Registration and Costume Collection
There were no major issues with registration especially if you dealt with Charissa. More importantly, I did not need to know a committee member or be in some secret Tribe society to secure a costume.
Costume collection was also very painless. While waiting at the mas camp on Alberto Street, we were treated to water, beer, and one of those silent headphones. Unfortunately, there was a mix up with my costume, so I took a little longer than everyone else to get it. With the costume, a really cute canvas bag was included, which contained a Lost Tribe branded beach towel, some multi symptom tablets, a few coupons, sanitary napkins, a Lost Tribe cup, and some other goodies.
Point to note- I should have done fast track payment and web check in for a quicker process.
I wanted to play in Morgan (designed by Yannick Gibson and Team) but felt the monokini did not cover the obvious bulges, so I opted for the male costume, which was not an issue with the band (but may have caused the problem at collection). The costume was very detailed and comprised of a back pack, jacket, and joggers. Wearing a male costume meant less fuss, and it actually made me feel more comfortable. The backpack was light and everything else held up well throughout the day.
Point to note- I like that Lost Tribe did not have frontline/backline divisions, so everyone felt equal and therefore no reason for costume envy.
Again, no major complaints here. The band left out on time and crossed all of the major stages without a long wait. They looked great, and the seven sisters concept was well executed at the judging points. The lack of frontline/backline divisions also gave the band a uniformed look. I was really sure they would win band of year, but that’s another blog post.
On the road, drinks were flowing and were easy to access, but not so much for the five feet 2 and under crew. I was very grateful to the security guard who noticed my dilemma and got most of my drinks. Also big up the snow cone cart… which was a nice touch and a better alternative for the shorties.
My major complaint on the road was the music (and this is not just for Lost Tribe but for all the bands I’ve played with in recent years). There are literally hundreds of songs, but DJs will only play 10. I had no problem with Soca Kingdom for the stage, but what about the music for the actual road? I’m tired of the hype we give these non-performing DJs who have no clue about how to adequately play and pace soca. But if they can’t effectively play a set in a fete or on the radio, how can we expect them to do so for an entire day?
Point to the note– The music actually got better at the end of the day while the band was on Ariapita Ave. Also, the Laventille Riddim section and the Tassa band added a nice vibe to the road experience.
I am not a fan of lunch stops as it tends to slow down the band and resting for a long period actually makes me more tired. But I was happy to sit and eat my lunch comfortably, use a toilet that was not moving, and touch up my makeup and adjust the costume in front of a full length mirror. The food distribution was quick, the toilets were clean, and the steel pan kept a nice mellow vibe while we rested. Most importantly, my meal was warm and very tasty (and surprisingly was not pelau or Chinese).
Point to note– If you know me, you would guess that my favorite part of the lunch was obviously the doubles and corn soup.
Now we all know that besides crime and laziness, customer service is one of Trinidad and Tobago’s serious challenges. It’s so bad that we’ve come to accept it as a norm. But let me tell you… Lost Tribe could write a how-to manual on customer service. I already mentioned Charissa who answered my one million and one questions and accommodated my request for a male costume. She also made it easy for my dad to make the down payment. At distribution, everyone from Sani and Kendall to Naas and Ceola and others whose names I can’t remember made the process quick and pain free. I didn’t feel like there were preferences for certain masqueraders, but everyone was treated equally in a professional and friendly manner. And at the helm of all of this was the bandleader, Valmiki Maharaj. Valmiki was on the ground personally helping anyone who had an issue with a personality that could win over even caraille. The VIP treatment is definitely one of Lost Tribe’s main strengths.
“The Ultimate Carnival Experience”
Tribe has successfully created an international brand and proved a viable Cultural and Creative industry is possible for Trinidad and Tobago through carnival and its products. They have achieved this by offering an all-inclusive package based on formulaic designs and mass production of costumes. The creation of Lost Tribe, however, aimed to target a more mature and serious masquerader but still offering Tribe’s infamous “ultimate carnival experience”. The real motive here was to promote an alternative to the “bikini and beads” and still make lots of money while keeping the elite image of the band in tact.
Yet, the NCC and its judges refuse to recognize Lost Tribe as worthy of winning band of the year, although well deserved. It seems that Tribe represents a kind of threat to the way carnival is supposed to be because of their profit motive and appeal to real or aspirant VIPers . But why can’t there be room for all? Let Tribe do what they do best and the rest work on preserving other aspects of carnival culture even if it means taking a page or two out of Tribe’s manual. Achieving that balance will be what makes the festival and its bacchanal truly our own.
Featured Image: Kibwe Brathwaite