“Is it that the ole mas is dying out on its own or is it an assisted ‘death’?
“A long-running sentiment among ole masqueraders—including those from a band I am currently writing a book on—is that there have been influential people in the San Fernando City Corporation who became displeased with the ole mas side of J’Ouvert because they consider it too political in its portrayals and dislike the irreverent way political figures and parties were made the objects of ridicule in the streets.”
The following Letter to the Editor on San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello’s view on San Fernando’s J’Ouvert celebrations was submitted to Wired868 by Corey Gilkes of La Romaine:
I want to believe that the Mayor of San Fernando was misquoted. It has to be that. It was reported that his response to the claim that Ole Mas was dying in San Fernando’s J’Ouvert celebrations was that the bandleaders should just accept that and move with the times.
No way someone like Junia Regrello, a major figure in the steelband fraternity, could state such defeatist nonsense. Imagine what south steelband would have been, indeed pan in general, if more people adopted that regressive view other than what currently exists.
So younger people aren’t as involved in ole mas as older folks, why? What conversations have you had with them? More importantly, what did you do to encourage greater participation on their part?
When people are LEADERS and not just in positions of leadership that’s what they do: use their imagination and their office to effect progressive change. But is it that the ole mas is dying out on its own, or is it an assisted “death”?
A long-running sentiment among ole masqueraders—including those from a band I am currently writing a book on—is that there have been influential people in the San Fernando City Corporation who became displeased with the ole mas side of J’Ouvert because they consider it too political in its portrayals and dislike the irreverent way political figures and parties were made the objects of ridicule in the streets.
It didn’t matter that ALL figures are lampooned, the fact is that certain sacred cows must never be touched.
Ole Mas in Trinidad Carnival was the principal way people who politically had and still have little political representation expressed what affected their lives. This was freedom of expression at its finest and as one ole masqueraders argues, the purest form of democracy.
Politically correct, however, it is not—nor should it be. To the trained eye, it also provides very useful windows into Trinbago’s social history and sociology as interpreted by ordinary people, some of whom cyar even spell sociology, but had powers of understanding far more insightful than some intellectuals I’ve encountered.
I’ve followed Ole Mas in San Fernando for years and saw the rise of “jersey” bands following music trucks that essentially had little artistry and even less in the way of social commentary or any kind of commentary. This has had an unintended consequence—or is it intended?—of shifting the younger people away from the ole mas where many of them were actually playing.
A similar thing occurred in the early 20th century with the rise of pretty mas; evidence points to it being undertaken to de-politicise the “Jammette” portrayals which evoked disgust among the elites and which was seen as subversive.
Whatever the current reason, if the Mayor takes the position he seems to be taking, then he had better know that if ole Mas dies, eventually so too will J’Ouvert itself. And then, with the revenue from that drying up, he’ll be in an even more difficult position. So careful what you call for.