March 02, 2009

Bitten By The Ole Mas Bug

Carnival is over!

Now I have to confess something. I have been bitten by the Ole Mas Bug. Here is how it happened.

I was going to play in Brian Mc Farlene’s AFRICA, Her People, Her Glory, Her Tears. Then the financial forecasts made me act with more restraint and I changed my mind. There were invitations to join several J’ouvert bands, among them Coco Devils at $450.00 per person. I was tempted because I love J’ouvert and playing with my partner is not safe, unless we move with a big crew. Still, that would mean shelling out $900.00 just for some cocoa, rum and doubles along with a feeling of security. But I say what, I was willing to do it just to play. I had not played J’ouvert in over five years, having been abroad and as the soca tune put it, “Ah Tusty!” You could imagine my disappointment when on the day I went to pay, everything that could go wrong did including the Coco Devils contact not showing up to collect her money. I took it as a sign, “This is not meant to be either!”

So there I was, Carnival Friday, band-less, costume-less and desperate to immerse myself among the throngs of people in order to conduct my part of this orchestra of human energy. When I thought all was hopeless, my darling Muse visited me and I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to play Ole Mas.


Still, I knew I had to participate in Carnival in some way, especially after Panorama and 3Canal’s Joy & Fire Show at Queen’s Hall. The Jumbie had bitten me hard and after seeing Machel’s show, well, it was J’ouvert or die! I was feeling like this year more than any other year, I needed to be out there. I could skip the all-inclusives, in fact I did not go to a single one this year, even though complementary tickets were offered. I could skip playing pretty mas but this year, J’ouvert was essential.

You see, there is a profound spiritual ritual that takes place during this time. The steel drums call upon the Great Mother. We dance with the abandon of Shiva. The drinking and dancing are odes to Pan and Bacchus. As an eclectic pagan, I know this festival is more than meets the eye. It is one of many important collective human energetic processes around the globe. I won’t go into great detail now but I believe our Carnival is a sacred thing even if all some see is debauchery and sexual expression. I am also not alone. Among the reveling throng are conscious souls who know what is truly going on at this time and we focus our energies on connecting the spirits of everyone with our Mother, Father and lift up the light, heat and sound to heaven and send it down into the womb of the soil for the good of this land and our people.

Ole Mas has skipped several generations and the public servants of our culture have relegated it to a brief competition on South Quay. Ole Mas is no longer the essential part of the living breathing humanity of Carnival itself that is used to be. We have turned everything into a party and everything outside of that, we shove away in a place few can witness it.



So there I was, Carnival Friday, band-less, costume-less and desperate to immerse myself among the throngs of people in order to conduct my part of this orchestra of human energy. When I thought all was hopeless, my darling Muse visited me and I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to play Ole Mas.

Now, I have seen what is called, “Performance Art” all over the place, from angels gliding through Brighton on Segways hidden under their long gowns to street theatre and stunts. You don’t have to go to the Edinburgh Festival or ride the New York subway to see performance art. Right here in Trinidad and Tobago, we have performance art too during the Carnival season but it is dying . The reason for this is because Ole Mas has skipped several generations and the public servants of our culture have relegated it to a brief competition on South Quay. Ole Mas is no longer the essential part of the living breathing humanity of Carnival itself that is used to be. We have turned everything into a party and everything outside of that, we shove away in a place few can witness it. A growing generation will never experience Ole Mas on the South Quay because all they know is chipping around St. Clair, surrounded by security.

How lucky are we Trinbagonians to have on this special time, the chance to become clowns, prophets, minstrels and mockers and be respected for it! We can become anything we want from four am to around 10 am in the morning!


There are other ways to blow off steam than drink, chip, wine and jam behind a music truck. Many often find that even after the full abandon of J’ouvert, they have not really released all their pent up steam. That is because of artistic malnourishment leading to a deficiency of individual creative expression.

How lucky are we Trinbagonians to have on this special time, the chance to become clowns, prophets, minstrels and mockers and be respected for it! We can become anything we want from four am to around 10 am in the morning! Men can dress as women. Women can dress as men. Always wanted to wear a diaper and run through the town incognito screaming, “I POO! You POO! We all POO!” well here is your chance! Yet what do we wind up doing? Blending back into the masses like the whipped followers we have allowed ourselves to become. This living breathing humanity of course, now chip through the suburbs in security protected bands and perhaps never see an Ole Mas portrayal all season long. Sad isn’t it? That is not true release or at least complete release.

There is a way for two women to go out on the street at four am in the morning and be safe outside an all inclusive band. That way, is to transform oneself in costume and become a performance artist and that my friends is exactly what I did.
On J’ouvert Morning I became...

“The Recession Devil”.



I wining and you wailing
It is my time of reckoning
You like the luxury of a nice big bumper
Come for a juk if you eh fraid de endless picker
The juicy things we want will be painful to enjoy
But that should not mean the end of your joy.




To drive the point home, I made a mocking sign saying, “Come For A Juk!” The men who tried that morning found it a hilariously difficult challenge.

My partner became an ex-Clico executive sporting a “$10 B Hole” by her bottom and she wielded a sign saying, “Recession Juking Meh Ass!”



Of course, I had spikes on my sign and I was following behind her, pretend-jukking her along the road. As the morning wore on, we removed her Clico tie pin and label and cleverly altered the sign to simply read, “Recession Meh Ass!” to which we received cheers of jubilation. Yup, we laughed in the face of this recession and said, “You will NOT defeat me!”

We did all that, plus maintained a pleasantly sweet lucid inebriation and broke loose with friends we met on the road, some who paid one set of money just to look and act like everyone else. Most importantly though, we made people laugh. The memory of two Trinidadian men who now live in New York, falling on the ground and rolling with laughter when they saw us and then coming to give us a “bounce” of approval was better than any prize money and all the justification I needed. One lady, so drunk, she had a permanent come hither expression, yelled, “You DAMN right! They cannot stop we! Recession Meh Ass!”

If we want Ole Mas to survive, more of us need to stop joining bands and start blaizing our own trails. Stop waiting around to be entertained and put on your own show for all to see. Think about it, all year long, we have to conform to what people expect and I will be damned if on J’ouvert morning I also have to conform again.


When we were too tired to go anymore, we crashed by an old friend Mikey who told us that years ago, he used to put on a full doctor’s suit and stetoscope costume and turn into Doctor Gramaxone for J’ouvert. He would carry a bottle of green coloured liquid with the skull and cross bones label on it and approach people, pretend to examine them with the stetoscope and then prescribe them a few teaspoons of his “Gramaxone”.
“You look like you need some Gramaxone, here take this and have two teaspoons a day with meals,” he would say, serious as ever.


The weedicide was of course was just rum with green food colouring. You see, the thing about Performance Art is that it does not have to make sense to everybody. Those who got it found it gut splitting funny. Those who didn’t get it just found it weird and that’s okay too. Dr. Gramaxone was not done for competition but just as a form of personal expression amongst the J’ouvert revelers.

If we want Ole Mas to survive, more of us need to stop joining bands and start blaizing our own trails. Stop waiting around to be entertained and put on your own show for all to see. Think about it, all year long, we have to conform to what people expect and I will be damned if on J’ouvert morning I also have to conform again. Mickey better be ready to resurrect Dr. Gramaxone next year because I coming out with Nurse Racket and Warden Warahoo and we taking on the dotish and deficient local health system.

3 comments:

Guanaguanare said...

So this is what I've been missing all these years? I MUST have done my psyche a grave mischief! ;)

Attillah wrote her piece on Carnival also along similar lines. I've said elsewhere what my concerns are but I do think that you chose the least wasteful, most creative way to go and your concepts were clever.

Jessica, you should update your list of blogs. Guacara Dreamtime no longer exists.
Blessings

Jessica said...

I read Attillah's blog and it was GREAT!

This gives me hope that there is an undercurrent of positivity and change to which certain people are connected.

We may be off doing our own missions and walking our various spiritual paths, but we are still connected and we will together bring about change without having to resort to infrastructural organisation and conformity in this daily life.

I trust in the Dreamtime, the dimension where we all go and meet and plot our Earth's victorious return ;)

Will update the Guacara Dreamtime.

Love up and light up!

Guanaguanare said...

Yes, I believe in the Dreamtime and I do believe that we all take different paths to get there. I like your "the dimension where we all go and meet and plot our Earth's victorious return ;)"

Goes hand in hand with my rallying cry:

AHAKUTUWATIWA, ALĂ‹LEKATIWA, AKUYAWATIWA!
We awake, we laugh, we return!

Blessings