I have heard of Mangrove Mas Band many times before. I have the sense that they are a really established band for Notting Hill Carnival. And I have always associated this name with steelpan, not costume mas. But I do not know much detail. So I do my usual information gathering. Alisha Mayers was very helpful in providing background information.
Mangrove Mas band have been participating at Notting Hill Carnival for well over 30 years. I have been informed that they are in fact the band well known for steelpan and mas is a relatively new arena for them. This all inclusive band is primarily of Trinidadian heritage. However, members from other islands such as Barbados, St. Vincent, Guyana and Jamaica have joined the band.There is a kiddies section, a band on Carnival Sunday with about 40-50 children in costume. The age range for Carnival Monday is 18 yrs and upwards. I have been told that Mangrove Mas is a very stable band as masqueraders have grown up with this band, moving from the kiddies section to the adults section. The music is primarily soca on both days. However, on Sunday some of the more well known genres might be played.
The designer for costumes this year is Diane Williams assisted by a couple of her apprentices. The theme for this year for this band is called ‘Flight of Fancy’. Alisha stated it was chosen as it represents rising through adversity and change through a growing world. Each section has been given a role to play. There are four sections produced by Mangrove and an additional section brought independently by Too Fly Creations. Mangrove consider their band a family band and are fierce in their love and protection of each other. They ensure all their masqueraders have a good time and most of all to keep their culture alive.
The more I hear about this band, the more I feel I really should have known more about this band sooner. So off I go to this my first band launch of this weekend. Their band launch will be held at their home base, the well known Caribbean Tabanacle location. I have been there many times. It’s a good space. This time, a well lit run way has been set up and the DJ booth is to the left of the runway.
I get there relatively early and talk to some of the Mangrove masqueraders. One has grown up with the band. They say people may leave the band but always return. On the day of Notting Hill Carnival itself, masqueraders have in the past gone to other bands for costumes but they always return to Mangrove on the route. When asked why, I am told it is because Mangrove take care of their own.
Petra and Kasher attend this launch and I am surprised as this is the first one I have seen them at. The usual photograper teams are there; Trinis in London, VKAMS and Brian Quaver. As West Indians usually do, people enter the hall and go to the back and the far sides. The crowd range was across the age spectrum. Before the time of the showcasing, Big Bad on the mic urges people to come to the center of the hall near the runway and people reluctantly do so. The show starts.
Mangrove Mas Band has me smiling from the outset as they start with the kiddies section titled ‘Rangers’. Three children in bright colours and brandishing make believe swords come cheerily down the runway. No shyness there!
Then we head to the other end of the age spectrum with the veteran’s section. In this section, the veterans are paying homage to the 1960’s panthers with the first pumps images in gold and the black berets. These veterans showed they still had it! Then came four pretty mas sections for the adults.
The first section Centicor had four options in cream and white. This was a section of tiaras, feather boas, cut out bras and corsets!
Next came Abraxas in colours of black and red. This section had an option for men.
The third section was Cockatrice in colours of blue, tourquoise, silver and black.
The last section was Pegasus. This was a section of white and silver.
My choice of pretty mas costumes of the night was the front line Pegasus with the good sized wings. However, I must say the veterans section just SLAYED for me! When the veterans came on stage to Preedy’s tune ‘Veteran’? That was a moment. Loved loved loved the theme and it is in keeping with general and increasing black empowerment seen in the media this year. The price of the costumes range from £100.00 for the men’s costume and then from £160-290 for the female costumes.
I really liked this launch. The kids in costume made me say ‘awwwwwww’ and the veterans filled me with pride. The models I was told were actually the mangrove steel pan players. They seemed to love modelling their costumes for their band! It really did feel like a warm family West Indian environment. And if Alisha Mayers is an example of the Mangrove team and masqerader, this band is most definitely very caring and will take care of you.
For a band that is known for pan and is a staple at Notting Hill, that is very family oriented, welcoming and protective of its own, that keeps in mind the kids as well as the veterans, for a band I am 100% certain will take care of you on the road, Mangrove Mas Band is your band!
For more information on this band, please visit their page on FB Mangrove Mas Band and Mangrove Steelband. For more images, please go to Trinis in London, VKAMS and Brian Quaver. For video footage please visit FB page ilovecarnivall.