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Tobago bandleaders upset with results

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Tobago Carnival bandleaders congregate outside the office of the Tobago Festivals Commission in Scarborough on Thursday. PHOTO: CASANDRA THOMPSON-FORBES

Carnival bandleaders in Tobago are disgruntled with the results of the Band of the Year competition and are calling for the resignation of the executive of the Tobago Festivals Committee headed by chairman Wendell Berkely. Skandalus’ portrayal Rites of Spring copped the attractive prize of $120,000, while Minstrells of Tobago took the second spot with their presentation Big Minstrells’ Jubilee and are expected to collect $100,000.


Speaking outside the Tobago Festivals Committee office at Dutch Fort, Scarborough, on Thursday, representatives from the both the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) and the Tobago Carnival Bands Association (TCBA) told the media that the placement of Minstrells of Tobago in second place was an unfair call.


The band is headed by Lenn Toppin, the husband of Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development Vernella Alleyne–Toppin. The bandleaders say the Minstrells of Tobago had no place in the line-up for Band of the Year honours as it was a small band with approximately 20 masqueraders and was in contention in the Traditional Mas segment and actually emerged winners in both categories.


They are also saying that the traditional bands should not be judged with the conventional bands and are now questioning the qualifications of the members of the Tobago Festivals Committee and the judges used during the Carnival season at the various judging points.


Vice-president of NCBA Tobago and bandleader of Stoute Next Generation Candice Chang–Sandy said following the announcement of the results her colleagues are disgruntled, disenchanted and disheartened. She said the committee is filled political appointees who do not have Tobago Carnival at heart.


“I am not going to put water in my mouth to say that the Festivals Committee is filled with political appointees because maybe of their party’s affiliation, friends or family members and it is a number of persons who don’t have a clue about Carnival,” she said. “It is about time we get rid of these people and put people who are interested in the development and the upliftment of mas on the island.


“Mas is an industry all around the world, but for some reason in Tobago we are just stagnant because we don’t have a committee taking us anywhere,” she said. Chang–Sandy said the most contentious issue was the judging of the bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday as they believe the appointed judges were not appropriately trained to carry out their duties.


“I want to know how the judges were trained...I want to know who trained the judges and I want to know how long they were trained because for me from where I sit those judges were not trained,” she said. “The Minstrells were first in the Small Bands category and second in the Senior Band of the Day category.


“The Senior Band of the Day category is supposed to be for conventional bands so I am trying to understand how could a judge look at a band, same members same clothes, same banner, one performance on the stage and judge them in two different categories?


“Not only that, they need to tell us if the Minstrells had the correct proportion of masqueraders to compete in the senior category.” According to the rules of the TFC, bands must have an 80 to 20 per cent ratio of adults to children under the age of 18 in order to particicpate in the Senior Parade of the Bands.



Meanwhile, chairman of the Tobago Carnival Bandleaders Association Jemma Bedlow said her members are tired of the same process every year. She said her group represented 18 organisations including large, medium, and small bands, both senior and junior bands, night mas and J’Ouvert bands and they have decided if the reoccurring issues are not addressed, they will not be participating in Carnival 2014.


“It is wrong and we as bandleaders are saying enough is enough and if the executive council do not step in now, in 2014 it will only have about three bands in Scarborough,” she said. “We are not bringing any mas and I am not speaking about me only, I talking about bandleaders...we are tired and fed up.”


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