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Disappointment with We Beat

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

I want to express my deepest appreciation to the organisers of the We beat celebrations in St James for their continued inclusion of traditional Carnival characters. Traditional mas is something that is very near and dear to me and it has so much positive potential with the right imagination.

That appreciation does not, however, extend to the management of it. What I witnessed on Saturday night is an excellent example of what not to do if you are trying to get youths involved to pass it onto them. Of course, it could also be how you go about killing off something if you have no understanding of its uniqueness or just never truly cared for it and just was going through the motions.

It needs to be made clear that traditional mas is not about dressing people up in traditional mas costumes to wine behind a music truck which didn’t move for over 40 minutes, then drove forward for a few metres, stopped and repeated the torture. Some mas characters have unique dance steps, rituals and portrayals. The way it was done in Mayaro a couple months ago, though not perfect, was much, much better as a model.

Saturday night’s farce could easily have been done much differently, more coordinated so that steelbands and music trucks could move in the same direction, hint, hint, on that narrow strip of road but at staggered intervals and be more inclusive of the audience since the non-Eurocentric side of our Carnival and cultural events always included the onlookers as part of the performance. Then, the absent Baby-dolls, Dames Lorraine, fake doctors and police would have done their thing and drew more enjoyment from onlookers including the tourists I saw. As it was, I barely saw the Fancy and King Sailors although the few that were there did make an impression with their costumes and bad-behaviour, drunken antics in the odd drain. I barely saw the Jab Molassie and Jab-Jabs which the announcer on the truck was clueless about in terms of knowing the difference, and of course the Moko Jumbies. No bats, although Matthew Whitley was most present on the pavement and certainly no Midnight Robbers or Minstrels. No cow-bands, or clowns but then they could have been the ones who were managing this thing for all I know. Perhaps We Beat this year was just about doing that: We beat the traditional mas out of existence.

Corey Gilkes,
La Romaine


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