Saturday, January 17, 2004

Missing Minshall

Well, Mr Minshall hasn't said that he is out of mas forever so I can't say it is the end of an era but I am going to miss him for more reasons than one. In fact I am going to miss him for a whole band of reasons, my band the Laventille Rhythm Section at wit's end over what we are going to do on Carnival Tuesday now that man for whom we have played since inception has put down, if only temporarily, his baton.

If, indeed, the move is permanent I don't see a single man or band on the Carnival horizon willing or able to take up that baton, all the bandleaders on the stage happy with the returns they get for celebrating the "body beautiful" whatever the skimpiness of costume used to afford the necessary exposure.

By the look of things we are in the minority here but there remains, well, a band of us wedded to the tradition that mas is, well, mas, that you entered the character whose costume you wore, that you were not in fact playing you but a sailor or an Indian or a helicopter pilot (complete with parachute) or a rat or a picoplat, all of which and more I have played.

As it is now, and has been often lamented, one mas, plus or minus a standard or two, is as superficial as the other, the question raised being which of these masses (masses? Nah, must be "mas" singular and plural too) will be remembered say, ten, twenty, thirty years from now, Sally's "Imperial Rome", "Holy War", Bailey's "Back to Africa," "Relics of Egypt", Lee Heung's "China, the Forbidden City," "Paradise Lost", "McWilliams' "The Wonders of Buccoo Reef", Berkeley's "Secrets of the Sky," "Genesis" to say nothing , of course, of Minshall's "Carnival of the Sea", "Jungle Fever" still dancing in mine and the public mind.

-- From Keith Smith's column in yesterday's Express.

Whether you like him or not, mas without Minshall is like callaloo without coconut milk--you can still make it but it just doesn't taste the same.

Forget the temperamental nature of the man, the last-minute costumes, the incomplete kings--remember instead the wings, the constructions that lived and breathed and moved, the reinvention of moko jumbies, the yards of fabric that transformed into pulsing, vibrant water. This is invention, innovation, masquerade--the individual becoming, for those two days, another entity, a vital part of something bigger than oneself.

As a child I watched mas on TV with my mother and whether Minshall came on at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m., we waited to see him. Now mas on TV constitutes little more than the red section, the blue section and the gold section.

-- From a letter written by "A Reader", published in today's Express.

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