Bill Trotman, Vernon 'Vava' Vidale & Kenneth Alexis
Paying Respect to Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez
Tributes at Wake
April 11, 2006
Cito Velasquez was one of the greatest Masmen in this country. He was a legendary character for me. As far as I can remember, when I was a little fella coming up, I used to hear about Cito Velasquez. He started bringing the Mas that I play, which is Sailor. I always saw the band and always wanted to be in the Fancy Sailor thing. I used to play with All Stars and I couldn't leave All Stars to go in another band in those days. When I came out of All Stars and I went over with Ebonights, I remember the day going up to the Savannah when the clash with Despers and San Juan All Stars occurred. They ran through "Fruits and Flowers", Ebonights and Mac Williams. I was glad I wasn't in that band then because I probably would have gotten into trouble. I have a stupid sense of tempering myself. I was always happy to stay with All Stars where there wasn't any trouble.
Cito used to always meet and greet me in a special kind of way and I never knew why. I couldn't imagine that Cito knew me as well as I knew him. Every time he met me it was like I am the greatest. He always had something nice to say to me. There were times when we met on special occasions like in the competitions and so on. I remember about forty-one years ago when I played an African Mas and I won with it. I played it again this year and win again. I remember when I met him in the Savannah and he asked me, "Who made that costume for you? You are a man who always plays Plain Sailor." I said, "I made it myself." Of course in that point in time, it was Ken Sheppard who did the carving and I put the whole thing together. Cito said "Boy…that is fantastic, you bound to win with something like that."
I remember when we went to the United States to do a big show. Cito, Mano Marclin, and Sparrow were there at the time. We also had two steelbands. When we got to the place where they were doing the show, Cito said, "This big stadium we doing this show in?" We sat in the stadium and waited for people to start arriving. About a hundred people came to the show. Cito said, "We came to make Mas in this place and we will make Mas whether it has people or not." We all performed with the expectation that regardless of what, we will get our money. Quite a lot of people from Trinidad came to the show. We came out of there without money, but we had an enjoyable time. Every time I met Cito we talked about those times. They were really great times. He was an ardent friend and someone whom we could all look up too. He lived for the thing he loved and he played Mas all the time. He was a great Masman and a great friend to most of us. We all hung together, the Bandleaders, Masmen, Panmen, Calypsonians and so on. We had some great times. I want to remember Cito that way. No other way but the nice things I knew about him.
Vernon 'Vava' Vidale
In 1957, when I was about seven years old, my mother sent me to buy a few things. I went to buy beef for a man called Joe Small - a man everybody knew in Barataria. About half past eight in the morning, Cito's band was coming out on Sixth Avenue. He was playing a seven wings Lucifer with three heads. If you see how this man spread out in the middle of Sixth Avenue and dancing a devil dance. Suddenly a motorbike came up in front of Chin Fatt's place, and knock Cito down to the ground and threw him in the canal. Cito cuss the fella and the motorbike man got a cut ass. I told my father and he said, "That's Cito Velasquez." About two years ago when I came up here I asked Cito if he remembered the Lucifer he played." He said, "Yeah boy". He showed me how to do the dance. I like to play my little Devil Band so sometimes when I reach on the stage I do the little sideways chip.
Last week I was here and I was talking to Cito, but I noticed he was talking with a kind of urgency. He asked, "What are you doing?" I said, "I am going to cook." Then he said, "I am going to cook too. I am going to cook pork." I said, "Cito, you could cook pork?" Anyway, I left and came back the Wednesday. As soon as I reached, his nephew said, "Oh gosh, come quick, Cito upstairs and he only passing the numbers." I went over by the neighbour and we called Shortpants. He went to the hospital and it turned out he had a stomach infection. I believe it was from the pork. Later I heard it wasn't the pork.
I watched Cito playing Mas through the years and the type of mediums he used was great. Up to the last time he brought a Mas, he used a medium I haven't seen anybody used. I have seen Cito use an aluminum rod as a medium. When he used the aluminum rod, he made the same wire hoop strips. I asked him if he was going to paper it and he said no. He used a thin foam rubber about two centimeters thick and he was cutting it with the scissors even though he had arthritis in his hands. He cut the exact shapes he wanted, and he made the structure for the "Summit on the Mountain". (Four big frogs and snakes and he called it "Summit on the Mountain".) His brother Hue came with the spray gun and sprayed it. That Mas reached to the Finals and I think he only spent about three hundred and sixty dollars. He won prizes totaling to about fifteen thousand dollars. To me that was what an artist is. All the artists used plenty different motifs. Mortif was Cito's strongest point in his delivery as an artist. The lead pencil could cut shapes and art on your motif, but Cito's motif was in his head. Cito used to have the first wire structure of whatever the shape is. He used to follow that, and then you will see what the wire sculptor comes out too.
The other day I asked him how to get an impression on a certain type of material. He told me it was easy. He said try plaster of paris and emulsion. I decided to try it and it looked like ceramics. His brother was a better artist. He used to do plenty fabricating and he was also a doll maker. Cito was a great wire-bender and he used a lot of great material. He used materials like wadding, foam, paper and so on. The last thing I saw him using was the cane. What I am saying is, an artist is a person who can use different materials. The other artists who were around him like Geraldo Vieira, Peter Minshall and those guys had their own different motifs. For instance Minshall is a sketcher with the lead pencil and when he puts his motifs you can put a design. Geraldo Vieira comes here and he went through many different materials like plastic, paper, foam, cane and other things.
I can remember certain things as early as 1954, when he played with Fascinators. He was the root of Fascinators although he wasn't the very best wire-bender then. Just before Carnival this year I saw him cutting some angel wings. He was cutting the wings real nice even though he had arthritis in his hands. Long time they used to do wrapping with wire bending to make the continuous flow of the object. We got our fingers buss up for years from the wire-bending.
Cito wanted to do a Mas called "Monkey Riding Alligator Back". He wanted an alligator about twenty-six feet. The story was about a monkey who told the alligator he had a kitchen up in the mortal tree, and if he carries him across the river on his back, he will give him a monkey liver soup. The alligator mouth was dribbling for the soup so he carried the monkey on his back. When the monkey reached across the river, the monkey said to the alligator, "Yuh stupid alligator."
I am presently the Public Relations Officer of the Malick Folk Performing Company. My recollections of Cito go back twenty-six years. He was the first person to design a costume for the queen in Malick. What was interesting about him was his willingness to assist Malick who was an emerging group. He was always there to advise or assist us. There were times when his services were free. Money wasn't a problem with him. We always kept in touch with him if we needed any advice and so on. I would like to say to his family and all the bereaved around him to stay strong. We know we have lost an Icon in the arts. From the executive board and the members of the Malick Folk Performing Company, we would like to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences. God bless to the family.
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