Muhammad Abu Bakr Speaks on Mas

Harold Saldenah's band in the 60's
Harold Saldenah's band in the 60's

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Long time Carnival

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

Long time Carnival you would see nice costumed bands coming up the road. You had more costumed Mas in those days, not like now. You do not have culture in Carnival anymore, is just the bath suit and the beads now. Long ago you used to get good costume with papier mache. I believe in the costume, I do not like sneakers for Mas, I do not believe in that. In 1997 I went up and I met with Terry Evelyn, he had formed a band called 'Dream Team' with Mervin Johnson, Terry himself, Smurf, Stephen Derrick was part of it, and Ronnie. For two years, we had a nice team, and it was a nice band in Brooklyn, New York. Not straying from the topic, but it comes like our football team. We could say we have good footballers, but when they come together, they are like individuals, not a team.

What I had realized, working with them was nice, but they are professionals. It wasn't really a team, so something was lost. But they told me to come across to Miami and I went across in 1998 and 1999 where I won band of the year with 'The First Dimension'. What was nice about the band was the costuming plus every member had on a pair of boots. It reminded me of the days with George Bailey and Saldenah. If you are playing a Gladiator and you dressed up nice, but you have on a pair of sneakers on your feet, you see what I am talking about? Sometimes I would criticize Big Mike and them for that, with the jockey shorts and big sneakers on their feet. I was in Miami when I opened a magazine; Trinidad Carnival, and there they were again with big sneakers and jockey shorts. Our Carnival is a unique Carnival if you understand it.

Since I was a child, I have been around these guys through my father. When these guys played a Barbarian or they played Roman, they looked like they came of the cinema screen; they looked so real. I saw John Humphrey band, 'Snow Kingdom', and that band was nice. Carnival had more costuming before. What they are saying, is that you cannot get people to wear costume, but I do not agree with that. What I agree with is the people would wear what you give them. I find there are too many fly by night designers. When you ask them how long they are designing, they tell you three years and they have a big section, and when you ask them what band they are designing for, they tell you 'Poison' band. You understand what I am saying here? When I came back from Miami in 1998, I had a meeting with the committee and I told them that they must have a cut off point. For example, if we are all artistes and we have five hundred people playing Mas and you have four hundred. You just have one hundred to divide amongst the three of us, we would not be able to project what we want. Now, they have a cut off point for a small band and a medium band, and eight hundred and one is cut off for a large band. How can you go from eight hundred and one to ten thousand? That cannot possibly be a large band. So you must have a cut off point.

There is an image created now that Trinidad Carnival is Brazil. I do not agree with that, because I remember in 1999 when I did the band in Miami I was up against the Brazilians. There were some Brazilians who were saying that they could beat us. Well, that year I got on real bad, people didn't know I could have talked so much. I told them that they didn't want anything with me, and I proved it, because we won band of the year. They came over and shook my hand.


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