This is my 10th band launch for the Notting Hill Carnival Season. I am going away from central London to attend the Island Mas Band Launch in Chiswick. I initially had a look at their website. It states this band was formed in 2014 by a ‘group of passionate individuals that desire to bring back the true sentiments of Island Carnival and introduce it to parts of Notting Hill Carnival’. I know they might be putting out a JAB JAB band for the Sunday. I thought this might be predominantly a Grenadian band. I’m curious. I have a thing for the island of Grenada. The first time I went over to Grenada for carnival, to say that the experience knocked me over was an understatement. I loved it! My first experience of Jab Jab in Grenada? That will always be a long lasting sweet memory for me. I am excited about this launch and I was curious to know about the culture of this band.
I managed to speak to a member of the Island Mas team online (didn’t get a name) and I am told a bit about the band. 2015 was their first formal year on the road. Turns out this band is not just made up of Grenadians. I have been told that the members of this band are primarily from Grenada, Carriacou and St.Lucia. Ohhhhhhhhh, St. Lucians and Grenadians in one band… Oh goshhhhh… That’s going to be all kinds of dangerous mad fun! I have been informed that last year, this band consisted of approximately 40 costumed masqueraders and over 400 in T-Shirt & Fun Mas on Monday + just under 600 in JAB on Sunday. A kids section is offered on the Sunday. However, on Monday it is 18 years and over. Their motto is ‘Many islands united in mas’. Adult prices range between £195 -£325. Music on the road is predominantly soca with a hint of dancehall, reggae, afro beats & RnB.
Mel and I got there around 00:10hrs and that was still pretty early as there weren’t many people there yet. The venue VUK Club was large and spacious with small chandeliers, a bar and stage. The Goddess Experience displayed some of the lovely custom carnival made boots.
The crowd slowly trickled in and it seemed to lean more towards the young adult side I thought. And sartorially? Anything goes. There were people very casually dressed to those in suits and heels. I see the now very familiar photographer faces of Trinis in London, Worlmag, Raymond Lyttle and VKams. I see a representative from French Kiss and Wine. It seems this young band has support from other bands as well. There’s Credible from RDR and Vernon from South Connections here. I can also see Andrew from Carnival Expo in attendance. The venue slowly begins to fill and the people line the walls. You know the drill right? No one ever wants to hit the center of the space until one or two brave souls do so. Credible is more than happy to oblige and people begin to move away from the walls and the back and into the open space.
Ok let’s be real honest about this. From the outside spectator of this launch, Island Mas Band is dominated by Grenadians. When it is roll call time? The loudest response comes from Grenadians. The response is loud and proud! The most music played prior to the catwalk show is from Grenada. Which suited me just fine as I love Grenadian Soca. The crowd is hyped and ready. The vibe is set and it is time for the costumes to be revealed. Victor is the impromptu person to help the team get the crowd back a bit for the red carpet to be put down.
The theme for this year’s band launch is called Kabila, ‘Tribes of Paradise’. There are three sections. The first is designed by Shauna Ceaser and the last two are designed by Kaz Clement. I’m intrigued as to what these will look like. The crowd is very enthusiastic to take pictures and everyone is angling to get good shots of the fast walking models.
First, the t-shirt section was displayed. Next came the costumes. It was apparent that a lot of thought was given to the front of the costumes. There are various styles to suit all shapes and preferences.
I liked the orange, red and green colour combination. The costume which struck me the most was the frontline white costume with pink and green feathers and accents modelled by Kimhia. She modelled well and gave enough time for pictures to be taken.
However, for me JAB JAB presentation sold me and took me right back to playing Jab in Grenada. The oiled down horned masqueraders, the randomness of the black coffin and the wheelchair on stage, the crazy don’t care vibe. This is what made this band launch distinctive and will be the calling card for this band. I love Jab and I loved this!
Island Mas is a very young band compared to other mas bands of Notting Hill Carnival. What is lacked in experience is made up with great enthusiasm and a very individualised culture. Grenadians are very proud of their culture and heritage and that was displayed very well at the launch. They have definitely brought the sentiment of Jab to Notting Hill Carnival and their ‘I don’t care what you think as long as I having a good time attitude’. Gotta love Grenadians!
To be part of a new band, to experience JAB as authentic as you can to that in Grenada, if you want to get dirty and have some crazy vibes on the road or wear pretty mas, for a proper shell down, Island Mas is your band.
For more information about this band, please go to www.islandmas.co.uk. For more pictures of the costume and night, visit trinisinlondon, Raymond Lyttle, Vkams photography and worlmag. For Video footage of the launch, please go to ilovecarnivall FB page or worlmag.