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MASTER’S VOICE: If San F’do J’Ouvert is dying, then Mayor Regrello has bloody hands

“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:

Photo: San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello.
Photo: San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello.

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.

Photo: Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat enjoys himself during J'Ouvert celebrations in Rio Claro Carnival.
Photo: Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat enjoys himself during J’Ouvert celebrations in Rio Claro Carnival.

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.

Photo: Young revellers enjoy themselves during San Fernando J'Ouvert celebrations on 27 February 2017. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Young revellers enjoy themselves during San Fernando J’Ouvert celebrations on 27 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

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.

About Corey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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10 comments

  1. San Fernando is a city. Has been since 1988.

  2. i am confused about the comment about Patrick and Hazel. Why the politicking, (by the way Savitir is a lady’s name and the pic is a man. why hide your identity. we are having ahonest conversation. Capitalism, more so Band leaders who lack creativity and failure to do research are comfortable with the bikini mas. Trini women (all size and shape) like nakedness for 2 days and then demand respect for the next 363 days. I heard acommentator on one of the radio station said that a band lleader when asked about the story behind his 2017 portrayal, he responded, ther is nothing to tell, it has laready been done by previous bandleaders. Really , has all the stories behind our diverse culture been told, How are movies made, we still see westerns and combat for centuries ago. where did hidden Fences the movie originated>

  3. Maybe it’s dying because it’s became civilized and nobody wants to wear mud or oil. But want to have paint and an all-inclusive band instead. So we have become too middle class and no enough grassroots and educated people involved. We have become people who want instant gratification. Therefore the original concept of old mas in which we have to work and think about satirical signage is too hard.

  4. Regrello is mayor how long ??

  5. Earl Best

    It look like allyuh fraid to say it but me and Lady Gypsy eh fraid to tell it like it is.

    Since a certain political party in power, everything tun ole mas!

    There! i said it. Do your worse.

  6. ..When I read the quote attributed to Regrello I couldn”t believe it either. This is the measute of how far we have travelled from Carnival’s roots..

  7. Give it a couple more years. Doh forget what happened to Patrick and Hazel, but lemme hush eh

  8. Everything in Carnival is dying, simply because Carnival is business. No longer are there creative minds. Jouvert was a t ime when you looked forward to seeing the various topical issues of the past year portrayed by persons. Suddenly everyone is sensitive about everything. Ole mas is politics and satire .