navalis”, what means “sea chariot”.

In Rome it was the heathen holiday, named the Saturnalia and initiated to Saturn, god of grain, vegetation and wine. The general idea of the feast consists to invert the ordinary motion of life in time.

During two weeks all class boundaries was erased by the nonpublic law of festival: the rich and poor were equalised in rights, children headed families, slaves could sit freely with their masters at the table and demand from them a subordination, and for reason to not spoil the merriment – everybody hid their faces behind masks.

Also, a pseudo-king was chosen at the time of the holiday and in the end of Saturnalias he must die in some way: to be burned, hanged, etc. After Christianity became popularity, all heathen feasts were forgotten. Thousands of years later, in the Venice of Italy, it was created as a merry and motley holiday, which was celebrated every year before the beginning of the traditional Christian fasting of Lent. This Carnival became popular and spread to other Catholic nations in Europe and around the world.

The origin of the name “carnival” is disputed. Variants in Italian dialects suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning “to remove meat”, since meat is prohibited during Lent. A different explanation states that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. Yet another translation depicts carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrations that encourage letting go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival.
At the launch of Genesis 1 held on Tuesday at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Father Harris said, “There is no need for alcohol and lewd dancing for people to enjoy themselves on the road for Carnival.”

The Word is a Roman Catholic organisation, chaired by one of Harris’ parishioners, Derek Walcott. Speaking to Newsday at the launch Walcott explained, Father Joe Harris had the vision six to seven years ago and he said to me, ‘Derek we have got to get to involved in Carnival.’ He said we’ve got to bring God back into Carnival and make his presence felt there because when good people do nothing, bad things happen.”

Already, the band launch garnered attention with persons on social networking sites like Facebook commenting on the irony of the situation: a Church whose higher ups have spoken out against the “ungodly behaviour” displayed during the Carnival season is now taking an active part in the festival.

The same type of attention, albeit without the technology, was probably received be Anglican priest, Father Clifford Hendey, when he announced to the country over 40 years ago that he played mas. This spawned the 1967 calypso “If The Priest Could Play” by Cypher. Years later Canon Winston Joseph, who was the priest at All Saints Church also regularly played Carnival, first with Garib, then with Harts
Walcott explained, Genesis 1's aim is to recreate the values and creativity which Carnival lacks at present. Although the concept of a Roman Catholic band was discussed years ago, the two men left the country at different points to pursue their studies. When Walcott returned, preparations to launch the band took full effect.
The idea of a Roman Catholic mas band is not a new one. The Antiguan band, Vitus, has been in existence for 17 years and has regularly won the band of the year title in that island. It was created by the then bishop of the diocese, Archbishop Donald Reece.

Father Joe shared with us that the Church led by Bishop Reese of Antigua was doing this already. We got in touch with him and he shared with us why he started this thing. He saw values going down, he saw creativity going down.

Where were the steelbands? Where were the moko jumbies, where was the mas? Every year you see the same thing over and over just in different colour beads and bikinis. He shared what was being done in Antigua and we said it was time to get on board,” Walcott explained.

Genesis 1 will be competing in the large band category during the Parade of the Bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. “This band is going on stage for people to see. We are bringing the message of God and his relationship with his people in ‘d Mas’,” Walcott said.

The Word intends on placing a limit of 1,200 masqueraders to ensure that those playing with the band fully understand the message portrayed. Walcott said however, there is mounting enthusiasm and excitement surrounding Genesis with persons from other Caribbean islands already expressing a desire to play mas with the band.
"So many people have been calling and are enthusiastic about getting on board. Grenada say they are coming to play mas and they want a whole section. There has been a lot of enthusiasm, even outside of Trinidad and Tobago so we do not know if we will be able to stick to our limit,” he said adding marketing for the band will not take full effect until after the Christmas season ends for Catholics this Sunday.

All inclusive packages range between $1,000 and $2,500 and include costumes, non alcoholic drinks, security and music on the road. In keeping with their intentions of re-introducing culture to Carnival, the band will be accompanied by three steel bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

“We have the Valley Harps, Simple Song of Arima and the Archdiocesan steel band, rhythm sections and one DJ. We will be playing all beautiful music produced over the years because we want to remind people what good calypso is,” Walcott said.
The band already has the blessing of Archbishop Edward Gilbert, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago.

“We went to him and shared what we are trying to do and he said, ‘Derek this is something that I want to encourage you in, to bring the message. Do not worry if it is not a great success in the first year, continue to bring the message’ he told us,” Walcott said.

Iconic mas makers have also come on board to provide their expertise towards producing Genesis 1. Walcott said Rosalind Gabriel, who is known for her winning children’s band looked over designs produced by the band’s designer, Lisa Bhajan, to ensure what was on paper could become reality. Also on board is mas man Wayne Berkeley who is producing the band’s Queen, Eve and another “surprise” popular mas man creating the King, Adam.
Raoul Garib, Augustine Chin, Francis Woon Sam and other experienced mas men will also be contributing to the band's sections.


Pictures from Carnival Jumbie



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...