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Saturday, 6 August 2011

Golden era of Mas

Farewell: Anthony Chow Lin On, right, relatives and friends carry the casket of his father
 Alwin Chow Lin On at St Finbar's RC Church, Diego Martin yesterday.
In the eulogy to his father Alwin “Chow Lee” Chow Lin On yesterday at St Finbar’s RC Church, Morne Coco Road, Diego Martin, Anthony Chow Lin On (Chinese Laundry) said Chow Lee’s personal dream was to one day go back to the golden era of Sally (Harold Saldenah), (George) Bailey, (Peter) Minshall and others, who were his heroes and influences.

He spoke of his father keeping many notes and in later years writing his experiences and thoughts about pan and Mas, every note ending with Sankofa, almost like a call to arms, a revolution.

The Sankofa is a symbol which represents the idea that one must take from the past what is good and bring it into the present in order to make positive progress through the benevolent use of knowledge. Sankofa belongs to the Akan language spoken by the Akan people, ethnic groups of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

He then explained how his dad felt about the golden era of Mas through one of his notes, quoting: “Trinidad and Tobago must become the vanguard of our Carnival culture, with the Carnival City where you can see all the great costumes like “Man Crab”, “The hat I had for Christmas was too Big”, “The Cray Fish”, “Bachac Pushing Ganja”, “Beauty in Perpetuity” and “The Sacred and the Profane” all dancing at the Carnival City and also displayed at the museum all year round....wouldn’t that be great?”

Chow Lee was born and grew up in Sangre Grande as a typical shop keeper’s son, then moved to Port-of-Spain where he attended St Mary’s College but left after fourth form to work with his uncle George Pantin at his accounting firm.

After a few years Chow Lee returned to Sangre Grande to run the family business and that is where he got his early experience in Mas, stick fighting, and steelband. He was the founding member of Cordettes Steelband in 1962, and at the funeral, a number of ex-Cordettes members reunited to play a soothing rendition of Baron’s “Words” during which, a number of people quietly wept. Chow Lee even went on to be a past Pan Trinbago president.

His love for Mas began with Elsie and Stephen Lee Heung’s “Paradise Lost” in 1976. It was the first time he got to work on costumes and he came out with a wealth of knowledge and experience working with Peter Minshall. A year later came the birth of Zodiac of which Chow Lee was a part, organised to produce Minshall’s designs. That they did for four years before handing over the band to Minshall.

Chow Lee has been known to bring Minshall’s designs to life through his clever engineering of the structures of the queen and king costumes, many of them going on the take the national titles.

He also had a great knowledge of the concept of fibreglass back packs and, drawing on his as well woodworking and carving skills he also manufactured costumes locally, as well as for Mas in London.

Then there was his restaurant businesses Char B Que and Atlantis where he exposed his culinary skills but, said Anthony, his significant achievement was to the art of Mas. Among the personalities who attended the funeral service were Peter Samuel, Pelham Goddard, Dr Bernard Picou, George and Joey Ng Wai, Howard Chin Lee, Johnny Soong, Canute Spencer, Frank Martineau, Earl Crosby, Rachel Price, Earl Patterson and John Humphrey.

By Joan Rampersad Saturday, August 6 2011
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