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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mas Jumbies Review

Written by Squeezle:

Mas Jumbies ( was conceived by Brian Wong Won, a Trinidadian artist based in Florida. His 2007 J'Ouvert offering was called 'Diable' and my boyfriend and I had such a wonderful experience participating in that presentation that we decided to play in his 2008 band entitled 'JAB'

Costume ordering (price range US$42 to US$60 all-inclusive):This being only the second year that Mas Jumbies has been in existence,they have yet to form the type of following that results in a mad rush for costumes. So I knew I could afford to take my time making a decision about what section to play in. I was torn between the Jab Rouge and Jab Noir for some time, but eventually decided on Noir because of the
impact that our black costumes made last year. The ordering procedure (done via PayPal) was entirely painless and trouble-free, and Brian even gave us a US$10 discount on our costumes, presumably to reward our loyalty. Whatever the reason, his generosity was greatly appreciated.

Costume collection:
I almost feel like I should omit this portion because Brian once again went above and beyond and delivered the costumes to our hotel himself. From what I understand, costume distribution was being handled out of an apartment complex in Cocorite, which would have been easy enough to get to if we needed to pick them up ourselves. It must have been quite a scene in there, and the macco in me was secretly wishing I could have gone over there to take a look. Maybe next year.

The costume components included a headpiece, necklace, short sarong, arm bands and optional standard - matching body paint is provided at the meeting area. Also included were a plastic whistle, metal spoon (I think everybody knows what that's for) as well as small Mas Jumbies towel, a map of Port-of-Spain as and detailed instructions about the meeting area and route.

J'Ouvert morning:
It seems that Mas Jumbies created quite a splash with their 2007 presentation, because our numbers had swelled from 35 masqueraders to about 150 this year. I had heard that the majority of the band would be foreigners, so I was very curious to see how the group would fare on the road. The band was to assemble at 3 a.m. at the back of Victoria Square for a warm-up session with the DJ and tassa band, featuring Irish coffee among the many beverages available, and we were then scheduled to roll
out at 3:45 to make our way to the judging point in town. We arrived at around 3:20 to find a group of masqueraders applying their body paint, while being served the advertised Irish coffee, as well as other beverages and snacks. However, the DJ truck and tassa bands had yet to make an appearance. I have to say this was expected, as this is a new band that is experiencing some growing pains and often has to depend on untested sources for their supplies, entertainment, etc. This was in no
way preventing us from having a good time liming, drinking, taking pictures and chipping around serenaded by the drinks truck's sound system, as Brian and his team made frantic phone calls to locate the missing DJ and tassa band.

After over an hour of waiting, we finally got word that the DJ had made it into Port of Spain and the band was ready to move out. The tassa band was still nowhere to be found, and we later learned that they had been stopped by the police because they had no permit to take their truck into the city at the hour they were travelling. Had they entered Port of Spain earlier (as they were instructed to do) they would not have run into any problems. So the band made a beeline for South Quay accompanied by the DJ truck and an impressively burly group of security staff. The many Germans, Americans and Canadians in the band were having quite a time and most of them were chipping and wining like native-born Trinis in no time at all. Of course there were the few very amusing exceptions, but that only added to the fun.

Since our massive stormer experience of 2007, Brian had taken great pains to make sure that security would not be an issue for us this year, and the staff was totally on-point, complete with ropes surrounding the masqueraders just like a big-time 'pretty mas' band. While waiting to cross the judging point, we were entertaining the crowd, and each other, with our antics and generally having a fantastic time. I was hard pressed to determine which section was the most badly behaved. Jab Bleu, two sections behind us, were throwing down some lewdly hilarious dance moves, but I think that the Imps, in the lead section, were outdoing them with general wildness. We got quite a reception from the crowd, who must have been impressed not only by Brian's avant-garde depiction of jab-jabs, but also with the wining skills of some of these foreigners.

Of course it was the one masquerader who was 'skipping' down the road that got the most news coverage. But we must have made quite an impact in our first year of competition, because, I'm very proud to announce, that we, in our first year of competing, placed THIRD for J'Ouvert Band of the Year!!!!

The band then made its way through Independence Square and headed down Abercromby Street. At this point, the drinks truck ran out of Carib, so we switched to a canned rum and cola beverage (the name escapes me) which was quite tasty. I don't think Brian had anticipated the large group of last-minute masqueraders, or the immense alcohol capacity of this mostly European crowd, so it came as no surprise to me when stocks started running low. And anyone who thought that these masqueraders had exhausted their bag of tricks was in for quite a shock. This is where the bad behaviour really escalated. One of the Imps hijacked a passing mud band, stole a bucket of mud and proceeded to anoint any and everyone in her sight. After a few minutes of this, the mud bucket was finally rescued by its rightful owner, but the Imps were not to be daunted. Having spied a large puddle of mud in the street, some Imps then embarked on a mud wrestling/wining escapade on the asphalt that had the rest of us doubled over with laughter (and questioning the sanity of German people in general).

After passing Victoria Square again, Mas Jumbies planned to head back east for another jaunt. But at this point the sun was clearly visible, and the numbers of upright masqueraders had been reduced to about 60 or 70 people, so we decided to make our way back to the hotel to see about the business of washing off the paint and mud and making ourselves presentable for Monday mas. I was somewhat reluctant to leave, but I desperately needed some rest, and the drinks truck supplies were running dangerously low and I didn't want to be around the Imps if that bar bus'. I have no doubt that they would have overturned the drinks truck and drank the gasoline out of the tank!

So with the sun rising quickly behind us, we walked along Tragarete Road back to our hotel, speculating as to what Mas Jumbies has in store for us in 2009. Brian has told me some of his ideas, which I will not divulge without his permission, and they are certainly ambitious and quite appealing. I will only say that if you plan to play in this band in 2009, I hope you look good in red!
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