While I am still on bed-rest, recovering from the sinus cold I contracted over Carnival, I am now in a coherent position to dispel the mystery and suspense with which I left many regarding my statuses about playing mas with Tribe.
Do not get me wrong; I did have fun this Carnival and that was ALL thanks to my close circle of friends. I won’t deny that Tribe had some vibes but the hype based on its theme this year, “Tribe Ten” – in tribute to its tenth year anniversary – meant many former masqueraders returned to the fold. This created havoc on the road as the band was just too large. It felt even too large for the road itself. Instead of wining and getting on wild, as many of you are accustomed to seeing me, I spent more time chipping – walking briskly, in some instances – to keep up with the band and not get lost, or lose my crew, in the enormity of the crowd. Taking a moment to stop, push back and wine down low risked being left behind.
Drinks were another problem. I am not inclined to run down a drinks truck. Where there were less people and I was able to grab the attention of a bar attendant, I don’t know how getting my drink order wrong is possible. I can certainly discern ‘gin’ from ‘scotch’ or ‘rum,’ even if a big truck is blaring soca and by reading someone’s one lips. I drank it regardless because it was just too much trouble to get a new one.
The problem with lunch wasn’t the food or the refresher tents – where female masqueraders could retouch makeup and male masqueraders could deodorize – but the venue. Perhaps for such a mammoth crowd, Jackson Square is a manageable site. However, having masqueraders sit in many dusty areas is unacceptable. Outside of the chances of that dust getting into food, it was the fact that costumes and footwear were dirty by the time it was ready to hit the road again. Bands like Island People take their masqueraders to sit-down venues like Queen’s Park Oval. It would have been nice if Tribe did something similar.
The Socadrome was overrated and proved that such a move was an attempt to segregate mas by class. Masqueraders still had to wait to hit the smaller stage there. Despite the ‘drome not being a judging point, Tribe STILL wanted masqueraders to get in their sections (to parade in front of an audience of about 100 people, if so much). This made no sense to me as Tribe has always prided itself a party band. I was barred from crossing with another section by a chain of security officials, despite the fact that others not in that section had gotten on the stage and despite the fact that, when I looked behind me, hardly anyone was in their section. Which crew of friends in Trinidad – every SINGLE one of them – plays mas altogether in the same section? None that I have ever come across. Tribe was mad if I was about to get in my section and risk losing my friends for the rest of the day. I eventually broke through to the disapproval of the security. However, the music seemed like a distant drone by this time.
Overall, for the amount of money I spent to play with Tribe this year – more than my monthly rent – I feel slightly cheated and disappointed that the experience it promises you in their masquerader’s guide is never the reality you really get. Carnival could’ve been a lot better but Tribe is all about the hype of its name, the loyalty to which ‘chosen few’ are entitled, and the created elitism that results.
Cultural researcher by choice, culture lover by nature, DJ MACO is a Canadian-born but Caribbean-bred chutney soca-cologist during the day and an amateur beat-mixer by night. When he’s not working on his PhD, he’s busy pelting waist, drinking gin and rum (in that order) and living life like he’s playing mas. He’s really not that macocious, by the way, and you can reach him at