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An ‘Enless’ band for mas’ addicts
Three years into leading a section for Fantasy and a much longer period as a masquerader, enter Avinash Suruj with Enless Carnival—a band promising to deliver a total Carnival experience.
It’s no typo; Suruj actually means “Enless,” signifying “a lot”—or more value for money spent. The enterprise was launched in March.
The 33-year-old graduate in economics views Carnival and mas’ as a business opportunity to be grasped, and he hopes to do so in 2019 … with both hands. “It’s an industry where there is no real substitute for the product,” he argues. “Once you play mas’ one time, you also become addicted to it.”
Such a view forms the basis for Suruj’s thesis that Carnival bands need to identify and build niche constituencies and to deliver a high quality experience to a cohort of masqueraders whose desire to participate has been proven not to be heavily affected by market conditions, including the escalating cost of getting involved.
For this reason, the band is not aiming for the big numbers of the more popular competitors but sufficient to ensure a safe and enjoyable “total” Carnival experience for participants, while yielding financial rewards.
“People become involved and continue playing mas, though the market is always changing—there are always new people being added,” he claims. “I can’t remember a time in a Carnival year when there has been a downturn (in participation) ... whatever the situation.”
He cites Carnival 2018 when there were security concerns. “That did not hamper preparations (or) the vibe in the band,” Suruj says. “And this goes to show that it is one of the industries in the country where the demand for the product is very inelastic.”
Design Director of the band, Rieshma Kallap-Gonzales, says the focus will be on quality production of costumes and adaptability to suit individual requirements.
“The quality of our costumes so far will be fantastic,” she says. “As a female, masquerader for example, I have found myself walking around with a tube of glue to stick down a gem or something.”
According to the medical representative and seasoned Carnival campaigner, people need to know that the bands they pay a lot of money to become a part of, are aware of their needs and are prepared to invest in meeting them. For example, the band will feature “executive toilets” and on-the-move costume repair services.
There is however no suggestion, so far, that the band will attempt to outdo the creative offerings of a stalwart such as Peter Minshall. Both Suruj and Kallap-Gonzales are holding design concepts close to their chests at the moment, but insist that the band experience will be more than just a fancy costume.
For balance, veteran designer and nine-time Carnival King Curtis Eustace will be working with the band for 2019 to bring a feature of traditional fancy mas’ to the outfit.
According to Suruj, the design elements of the band will “merge the different styles” of “bikini and beads and the traditional.” So while Enless Carnival will in fact be a “party band” there will be “a big show piece”—a large traditional costume - leading the band.
“We are trying not to lose the historical aspect, but that is not going to affect the bikini and the beads,” the new bandleader says.
He is also not focusing too heavily on the competitive element of Port-of-Spain Carnival mas’. “That is an option we can only decide based on the routes that the NCC assigns,” he says.
Suruj argues that masquerader security is “of utmost importance” and that the band will look at the “tradeoff” between the need to do well in the competition and the security of players.
He however recognises the significance of crossing the main Queen’s Park Savannah stage. “Crossing the staging is a really remarkable experience that all masqueraders enjoy and is the pinnacle of the (Carnival) Monday and Tuesday experience,” Suruj says.
The Enless Carnival crew is not short on confidence ahead of formal announcements on design and cost. Suruj and his team believe they have found a winning formula form Carnival success.
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