Muhammad Abu Bakr Speaks on Mas

Mr. Bakr's Mas Camp
Mr. Bakr's Mas Camp

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We have a natural talent

Staff Article
Interview Recorded: April 24, 2005
Posted: April 30, 2005

The seventies was nice and we understood the changes back then, but you couldn't play military Mas after, and it kind of killed Carnival since. Back then when 'Corgatee' came on stage, and they come off the ship, and they start to crawl on their bellies with the bush on them, it looked really good. Military Mas was real nice, these guys used to be well dressed. I wish those days could come back. I used to admire bands like 'Dem Boys', 'Dem Fortunate' and 'Armed Boys'. Those bands used to come out of Belmont, and when you see them turning the corner, they used to be in lines coming out and would look like you open a page. Last year I was amazed to see this little steelband come out with some sailors. It reminded me of those days when I saw them, and I followed the band all up Belmont watching them dance. When you see how they danced you would think they are from a dance group, they moved professionally, it wasn't the 'wine and jam' thing. But these guys were not from a group, it is a case of knowing if you playing Indian, you dance like one, and if you playing sailor, you know how you have to dance.

These days the type of Mas they are bringing out is more for the females. What kind of Mas is sun beads, little arm bands, and a bando with two or three feathers for a head piece? The price for these "costumes" is very high as well. I went across to Frederick and Park streets by a Chinese guy, and I talked about it with him. He told me he imported a costume from somewhere in China with everything on it, beads, the girdle part, and the collar. Then I started to see bands with it and all they were doing is just adding their thing to it. I spoke about it because I thought it was crazy. We have a natural talent. People do not know this, but Mas builds itself, and that is the love that goes into it. You would start building Mas, and as you go along, somehow you will know if it isn't right, but you will know what you want. Building Mas is so creative and nice. When Carnival comes, people will tell me I look so different.

Bertie Marshall always encourages me. When we met years ago in the Cathedral, it was the first time Hylanders played in the church and I was one of the singers in the choir. I know music too, so I could listen. If a pan show is going on, Bertie and I would communicate for each other's views. I passed through Jenkins, Father Sewell, and Melvin Rogin. I did music under them. I am not a tuner, but I have the ear and would know if a pan is not tuned well. Every week I would check him, and he and I would sit in his tuning room and while he is tuning, I would be listening, and when he is hitting it, he would know if I do not like it. Sometimes when I say that is it for me with Mas, Bertie will say; 'nah, yuh cannot give up, how you could give up?' He encourages me - knowing how hard it is now to bring a band.


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