Sunday, April 21, 2024

Creativity’s no-show


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GRAND KADOOMENT DAY and Marcia Chandler continuously interrupts sessions before the television set watching the parade of Kadooment bands to chase after her very active nine-month-old grandson.
She manages to see enough of the parade to realize “the sea of feathers” crossing the National Stadium stage is “making me sick”.
“Feathers to designers now is like T-shirts to women’s fashion. You put them on because you don’t know what else to wear. It lacks creativity,” the once formidable designer of Kadooment bands told EASY magazine afterwards.
“A feather here and there is lovely, but now it is like everything is feathers and beads. It has become very boring to me. Feathers are beautiful but they don’t have to be the be-all and the end-all.”
This designer accustomed to carrying off the prize for the most original band in her heyday complained “the stories are gone” from Kadooment bands.
“There is no storytelling and that’s what I miss. The design has gone out of it because they no longer depict what they are supposed to be portraying.”
Of Monday’s parade, she said: “Almost all the bands looked like if you turned on Mardi Gras.”
What she saw was undoubtedly a far cry from the 1970s when she first tried her hand at designing a Kadooment band.
 In 1979 she put out her first band, Sugar We Ting, with between 500 and 600 revellers. It placed second overall, won People’s Choice, King Of The Bands, and placed second in Queen Of The Bands. For three consecutive years she won Band Of The Year.
The majority of revellers in Sugar We Ting were white people who “just wanted to experience it”.
The next year Marcia noticed at least three quarters of them did not return to the band, which prompted her to make the observation to EASY  “Like everything else in Barbados, the white people do not participate.”
She said “They love to stand and watch. They do have the Blue Box Cart and you will see some white people speckled in other bands but I never could understand the mentality of being in the background of everything.”
Marcia honed her design skills in the mas camps of her friend noted Trinidadian bandleader and designer Wayne Berkeley, returning to Trinidad every year for some time to work in the mas camp after her initial foray into the business of costume design.
That she was not rewarded with the top Kadooment band prize on several occasions when she thought she deserved to have won “irked” her, and the year Crop Over authorities disqualified her band for arriving at the National Stadium late, that was the last straw.
 “What made me stop was the year I did Fun And Fury. The rain poured the night of the King and Queen competition. I said we have to go because we had not heard anything from the organizers that it was postponed. We worked through the night before, showed up at the stadium and there was not a cricket.”
Lots of hairdryers were used to dry out the wet, broken styrofoam pieces of the costumes.To her dismay, however, she arrived at the stadium with her band the next day only to be disqualified for being late.
Marcia told EASY, “I was kind of pushed around . . . I was my own designer. There are Designers Of The Year that never designed a thing. There was a lot that went on that never encouraged me to feel good about anything.”
But she did return to competition after a five-year hiatus to produce Top Mode Faces in 1988 and in 1989 Wind Force, which remains the band she loves most, its title song specially penned by the Mighty Gabby at her request.
Flashing a broad smile, Marcia said with a sweep of her arms, “It was like poetry in motion. It was seeing what I created come to life”. . . costumes that were “up in the air” and “lots of fabric”.
Though she retired from mas officially in 1995, the design bug kept nipping away at the former London-trained hair stylist. She longed to return to costume band design without the responsibility of fetes and the organizing associated with band leadership. Instead she accepted the request of four young men behind Baje International, becoming their band designer and remained with them for a few years before “I had to stop”.
These days the septuagenarian’s time is taken up doing “granny duty”, taking care of her aged mother, indulging in her mosaic craft, and cooking up a storm for the early Saturday morning Brighton Market.
She has watched Kadooment grow with bigger, more elaborate costumes as people ask, “Why don’t you just come back?”
Her response? “I would really love to. But you know I am too old now to have the hassle of organizing fetes [and] I would have to get another following.”­

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