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Saturday, 18 October 2014

‘His first duty was making mas, not money’

   Death of Stephen Lee Heung

    By Michelle Loubon

Retired accountant Shane Lee Heung, son of the late veteran mas man Stephen Lee Heung, 93, said his fondest memories were accompanying his father to carnivals in New York, USA. He also said Lee Heung performed “ wonderfully” during Carnival celebrations and boasted a healthy dose of creativity. Both Lee Heung and his late wife, Elsie, shot to national and international renown with their spectacular Carnival presentations. 
On Monday night, Lee Heung succumbed to a chest infection and a bout of pneumonia at St Clair Medical Centre.
He is also mourned by his daughter, Maureen, a mother of three. Lee Heung went to God’s acre a few days after his book, We Kindah People, was launched at Nalis, Port of Spain.
Yesterday, family and friends gathered for a prayer session at his home at 4 Alberto Street, Woodbro­ok.

Veteran masman Peter Minshall comments:
Via a telephone interview yesterday, Minshall said: “There are bandleaders and there are masmen
Stephen Lee Hueng
artists. The bandleader is a producer. The artist in the case of mas is the conjuror, the magician, the person who makes art out of apparel which is showcased by huge numbers of people gathered to celebrate life. As a producer/bandleader, he never forgot his first duty was the making of mas, not the making of money.”

Reflecting on his collaboration with Lee Heung, Minshall said Lee Heung and Carlisle Chang had a “fall out”. 
He said: “I was in London, when I got the call from Stephen at 5 a.m. He said: Peter Minshall (1975), yuh want to do my band for next year? It was such an awkward place to be. It was strange and bizarre. It’s like tear-jerking. One of the most powerful presence in the mas was Chang. In the years after, my greatest encouragement came from Chang. I did mas as art. Chang once said of Jungle Fever. The Savannah looks like the grasses of Serengeti in technicolour. I owe a great debt to Stephen Lee Heung, masman par excellence.”

Edmund Hart comments:
Via a telephone interview, Hart, 91, said: “He produced the best costumes. One of his best bands was China: The Forbidden City. They won their first Band of the Year title in 1967 with China. We both did a show and we were roommates in Minneapolis. He was a nice friend even though we were rivals. We both belonged to Port of Spain Central Lions’ Club.” 
Lee Heung’s trek to the top started in 1964 with Kabuki, which placed third in the Band of Year competition to Silver Stars. In 1975, he was bestowed with the Hummingbird Medal (Gold). China was the first band sent abroad by the government to the Montreal Expo in 1967.


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