Muhammad Abu Bakr Speaks on Mas

Basement for Artists
Basement for Artists

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Staying in basement abroad

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

After Carnival everybody will just fall in and sit around as though something is missing. The past president Sir Ellis Clarke once said if Trinidad has a Carnival mentally, then so be it, it is a good thing. For all the years I am involved in Mas, when you see you are running a camp, and I have experienced this here and abroad, it is a family and it is something nice. When we start to build Mas, everybody comes in, everybody sleeping in, working night and day, and eating. It is like an extended family. When you see that day passes, and I experienced it outside already, everybody will just come for about three, four days after and just watch one another. It is as though something passed through and gone, until it comes back again. But when you see it starts to come back again, religiously the people and them will start walking back in. Once it starts, you do not care who cooks for you. If someone is making a cup of coffee for you, whether the coffee too strong or not sweet enough is no big thing. Then you have someone else doing the cooking. But the worst thing is the cooking because when you cook, everybody has to bad talk your cooking whether it taste good or not. Everybody will be laughing and having fun. It is a cultural thing that is indescribable. You do not see differences. People always coming in, you do not have time to study anything, you might be tired, you could sit down or go and lie down till next morning, get up, bathe and start again. Everybody becomes a family. It is important that they get the culture going, because with that 'down the stream Mas that they are going with now with just the bra and beads, they are cutting off the family kind of unit.

The best materials and the best prices are in Trinidad. I went to Boston and when I reached there it had no material and this is after the guy told me they had material to come up. I will give you a joke you wouldn't believe. I had to make some head pieces, and I had a gold and silver table cloth with a sort of flannel backing. I had to strip that to cover Mas. When I couldn't take it any more, I had to go down by Jimmy Aboud to get material. If you build Mas here and export it, it is better than building it outside. These people want you to run a camp, which is no problem, but you see the shot in building the camp, is the end of it, you get nothing. They will tell you they have a nice place for you to stay, but that is not true. I do not like going out there anymore. They paint a nice picture for you there. They will tell you to come, but when you reach there is something else. If Soca artistes are being honest with you, they will tell you what they go through. They might be happy to go and put a New York hat back to front on their heads, and come back with three or five jerseys mark "I was in New York", or "I love New York" after they did a good job in New York and win.

Right now you have to make contracts, and that is why I said the Carnival body should be dealing with that. I am with NCBA, and if somebody wants me to do a Mas for them, I am supposed to go the body and get it organized through the body. So if you want five hundred costumes, and you are giving me fifty U.S. a costume or to build whatever, let them deal with that. When you are out there building their Mas, you are like a king, but when that Mas goes on the road, is you to catch, and I am talking from experience. This is killing the Mas, because if you call me, and you tell me you have a place at "X" spot, I will contact my son because he builds Mas too, and we will take up the offer. When I reach up there now, the place is a basement. There are basements that are nice, but I remember doing this Mas in Boston and I had to go down inside of this basement, and I to sleep on a couch that looks like somebody threw out, and after all of that, they want to do an interview with you. Imagine I had an interview with the Mayor of Boston and Shirley Shillingford who runs the Boston Carnival, and after the interview I had to go and stay in that basement. I had to ask them what was happening, especially after all the years of Mas in Boston. I had to sell Mas by calling out to someone who was passing by, to come and see Mas down in the basement. Just imagine you passing, and I am down in the basement calling you to come down and see Mas. You could say this is a mad man, what he calling me down inside there for, and call the police for me.

They had a nice yard, so I decided to build the camp outside and you wouldn't believe, but a lot of people will come and see the Mas and they would play. They didn't know they could keep the costume, so I had to explain to them when they are finished playing Mas that the costume belongs to them. It was amazing to see that in 2001, people believed that you had a dance troupe playing the Mas, and they didn't know that they could have played. I built a band from nothing in 2001, so when you see these people tell me to come up and they have this and they have that, when I went up there they had nothing. I spent a whole week looking for material until I had to send back here for it. People up there have no time to build Mas. It is an embarrassment to carry people up there, because I do not know what they will meet. I am giving them the best but they are not giving me the best. All of this took place in Boston. I have a picture with one of the girls/Masquerader coming out of the basement as proof. You had to bend down to come out of the basement. That is when I had formed the band in 2002, "D" Horizon.


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