Memories of big mas’ in T&T
Big mas’ as columnist Michael Lashley fondly remembers it in Trinidad and Tobago, when the spectacle held a place of creative glory that he longs to see restored.
“Memories may be beautiful, and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget.”
My memories of “big mas” in Trinidad and Tobago are indelible.
George Bailey and Harold “Sally” Saldenah (father of Toronto Bandleader Louis Saldenah) stand out like Gods reigning supreme over all other bandleaders in the Pantheon of Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival from the 1950’s to the 1970’s and beyond.
Big mas’ was a term which was used to refer to the bands with hundreds or thousands of costumed masqueraders and large floats depicting historical themes, legends, cultures and civilizations.
These depictions involved the creative interpretation and rendition, in street theatre style, of the daily and ceremonial lives of various peoples: their flowing robes and their scantily simple clothes; their luxurious castles/palaces and their simple abodes; their ornate places of worship and their humble places of work.
I choose to share these memories with readers in today’s world because big mas’ in T&T is no more. It has been cast away in the mother of all carnivals (Rio, I am sorry!), but not just by the winds of change. It remains in suspended animation, waiting to be resuscitated. Its temporary and unworthy successors most frequently reduce this noble art form to expensive but skimpy outfits of beads, bikinis and glitter.
Big mas’ has not yet been restored to its place of glory in T&T because individuals, interest groups, governments and indeed almost the whole society do not yet have the guts, the sense of responsibility, and the enterprising spirit.
They choose to not see that, in spite of the hard work involved, this task can and must be accomplished.
It is quite achievable. It is a venture that will restore an important aspect of the country’s artistic life and its cultural legacy. It will also enhance T&T’s entertainment industry and its revenue from tourism.
With this column, I am pleased to provide for your enjoyment a look at big mas’ in its heyday.