This was a highly anticipated event for me, after all I commandeered all my friends to join the band this year for the Sunday mas as I had raved so much about them last year. It was unprecedented and for the first time, I had my SSUK family and friends with me feting in the band.
The tshirt collection was smooth, in fact too smooth. We arrived literally minutes to 9pm, just before closing time and within 5 minutes we were out – it was that simple. However we were not given the meeting location as it was still being worked out with the carnival organisers. Subsequently, the communication for meeting points was unfortunately delivered very late, due to the mass changes with the carnival bands this year and not the fault of Island Mas, but it was the strangest comms I had ever had. The only odd part was the fact that it stated we had to be escorted to our truck?
Meeting up on the day was easy. You could not miss Island Mas people – I swear that we had to be the biggest band on the road for Sunday this year. Although, walking into Nottinghill, we passed Grenfell and the tributes sections en route to the meeting point, which I will not go into as it’s still so raw for families and the community.
So island mas decided to do things a little differently this year and that was to serve lunch before we moved off and it was a bit of crazy scene. The queue for lunch went up the road and round the corner. I suppose I could understand the wait when you are trying serve hundreds of people hot food with just one microwave! Seriously, if you have 500 people in your band, don’t you feel it would be more apt to bring at least 3 microwaves? It was crazy, I walked up to see what was going on and the operation consisted of 5 people like a conveyor belt. One handed one the container of food, one handed to it to the other, who then placed in microwave, someone else gave you cutlery. I completely ignored the queue and purchased a packet of crisps instead to devour on the road. The truck eventually made an appearance around 2pm (so much for the changes huh with regards to bands leaving at certain slot times).
However, this is where you witnessed the might of Island Mas, it was like a call to arms, the truck announced it was coming and then what we witnessed were masses of people streaming up the road to the meet the band, I mean there were hundreds and then I saw the truck. It was impressive and there was an equally impressive crew on board and on the roof!
Now let’s get down to the music. Island mas are known for their Grenadian tributes in Soca and they did not let us down, tunes pumped from the truck, but only from the back of the truck. What Island did was load up the speakers to pump music from the back of the truck only – no speakers on the sides? So, to enjoy the fun you had to chip behind the truck with the hundreds of masqueraders. If your small like me, you get pushed to the back, you lose the music and the vibe. No speakers at the sides of the truck was a bad move as for those who didn’t want to be squashed at the back, there was no option. As we came down Kensal Road, we stopped for the 1 minute silence for Grenfell.
The vibe of Island Mas was mixed and could not figure it out, we were chipping and wuking. I was with friends, but I was not enjoying it and as always, curiosity always gets the better of me when with any band. Since I was stuck with so many people around me I decided to venture up and see what other bands were playing. First up I found Arawaks and there I stayed for the remainder of carnival. Arawaks are a small band but boy could they play some music. I was taken, they played two Bajan hard wine tunes, a couple of Vincy tunes and I was there. After an hour, I officially denounced my band and swore my allegiance to Arawak! It was that simple.
Arawak by contrast had it on point, I mean they were shouting out for non masqueraders to leave the band, it was that nice. I knew nothing about Arawaks so did a little research. Why did I not know about this band before? This a little gem of a band, I checked out there website and found out that it seemed that they had one costume but it was only £140, included the Sunday T-shirt, food, drinks and access to a toilet truck on the road! Seriously how did I miss this. I paid £300 for my costume with Tears for the Monday and £35 to play with Island Mas.
I love the vibe of small bands, they can cater effectively for the people and give it that family feel. For me Island Mas just grew too much and too quickly, I won’t denounce them, they arguably have attributes to be great band but please, next year sort out the music!!