Bandleaders: The show will go on - EntornoInteligente / Bandleaders: The show will go on / News day / McIntosh, leader of Ronnie and Caro the Mas Band, said the Central Bank Governor’s statement was too recent and the mas fraternity will not react so quickly. He also said he was waiting for the Minister of Finance to complete his consultations with the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and make a declaration.

Cameron, who heads Trini Revellers, said it is difficult to say to what extent the announcement will affect mas players because Trinidadians have a habit of buying their costumes at the last minute, whenever Carnival happens to be.

“You will get a lot of foreign orders and other mas enthusiasts booking earlier but the brunt of business for all bands, not only large bands, takes place in the early part of the year between January and March.

With Carnival taking place on February 8 and 9, 2016, he said things will be busy in the month of January to ensure costumes are distributed on time.

Cameron added, “As far as I know bands are preparing for Carnival 2016 in the usual manner. That is they have to purchase their materials in advance so most of them would have purchased their materials. They are now in production mode, possibly they may be in a review mode but that would be a personal decision by the respective bands. So each band has its own base and its own loyalty and its own following so it will differ.”

He said the announcement that the country was in a recession should have no impact on the price of costumes. When it was suggested that there might be need for a reduction, Cameron said, “My friend, in business I don’t know how often we see that. You see, to get a reduction, other things will have to happen and we haven’t reached there yet. Do we get duty free concessions on decorative materials? Do we impose a surtax on imported costumes in order to protect the local craft people?”

Cameron noted that some of the companies which usually sponsor mas have already indicated that they have to be very prudent in the New Year and there will be adjustments.

While he admits there weren’t a large number of sponsors, he said they do assist in mitigating some of the costs associated with producing mas.

He said the sponsors do not give handouts and it was usually a case of ‘what is in it for me.” Bandleaders, he said, have to show sponsors where and how they could advertise their product and promote it. In this vein, he said the large mas bands have a lot to offer: they have a number of trucks, banners, websites and a number of other ways they could promote a brand.

“They have a decided advantage when it comes to giving coverage to a brand. So that you the band leader have to be very prudent in negotiating and what you are offering, because you’ve got to offer something.”

Cameron also lamented that there was not enough time to promote and advertise Carnival 2016. Recalling the Ebola scare in 2015 which he said dissuaded many people from playing mas, he said there should have been a big drive to advertise and promote the upcoming Carnival abroad, “because we have a lot of competition and other activities taking place around the same time. You have Brazil Carnival, you have Carnival in New Orleans two months afterwards.

“Not because you are a Trinidadian and you are accustomed playing mas that you are coming to play every year. You have to promote it too because I am telling you that people have other attractions, so we have to promote the festival in a meaningful way.”

He said the public should have been alerted to the launch of Carnival earlier this year. “The Ministry of Culture must be liaising with the different High Commission offices in the UK (Notting Hill); Broward; Toronto in order to do mini launches… and invite all the travel agents, media, etc, so you will have a mini show presenting costumes of Trinidad and Tobago. Things like that will start a focus and put Carnival in the minds of all.”

Bandleader McIntosh told Business Day that his mas camp was also running as normal, and although masqueraders had made deposits they still had a final payment to make. He said the band is not totally sold out “so we are still depending on masqueraders to come in.” He noted masqueraders are joining the band at the usual pace for December and said he would have to wait until after Christmas to make an assessment of what effect the tough economic times were having on masqueraders. “At this point the (Central Bank Governor’s) statement is having no effect at all.”

He declined to speculate on what effect the recession would have on Carnival in 2017. “You see, Carnival is special to Trinidad and Tobago. It’s also a money maker. Some people do not pay attention to the kind of income Carnival generates so Carnival also adds to the economy so let us not speculate on 2017 now. As I said, Carnival generates income unlike a lot of things in this country.”

He criticised what he called “out of timing” statements which he said are often made around Carnival time, saying that last year there was the issue of Ebola which put off a lot of masqueraders. He said he still had costumes in boxes from Carnival 2015, but declined to say how many or what was the financial impact on the band. According to Ronnie, there were many bands which did not stage their presentations and there were a lot of cancellations based on the statements which were made about Ebola.

Trini Revellers is celebrating Woodbrook with its 2016 presentation, “A Touch of Woodbrook Then and Now.” Costumes range from $2,100 to $4,800

Ronnie and Caro is catering for approximately 1,500 masqueraders in 2016 with the price of costumes ranging from $3,500 to $6,000.

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