By Michael Benjamin
The liquor flowed freely as revelers imbibed, some slowly, others as though there would be no tomorrow.
The refreshing sound of Guyanese music filled the air. Revelers gyrated to Vanilla’s ‘High’ and Bones Man’s ‘Mash is we own,’ each artiste vying for the Road March (King or Queen).
Yes, the signs were all there as Guyana celebrated another momentous year as a Republic. Everyone seemed to be shouting it out loud, ‘Guyana is 40 glorious years old.’
The gaiety that characterizes Mashramani celebrations once again featured, as Guyanese of all walks of life tramped through the streets of Georgetown yesterday morning, in recognition of this momentous occasion. But most lined the Mash route and created a picnic atmosphere.
The revelers demonstrated staunch patriotism from very early yesterday morning mobilising at various points in the city before arriving at the designated march off point, in front of the St Rose’s High School, Church Street, Georgetown.
Amidst the melodious calypso and soca renditions of local artistes, and the applause of the viewers that lined the route, the revelers tramped east along Church Street before turning north into Irving. They then turned west into Thomas Lands for the culmination of the journey at the National Park where they paraded before the judges and a boisterous crowd that occupied the entire seating accommodation at that venue.
The size of the bands varied. Chemical Corner, with four locations around Georgetown fielded a small float with just about a dozen or more trampers but their hearts were into the exercise. The women displayed a healthy dose of Guyanese ‘wine,’ gyrating to pulsating soca sounds.
The men were not to be outdone. They matched the women’s every move as the trampers, most of them gaudily dressed, let it all hang out.
The first of the big bands, the Carib Beer entourage, graced the National Park around 17:00hrs. Among the revelers in this group were several Brazilian nationals. Their culture somehow seeped into the Guyanese way of life and the revelers introduced a new level of behaviour on the streets.
One of them, a thickset woman had more hair on her head than cloth around her waist. Apparently, not satisfied with the generous amount of flesh she had on display, the woman grabbed both ends of the skimpy underwear and stretched them then and yanked the underwear downwards, allowing a few photographers and some members of the crowd in the western stand, to get a close up view of her derrière.
An adventurous photographer in close proximity snapped a few shots of what she had on display. The roar that emanated from the large crowd seemed to spur her on and revelers were treated to a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on how one viewed the exercise) dose of unbridled enthusiasm. The Carib band was eventually dubbed the most lewd of the lot.
All this time, Mondale Smith, performing MC duties, kept the large crowd in a celebratory mood with his calypso renditions. The floats and bands took their sweet time entering the National Park streaming in intermittently.
Banks DIH eventually made a grand entrance, entertained the folks and was eventually voted the largest band. It had its work cut out to outdo Digicel whose entrance really spurred the crowd to life. GPL, chastised for its inability to ‘electrocute’ the nation focused on the use of energy saver bulbs as a means of power conservation.
Ironically, this was one of the loved groups and the crowd cheered heartily as they entered.
John Drepaul aka ‘Slingshot’ and his wife Ingrid entered to rousing applause and leading a medium sized band. This was the man who had fallen off of his float during a previous Mashramani celebration and had to seek medical intervention.
This was also the man that tied himself to his float the following year while advocating in song, “Ah gon tie mehself up cause me ent falling from no float.” He was not spared the catastrophe that seems to have beset him in previous celebrations. Reports are that one of his floats experienced ‘mechanical’ problems somewhere along the line and he was forced to complete the journey on foot.
This musical ambassador appeared to be in the pink of health. Upon entering the National Park, he walked behind the remaining floats, distributing tokens to his beloved fans. The crowd displayed unrestrained appreciation and ‘Slingshot’ was eventually voted as the most celebrated in the National Park.
Initially, 31 floats were scheduled to compete for honours. In the end, only 27 of them paraded before the judges. We were unable to garner the respective decisions since we left the venue shortly after the floodlights were switched on.
Those details will appear in a subsequent issue.
Mashramani, often abbreviated to “Mash”, is an annual festival that celebrates Guyana becoming a Republic in 1970. The festival, usually held on 23 February – Guyanese Republic Day – includes a parade, music, games and cooking and is intended to commemorate the “Birth of the Republic”.
The word “Mashramani” is derived from an Amerindian language and in translation means “the celebration of a job well done”. It is probably the most colourful of all the country’s festivals.
There are spectacular costume competitions, float parades, masquerade bands, and dancing in the streets to the accompaniment of steel drum music and calypsos.
Masquerades frequent the streets performing acrobatic dance routines, a vivid reminder of Guyana’s African heritage.
Calypso competitions with their witty social commentaries are another integral part of “Mash”, and this culminates in the coronation of a King or Queen for the particular year.
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