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Tobago Carnival - Ready for D Road


By Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson


Thursday 28 January 2016



The Jamaicans describe something that’s deceptively strong or powerful as lickle but talawa; Becket sang “small pin does jook hard”. So Tobago -  though smaller in size and regarded as the more serene of the twin island republic - when it comes to carnival jooks hard and is lickle but talawa.


Although there’s currently a budgetary crisis in T&T with a reported 7% cut to Tobago House of Assembly [THA] spending on Bago Carnival - and similar reductions to support for August’s Heritage Festival and April’s Jazz Experience - this hasn’t harmed the enthusiasm of Tobagonians.


With the season already started in T&T the period up to the Festival Weekend concluding Ash Wednesday on 10 February witnesses a hectic schedule of events in both islands.


Launched in Roxborough at Pirates Bay Pub Bago Carnival has all the ingredients of the world famous pre-Lenten celebrations. Several Calypso/Kaiso Tents showcase the island’s singers, Steel Pan Yards are gearing up, the New Tobago Soca Monarch is crowned, and J’ouvert is anticipated in Roxborough, Crown Point and downtown Scarborough heralding the 75 plus registered Carnival Bands [junior, senior and traditional including Pretty and Mud] displaying their Mas.  Until then events nationwide announce the coming festival of road tunes, pan, Calypso, Soca and Mas - but with a unique rootsy/rootical Tobagonian flavour. 


Pan players around the island are getting in their practice and the sounds of the 30 plus competing sides are heard when driving past Pan Yards or - for those fortunate enough to live close by one of the many Yards dotted around Tobago - late into the night at feverish rehearsals.


At the National Panorama Championships in Queens Park Savannah last Sunday in the semi-finals of the Medium Conventional Band category five of the 10 final places were secured by Tobagonian sides - Katzenjammers, Buccooneers, Steel Xplosion, Dixieland and West Side Symphony.


Calypso is a big fixture still and displaying the versatility and flexibility of a Calypsonians THA Community Development and Culture Secretary Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus has been in attendance at both D Masters and Magnificent Glow Kaiso Tents to hear modern day chantwells/griots share their views in song.


Gerard Balfour with his song "D Baddest" is the inaugural New Tobago Soca Monarch, a title with a different name he also won last year. Caston Cupid took second place with his song "Mischief", and veteran Calypsonian Michael Baker placed third with his song "TnT Carnival/Music in Mih Head". In all 22 artists stepped up for the New Tobago Soca Monarch [NTSM] competition and finalists joined compatriots Shurwayne Winchester, The Mighty Shadow and [Princess] Adanna - already selected to compete at the International Soca Monarch [ISM] Semi-Finals - and the opportunity to perform at the 05 February Fantastic Friday ISM finals in Trinidad.


Traditional carnival mas’ is prevalent in Tobago. Registration deadlines are looming whilst masqueraders prepare for the jump up. In Tobago two types stand out. Pretty and Mud, alongside several J’ouvert bands.


conventional [especially pretty] mas, has flowered over the years - MovementBago’s Paint Powder and Glow is sure to be popular and its counterpart mud mass, though less intricate, is no less creative and embedded in carnival and Tobagonian cultural heritage.


Evolving since that time the band - since Carnival 2010 – and its followers have been the multi-colored revelers adorned with body paint and mud. 


The Bagatelle/Calder Hall/Fort George neighbourhoods, which overlook Scarborough, are renowned as fertile ground for carnival traditions. The Hill has a proud history of mas bands, Jab Jabs, traditional carnival characters and Bagatelle’s popular Dutty Camp Mudern Mud Mas Band is reported to be the pioneer mud section, its forerunners hitting the streets of Bago Carnival in 1971 where traditional black devil participants are said to have outnumbered mud mas..


We ready for D road!



By Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson 


Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson is a Caribbean/London based arts editor, writer and journalist for www.thenewblackmagazine.com. 

He writes about political, social and cultural issues.


Bago Carnival Jooks Hard

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