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Big up Vincie mas makers

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Editor: Well the last carnival in North America (Miami) is over and I have finally disciplined myself to the keyboard to write this. I have toyed with this accolade for about two years now.

I write this as an ex-mas maker, panist, ex-jazz saxophonist, and general carnival person, you could say “one who dabbles in the culture”.{{more}}

I have seen mas in many places; have been playing since I was three years old; was in on the embryonic London carnival in the mid-sixties; and was the first Vincie to bring mas for Labour Day in Brooklyn (1972-1976, thanks to Sam De Bique). I have taken part in mas and/or pan in London, Trinidad and Tobago, Brooklyn, Boston, Miami, Baltimore, Antigua and Barbados; so I speak with some authority on the subject of mas and mas makers, and to put it quite simply and straightforward, Vincie mas makers are the best. Their skill, creativity and inventiveness have few equals and they are not copyists of Trinidad, which ranks them very high in my books. I know the Trini-files in SVG will try to “holla me down”, but you’re wasting your time. I see the same costumes (or lack thereof) every year in Trinidad and Tobago. Any section from any band in any given year could fit equally well into any band at any time and that’s the repetitiveness of Trinidad and Tobago carnival. I will give them their props on some of their big costumes, but we have Roy “the Dragon” Ralph, who could compete and win in The Savannah, so there.

Our mas makers take less and do more – take simple materials and do wonders with it. The colour, the style, the strength of theme throughout the band – the geometry makes Vincie mas makers stand out from the rest. Men like Blondie Bird, Puzzle Grant, Melbourne (Jnr Constance) and his brother Ozzie; Dinks, Pilling Pollard, Cas Samuel, Audrey Niles, Yank, Goat, Becks, Avis York, Daf Allen, the young turks at Dragons Cultural Organization, and of course, Roy “the Dragon” Ralph and all the others whose faces I know, but names I can’t remember.

Their skills make us proud at home and abroad and they are keeping a long tradition alive. A tradition that goes back nearly 150 years. As a kid my mother would tell me about Ju Ju from Montrose, Sailors from Bottom Town, Bats from Paul’s Lot, Monkey from Sion Hill (remember Kong ? and Wild Indians from Long Wall – ask Charity), and I saw some of this in my youth as well, and then around 1947 came Raffi and Vincie mas and then pan finally hit the stage.

So big up to Vincie mas makers. I know many of the old mas men have great respect for your talents (and a little envy). Now, all we need is a capable, responsive and responsible, accountable, carnival organizing committee of people who know, understand and are experienced in OUR mas traditions and not slavishly copy Trinidad and Tobago, and not just the political hacks that are appointed each year to (mis) manage our carnival.

A carnival lover. Vincy to de bone.

E. J. Paddy Corea

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