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D’Bess Sailors in town
The Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors (D’Bess) will be for Carnival 2018 paying homage to the bandleaders, designers, wire benders, artists, copper workers, decorators, tailors, seamstresses and everyone involved in Carnival. Committee member Keith Simpson told T&T Guardian: “This will be our fifth year producing a band. We placed second in the small band category on the Band of the Year competition on each occasion, however, unfortunately, disappointingly, and surprisingly, in 2016 all our points at the Savannah competition, were deducted we were placed in fifth position. The reason offered was that we stayed too long on stage. What do you expected? We are sailors and we must display our dance steps on stage. We are not in bikini, feathers and beads.”
This year D’Bess will be joining forces with bpTT Renegades steel orchestra, celebrating its 70th anniversary, and the only steelband in the large band category to achieve a hat trick in the National Panorama finals. “We are very proud to be associated with this great band and we do hope that this partnership continues to grow from strength,” said Simpson. “Renegades Fancy Sailor presentation for 2018 is Smooth Sailor and music will also be supplied by the sweet soca/calypso sounds of DJ Dynamic Sounds on both Carnival days.”
Jerry Serrant stated in an article in his booklet on April 13, 1988, “There is no doubt that the fancy or king sailor is an intriguing arm of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.
However, it seems as if some of the supposed mas’ experts in our midst would have us trade our bell bottoms for bare bottoms. That we should abandon our tradition and sail in the realm of fantasy.”
The fancy or king sailor mas has really come a long way, evolving from the trinity of four Belmont bands of the 1940’s – SS Mischievous, SS Michigan, and SS Sullivan, led by the “redoubtable” Diamond Jim Harding of Colts (The Belmont Battalion).
Jason Griffith first played with Harding in 1946, then Cecil Jobes in 1947 and 1948, before bringing his own band in 1949. Griffith described Harding as “the Grand Master of the Thing,” Thing being not merely the Fancy Sailor mas but the living realisation of “positive community camaradie.”
Griffith, now 90 years, pioneer and still alive but not in the best of health, produced fancy a sailor band under the name Jason Griffith’s Old Fashioned Sailors from 1980 to2000, placing third in the Band of the Year competition at the Queen’s Park Savannah. He states that much of the band’s successes were due to contributions from section leaders – Ancil Mc Lean, Baba George, Ralph Sargeant, Keith Carrington, Leon Rodriguez, Boysie Grant, Boyie Smart, Carl Eastman, Llewellyn Roberts, John Griffith, Phyllis Savary, together with Jim Harding. Added Simpson: “Our costumes are reasonably priced and, on Carnival Tuesday, band members will be provided with breakfast, lunch and refreshments. Please note that many members of this band have been playing this type mas’ and producing sections for as long as 46 years.
Just over a year ago we lost Austin Wilson who played this mas for most of his life.
“Our band will number just around 100 masqueraders and will participate in the Small Band of the Year category. Masqueraders from as far as the USA, United Kingdom and Canada will be playing in the band.
In 2016, our queen, Eyika Luby placed eighth in the Queen of the Band category finals, and will again be our queen. Her father Martin Luby will be our king and will be supported by at least 12 individuals, most of whom will be participating in the category competition.
“Last year our individuals placed first second and third in the Fancy/ King Sailor category. Our designers are Robert Miller and Martin Luby who for years designed for Jason Griffith’s bands. Anyone interested in bringing out a section with the band can contact any of the band’s executive members.
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