Ole Mas is, as the name suggests, old mas which consists of the traditional characters portrayed in Carnival long ago. Some of these characters are still present in J’ouvert such as jab jabs and jab molassies. While other characters are seen in Monday mas that occurs on Monday evening after all the J’ouvert celebrations. Thousands of people come out in sometimes part of their costumes to have some fun on the streets. Here is where one gets the opportunity to see some traditional mas. there are also ole mas that takes place in certain areas of the country.
I had the opportunity to witness ole mas in Gasparillo when i was a child, and even though it was a long time ago, the memory still burns bright within me. That was a very thrilling experience for me. I was thoroughly frightened by the Jab Molassies and Jab Jab with their whips and fire breathing, but at the same time i was intrigued by them, let’s just say it was a mixture of fright and excitement. I had the opportunity to see some of the most amazing characters that many children may not even be aware off today. There were characters like the Fancy Indians and Cow Bands and don’t forget the moko jumbies!!… I’m not really afraid of heights but seeing them up there on those stilts created a definite fear though! I was amazed as to how brave they were to walk around on stilts some really high and some that were normal, there were even children on stilts! I definitely envied them wondering if I had the courage to walk around on these things without walking into someone or something or even being tripped by something. Wow! Some other characters were also more interesting to me such as The Bookman and the Midnight Robber, I loved listening to his story. There were also some really funny characters like the Dame Lorraine , Negue Jardin and the Pierrot Grenade.
Being part of an experience like this was informative as well as entertaining. I believe that kids these days aren’t really aware of the history of Carnival or its traditions and culture, and this stigma isn’t even conditioned to children alone but youths and adults as well. Everyone is more attracted to the various fetes that they want to attend and which mas band has the best “costume” for them to parade in on Carnival Tuesday. There was also an article found in the Trinidad and Tobago Express Newspapers talking about bringing back the old time days which you can read here http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Bring_back_old_time_mas_-111306329.html Don’t misunderstand me Trinidad Carnival is the greatest show in the world but do we as Trinis really appreciate our traditions and how this culture all began.
Below there are descriptions of some of the traditional characters along with links for more information. Enjoy!!
The Bookman, also referred to as the Gownman or Ruler, is a feature of devil mas portrayals. The other two groups of characters in the devil band are the imps and beasts. He is the principal character in the devil band, and, in keeping with his status, his movement is waltz-like, with constant bowing.
he has a flowing cape embroided with biblical scenes and on his head is an oversized head mask which contains small horns and carries a demonic expression. The face of this mask is supposed to mirror the face of the devil himself. The bookman carries a pen and a large book in which he write the names of prospective souls for the devil.
Dame Lorraine or Dame Lorine
The Dame Lorraine or Dame Lorine was a mas character played by the 18th and early 19th century French planters, who would dress up in elegant costumes of the French aristocracy and parade in groups at private homes/yards and Carnival Sunday night.
Inspired from the Jab Jab or Devil Mas, the Dragon (sometimes refer as King Beast) mas is one rooted in the understanding of good and evil and all its elements. The Dragon is designed as a dragon, an overall costume of scales, a dragonhead with a movable tongue and a long scaled tail. Chains are tied around the beasts that are also held by Imps, in order to restrain it.
The Dragon is the fire-beast from hell, coming to earth as a bringer of destruction. Dancing through the streets, the aim of the “Dragon Dance” is to captivate and frighten its audience.
However, when the Dragon is unfortunate enough to come across a pool of water in the road, then the real dance begins. Water or holy water being of heaven leaves the Dragon in a state of frustration, he cannot ‘cross the water’ to continue on his journey. Instead his Imps, usually led by the King Imp, taunt him and finally the Dragon must dance in submission and then with much effort leap over the water in order to continue.
The name of this mas is derived from the French patois for ‘Diable Diable” meaning a pretty devil mas resembling a mediaeval jester’s costume.
Jab is the French patois for ‘Diable’ (Devil), and Molassie is the French patois for Mélasse (Molasses) is one of several types of devil mas. The simple costume consists of short pants or pants cut off at the knee, with a wire tail, mask and horns and a pitchfork. The jab molassie would carry chains, and wear locks and keys around his waist, and carry a pitch fork. The whole body is smeared with grease or mud, red, green or blue paint. The jab molassie “wines” or gyrates to a rhythmic beat that is played on tins or pans by his imps. While some of his imps supply the music, others hold his chain, seemingly restraining him as he pulls against them in his wild dance.
The Midnight Robber is one of the most beloved colourful traditional carnival characters. Midnight Robber, is immediately identifiable by his extravagant costumes and distinctive speech, called “Robber Talk”
The “Robber Talk” is derived from the tradition of the African Griot or storyteller, and the speech patterns and vocabulary are imitative of his former master and is characterised by its boastful, mocking style was derived from a variety of sources: the Bible, literary texts and school readers and speaks of the Robber’s invincible ancestry as well as his terrifying exploits.
The stilt dancer known throughout the Caribbean, is a traditional folk character that was originally brought from West Africa. The word “Moko” is derived from the name of a West African God and “jumbie” or “ghost” was added by liberated slaves after Emancipation. It was believed that the height of the stilts was associated with the ability to foresee evil faster than ordinary men. The Moko Jumbie was felt to be a protector of the village.
This character, which is now extinct, goes back to the pre-emancipation era. During that period, Carnival was observed by the upper classes mainly. While the slaves and free coloureds were not forbidden from celebrating carnival, they were compelled to stay within their own stratum of society and not presume to rub shoulders with the aristocracy. The planter class on the other hand, often imitated the dress and customs of their slaves during the carnival celebrations. One of their favourite disguises was that of the Negue Jadin or field slave.
The Pierrot Grenade is a descendant of the Pierrot known for his elegant costume and fierce fighting prowess with a whip or bull pistle, and was followed by a band of female supporters who fought on his behalf against other Pierrot groups..
Pierrot Grenade was a finely dressed masquerader and deeply supreme scholar/ jester proud of his ability to spell any word in his own fashion and quoting Shakespearean characters as Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Othello at length. Pierrot Grenade, is a satire on the richer and more respectable Pierrot.
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