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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Big launch in Chaguanas

The biggest regional Carnival celebrations is expected to take place in the borough of Chaguanas, according to Mayor Gopaul Boodhan.
Boodhan declared the celebrations opened following a street parade of traditional mas characters on Sunday.
He said 30 Jouvert bands have already registered as well as 250 traditional mas characters.
The theme, he said, was “One People, One Rhythm”. “And what you are seeing here today is really one people, one rhythm. We have over 250 characters in different sections. We started at Busy Corner in Chaguanas and came down to the market carpark. This display is of all the different characters, really showcasing the culture and artform of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Boodhan said the Carnival celebrations was a collaboration of the National Carnival Commission, Chaguanas Borough Corporation and corporate sponsors.
“This is the biggest and most organised Carnival launch we have had in Chaguanas. This is what regional Carnival is all about. We are showcasing the talent, art and culture of Trinidad which is what we are all about. And we are working with a budget of $1.5 million.”
Boodhan said his mandate was to celebrate every festival in the borough throughout his term.
“We want to have an avenue for expression. This is my mandate to bring people, communities and artforms of Trinidad and Tobago together,” he said.
Boodhan said the Carnival celebrations include a queen competition, calypso, chutney and tassa, pan on the move, Jouvert and parade of the bands.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Weekes: Clockwise route will cause mass confusion

 Interview By Michelle Loubon

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA) chairman Gerard Weekes says his members are not in favour of the proposed new route for masqueraders during Carnival Monday and Tuesday on March 3 and 4.
He said the deadline for the National Carnival Commission (NCC) to decide on the final route for the parade of bands is January 31. 
Weekes joined a chorus of bandleaders who have recently voiced their concerns about the alternative clockwise route for Carnival 2014.
They are rejecting the change from an anti-clockwise route to a clockwise flow to the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. 
Among those who share a similar sentiment about the new route is National Carnival Development Foundation chairman Mahindra Satram-Maharaj. 
In a telephone interview with the Sunday Express recently Weekes said: “We are not in favour of NCC’s clockwise route. We feel it will create mass confusion in the mas. We are not opposed to change. But it must be made with proper consultation with bandleaders and stakeholders. It must be made in a timely manner to allow us to adjust our management programmes to suit the route. All the logistical questions need to be answered. We are going to lay out the reasons and the solutions to solving the problem. We are giving NCC until January 31 to come back to an agreement in our favour. I am not in a position to hold back a mass protest or a boycott. The bands are not to accede to the wishes of the NCC.” 
Weekes said security remained a perennial problem throughout the route.
“We are asking for a  proper manning of the route. There are marshals that are given a job for one day. They put them at Green Corner or at Adam Smith Square. They are put there to stand up and watch. Bandleaders are often left wondering where there is someone from NCC or the (National Carnival Bands Association) whenever there is a problem. They have to wonder where to go or whom to go to address any concerns along the route. If the band wants to divert, there is no one in authority to assist in giving permission or directional change. Ninety-nine per cent of the time there is no one like a marshal, parade of the bands executives or even engineers to give a responsible suggestion.” 
Weekes said the bands were impeded because the police were hindered by a lack of  manpower to support a route extension.  
“We believe if proper consultation was taken, steps could have been taken to support such a move. We are willing to go to the court and pay for about 20, 50 or 120 police. We are prepared to pay them for their services. The police see it as a regular Monday and Tuesday. The officers just don’t show up. There is no increased manpower. The police on vacation leave are not called out.  If they are paid extra they will find themselves on the route. All we are left with is they are saying they are short-staffed.” 
Weekes said the Piccadilly venue will be totally left out by bandleaders due to security issues.  
“It is the birthplace. We try to respect that by taking mas back to its origins. We know it is a depressed and underdeveloped area. We ensure there is enough security given the fact once it gets dark, no band is going in the back there. Bandleaders are concerned their bands will find themselves in East Port of Spain late on Tuesday afternoon resulting in a security risk to their masqueraders and spectators.” 
Weekes also said they have been calling for the bands to be zoned. 
“You can start at Adam Smith and at the Savannah. By zoning the big bands they are nowhere close to each other. They can move in a stop and start environment, rather than all trying to get to the Queen’s Park Savannah.” 
 He also said there were no arrangements in the event of a disaster. 
Weekes said: “What happens if a truck is on fire? Where do bands muster or take off? What happens if someone throws a scratch bomb? If there is any type of national emergency. What happens if gunshots are fired? Any kind of disaster can take place. Bandleaders are not aware of the alternative routes.”

Bandleaders’ Route suggestions

Anti-clockwise route:
Weekes said all bands in Woodbrook have alternative routes. 
They can head down Ariapita Avenue and enter the city in an anti-clockwise direction. They can move to various judging points at the same time. 
He said: “If a band is leaving Woodbrook, it can head down Adam Smith Square first. Then it can move downtown or towards the Savannah. There are optional alternatives including Piccadilly Greens. It allows bands to move freely. Then each band can enter the Queen’s Park Savannah. That is another option.
Bands can have alternatives. They can go to QPS first or head straight to downtown (South Quay) City Gate, Port of Spain. It means bands will be in different directions. It will allow for free movement of bands in different directions.”
Clockwise route:
 Weekes said the present route which is being proposed by NCC provides for all bands to head into a West to East direction.
He said: “All  bands that want to get to the Savannah must enter from Tragarete Road. From Tragarete Road, they have to make a left turn and head North along Victoria Avenue into the Savannah. Tragarete Road provides a one way in and a one route option for all bands. It limits the free movement of bands to access all the other venues. Based on the  NCC route, if a Woodbrook band wants to go downtown first and then head to the Savannah, where will they go? They have not answered that salient question? If a band from  Belmont wants to enter QPS first before proceeding to downtown, that pertinent question has not been answered by NCC?”
He said there are going to be problems for bands entering the downtown venue at Broadway and South Quay, Port of Spain. 
He said: “The truck is on the left. It  has to turn left to go up on the normal route. On the reverse route, it is coming from North to South along Broadway. It has to make a sharp right turn to the judging competition. The minute it makes the turn it is right in front of the judges so there is no space to perform. It is a logistical issue that has to be addressed. We are still awaiting answers.” 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Friday, 24 January 2014

Couva Carnival begins tomorrow

Carnival celebrations in Couva begin tomorrow (January 25) with auditions for both Senior and Junior Monarch competitions at the Balmain Community Centre, Balmain, Couva, starting at 10 am.

Defending senior monarch, Helon Fancis, has signalled his intention to retain his crown for the 2014 season. Among his main rivals are expected to be former monarchs, Rondell Donawa and Victoria Cooper. Defending junior monarch, N’Janela Regis, will face stiff competition from former monarchs, Aaron Duncan and Jeromy Rodriguez.

Screening for the Miss Central Trinidad Queen Pageant takes place on Sunday (January 26), also at the Balmain Community Centre, from 10 am.

A new feature of the 2014 celebrations will be the official launch of the festivities, on Wednesday, February 26, with a joint Pan/Chutney Explosion, which heralds the start of a week of Carnival events.

“For 2014, we have decided to include our national instrument, the pan, in the official launch of Couva Carnival. Pan is one of the mainstays of our national carnival and we felt it should be given its rightful place in the celebrations. We are negotiating with bands in the central region to give our pan lovers and carnival patrons this special treat,” explained Ramchand Rajbal Maraj, long-serving chairman of the Couva Carnival Committee.

He appealed to bandleader, calypsonians, revelers and the general public to ensure that Couva carnival remains “clean” during the duration of the celebrations. “We have planned a packed programme of activities to entice everyone and we expect that the carnival would be free of untoward incidents. Couva carnival is growing by leaps and bounds and we invite everyone to come to our shows to get a true taste of regional carnival,” Rajbal Maraj added.

The CCC chairman appealed to corporate sponsors in the central region to “come aboard” and support the activities since Couva Carnival has become a major brand during the carnival season. “Support from the corporate entities and other businesses will enable us to offer enhanced prize money to the people who are the main actors in the carnival, the masqueraders, calypsonians, etc,” Rajbal Maraj pointed out.

Couva Carnival programme of events:

Saturday January 25: Auditions for Senior and Junior Calypso Monarch competitions, 10 am

Sunday January 26: Screening for Miss Central Trinidad Queen Pageant, 10 am

Friday February 21: Photo Opportunity/Sponsorship Selection

for Miss Central Trinidad Queen Pageant, 6 pm

Saturday February 22: Motorcade featuring Miss Central Trinidad Pageant contestants, 10 am

Wednesday February 26: Official launch, Pan/Chutney Explosion, 7 pm

Thursday February 27: TUCO South/Central Calypso Tent, 7 pm

Friday February 28: Senior and Junior Calypso Monarch Finals, 7 pm

Saturday March 1: Finals of the Miss Central Trinidad Queen Pageant, 7 pm

Sunday March 2: Children’s Carnival, 1 pm

Monday March 3: J’ouvert Competition, 5 am; Monday Nite Mas and King and Queen of the Bands Competition, 7 pm

Tuesday March 4: Parade of the Bands, 1 pm


Machel’s new crew

LA-based outfit takes charge...
When Reigning Soca Monarch Machel Montano made his debut performance at Fantasy Carnival’s Secret Saturday event, eyebrows shot up immediately and speculation arose regarding the absence of his original HD Dancers and the appearance of a seemingly all-new cast of “foreign-looking” dancers.
Even as patrons enjoyed themselves in the rain at the Queen’s Park Oval, bloggers and Facebook lovers questioned the apparent “substitution” of “Wining Jade”, Brittany Dookie and company. However, the truth about the new cast is far less sinister than some of the hypotheses presented online.
Montano has been working with a Los Angeles-based creative arts production team called Zen Arts for the past three years. Run by fashion designer Susie Culini and creative director Doug Miller, Zen Arts is described by Miller as “an artist collective of performers, musicians and designers specialising in acrobatic performance routines”.
The company has worked with industry giants like Madonna, Lady Gaga and is currently working on the 2014 Grammy Awards Show.

“My partner and I started about seven years ago as performers,” Miller explained in an exclusive interview with the Express, “and we both worked for another company, but then decided to form our own company. Since then, we’re no longer performing, we’re creating and producing and we’ve worked in over 15 different countries for a lot of high-end celebrity events, private events, theatre shows and corporate events for clients like Google, Adobe and Facebook, for example…
“What we’re doing here is we brought performers and we’re doing choreography for and with Machel, as well as creating all the costumes. We started working with Machel three years ago—he called me when he was doing the Return show and ‘Advantage’. He wanted to collaborate and add some elements for his Soca Monarch performance. Of course, I didn’t know who he was at the time, I had never heard his music and he sent me the song and I was like: ‘my God, what is this?’ Because it was 180 beats per minute and I wasn’t sure how we could work at that tempo, but he called me back a few days later and flew me in for a show he was doing at the Licensing Office place—and that was the first time I ever saw him perform and I was blown away by the energy, by the crowd, by his level of showmanship… and that was the start of our relationship.…”

Of course, Montano won his first Soca Monarch title in 2011 with “Advantage” and worked with Zen Arts again last year, as he levitated and flew through the sky for “Float”. During this time, Miller has come to understand and appreciate soca music, as well as the Trinbagonian culture and our annual Carnival festival.
“We didn’t want to just throw ourselves into this amazing culture,” said Miller. “We had to take the time to understand it and get familiar with all the nuances and traditions and the way things work here. So we talked about how we could use technology and our technical and acrobatic experience to take things to another level—and from last year, we also started doing more production work with him: we did all the audio-visual, graphics and design for pretty much the entire Machel Monday, as well as RAMA and all the bigger ones. So we started getting more involved and developed a really good relationship…”
Montano called upon Zen Arts again more recently, as he filmed his soon-to-be-released music video for the 2014 single, “Happiest Man Alive”, in Los Angeles with Trinidadian-born director Damian Marcano.

“That video is not out yet,” Miller explained, “but we worked on it about a month ago and that was the first time we got to use our dancers and choreography with him—and that video went off so well in terms of the dancing and the choreography that it really gave us some momentum to talk about what we could do for Carnival. Then, a couple of his dancers left for personal reasons and I think he was in a position where he had to figure out and fill the void in terms of his dancers…”
Enter Amanda Bartolomeo, Danielle Hendrix, Mariah Murray, Tiffany Payne and one of the original HD Dancers, Zulema Charles.
The LA-based dancers have quickly become friends with each other and are working with Charles and renowned choreographer Jason Young to integrate their highly technical dance moves into the wining culture of T&T. Young has performed on tour with Madonna, Britney Spears and Ricky Martin and now works as a choreographer for some of the top acts in the music industry. He is excited about the opportunity to work with Machel and soca music.
“I’ve been dancing my whole life,” said Young, “and after we worked on the HMA video, Machel was impressed and wanted to do more. I grew up in New York, so I’ve known soca and dancehall and Caribbean music all my life and I’m excited about where it’s heading now. I think Machel’s music is changing in a way that’s giving it great crossover potential and I’m thrilled to be a part of the team…”

The Zen Arts dancers are all new to the Trinidad/Carnival experience and expressed great excitement about working on this project. As the only local dancer in the midst of the contingent, she is challenged to keep up with their technical expertise and coordination, while introducing them to and instructing them in the local and Caribbean styles of dance.
“It is definitely challenging for me,” Charles admitted. “My body is protesting loudly, but my mind is strong and I’m learning so much from them. It’s a different level of intensity and concentration and professionalism as well because you know our mentality in Trinidad is more laid back, but it’ll pay off because I’m taking my skills and experience to the next level, while adding to Machel’s performance and image.”
Look out for the all new HD Dancers next big performance coming to a fete near you.

SOURCE: Nigel Telesford

NCC push ahead despite re-route challenge

THE National Carnival Commission (NCC) has defended its move to change the parade route in Port of Spain this year, saying in a media release yesterday that bandleaders were consulted on the possible re-route since last year.
The NCC has been criticised by bandleaders in the past few weeks for its proposal to change the course of the parade of bands, with some saying that the change was being imposed without enough time for bands to adjust.
The Commission said yesterday its engineers have only now received data from the bands that was asked for since January 2013.
“Progress cannot be made without the cooperation of the bandleaders,” the NCC stated.
“In January 2013, NCC engaged C&H Associates to consider an alternative route. Since then, bandleaders—regardless of affiliation with the NCBA, National Carnival Development Foundation and TT Carnival Bands Association—were given the opportunity to discuss its feasibility.
“It was only until the beginning of January 2014, one year later, that the engineers received the data required. There was a noted reluctance on bandleaders’ part to contribute. Ironically, while some bandleaders have been very vocal in their criticism about the alternative route, we are yet to receive their solutions.”
The National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) has communicated with bandleaders, the NCC said, but the Association has only been able to do so much outreach and the Commission is “taking up the slack”.
Outreach to bandleaders continues, the NCC stated, as per the NCBA’s Parade of the Bands Committee meetings between the bandleaders and C&H Associates, which was hosted by the NCC and held at the VIP Lounge of the Queen’s Park Savannah on January 8 and 16, 2014.
“One-on-one discussions have also been scheduled to give bandleaders a final opportunity to discuss their concerns about the alternative route,” the Commission stated.
The Commission said it was determined to get the new route in gear for Carnival 2014, which is being observed on Monday March 3 and Tuesday 4, but the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) is yet to “accept, action and manage” the change.
“That is the only way we can proceed,” the Commission stated. “In preparing the new route, a main concern is the trucks that accompany the Carnival bands, since they are one of the major causes of congestion for masqueraders. But that leaves the route organisers between a rock and hard place—because these trucks, as cumbersome as they are, are essential for mas players and we cannot discount the value these vehicles provide.”
The NCC said it also acknowledges the “growing trend of entrepreneurship and independent business development that have given rise to the concept that Carnival is more than a festival but an industry that generates employment, income and profit”.
The Commission, with the support of the Government, now intends to measure the full potential of Carnival in a way that allows the country to make the most effective policy for its development, the release stated.
The focus will be on employment, foreign exchange earnings, private sector development and social and governance benefits.
“In the meantime, NCC continues to push ahead with the production of Carnival 2014,” the Commission stated. “We are also concentrating on other events, such as the return of the Calypso Monarch Finals on Dimanche Gras night, the re-enactment of the Canboulay Riots on Carnival Friday, the revival of traditional mas through the regional Carnival committees.
“And so far, these seem to be on track.”
The Commission stated further that the launch of the regional Carnival earlier this month at Edinburgh 500 was well received.




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