The masquerade bands which are parading the streets are a disgrace. They are doing a grave injustice to a traditional art form.
The present crop of masquerade bands, unfortunately, are not upkeeping any traditions. The bands are destroying them with their mediocrity, and by using it to make money without really earning that money through the display of their craft.
Masquerade has long been associated with the Christmas season. It is also an African tradition which, it is claimed, was used as part of the resistance during slavery. Its cultural value has been established by the fact that it survived the process of cultural emasculation by the colonialists.
Unfortunately, what the colonial authorities did not achieve – the erasure of this art form – may well be achieved by the majority of the present crop of masqueraders. They are bringing the art form into disrepute.
In the old days, colourful bands of dancers and musicians bedecked in costumes and with props, would take to the streets of villages and the wards of towns and perform for residents, who in turn would make small donations to the band.
Dancers would flounce and perform deft and fancy quick-steps much to the delight and envy of onlookers. In the old days, you could not but help admire the artistry of masquerade dancers, who took pride in their craft and made the effort to please residents.
These days the bands do not go into the wards and villages. They stay on the main roads, use their ‘privileges’ to obstruct traffic in order to extort monies from motorists who are forced to slow or stop, and to give a donation.
This practice has cheapened masquerade and turned it into extortion. In the old days, you had to dance to get a donation. These days you just have to jump in front of a moving vehicle. Most drivers find these masqueraders as nuisances and mainly give money in order to go along their way.
The performers are also endangering themselves by jumping into the path of moving vehicles by playing their wares on some of the busiest thoroughfares in the country. The practice of jumping in front of moving vehicles is extremely dangerous. God forbid if anything should happen to one of them while on the road.
In the main, what passes for masquerade bands is a poor imitation of the art form. Most of the performers are not properly trained. They are more interested in holding out the collection cap than they are about moving their feet and upper body. Most of them do not have a clue about flouncing.
The police should have long taken action to discourage the practice of masquerade bands on busy streets. It seems as if only when a tragedy strikes, the police are prepared to take action. One of these days, someone is going to be run over by a motorist, and only then will the police issue guidelines on the use of roadways for masquerade bands.
The appalling lack of skill is just one of the many challenges standing in the way of preserving the masquerade band. To be brutally frank, the costumes of most masquerade bands have seen better days. These costumes are mainly hand-downs.
The art of masquerade needs a makeover. As has been said, this is a special Guyanese tradition, and one which most people feel should be preserved. But to do this requires the establishment of standards and guidelines on its practice.
It would be sad, and a loss to Guyana’s cultural heritage, if the masquerade goes into remission or is further degraded.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
Aug 02, 2020BBC Sport – Bolton Wanderers have signed Dagenham & Redbridge and Golden Jaguars defender Liam Gordon on a two-year contract. The 21-year-old, who has won five international caps for...
Aug 02, 2020
Aug 02, 2020
Aug 02, 2020
Jul 31, 2020
Jul 31, 2020
I have typed this column exactly five months after the March 2, 2020 elections. Exactly five months after the election there... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders Amid the feverish work to cope with both the public health and economic effects of COVID-19 on their... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]