Mas in San Fernando is dying and traditional mas no longer seems attractive to young children but legendary mas icon Lionel Jagessar and his son Junior are determined to change this.
Speaking to Guardian Media during a tour of his mas camp by students of Windermere Private School on Monday, Jagessar said the participation of children in Kiddies Carnival had declined because of the age of the internet.
“There are a lot of other things for kids to do today so they are not interested in mas as they were in previous generations,” Junior said.
He added, “They find other things to do like watch movies, and browse the internet. They don’t come out to see Carnival stuff like they used to. Long time when we put up a banner, people in the community would know we have a band coming out and they will come out but now all kids with their heads down looking into a tablet or a phone.”
Junior said the band still had space for children, adding that they were encouraging schools to visit the mas camp to learn about traditional Carnival mas.
Commending Windermere for encouraging pupils to have an appreciation of local culture, Jagessar said every week tours are held in the mas camp with different schools.
The Lower and Upper Kindergarten students were given a tour of the area where costumes were designed and produced. They learned the art of wire bending and were given the opportunity to try on fancy Indian head dresses and wings.
Jagessar Sr said he has trained over 400 teachers in traditional costume design over the years. Under the National Carnival Commission and the Ministry of Culture, Jagessar, a recipient of the National Hummingbird award said he was committed to passing on the traditions of yesteryear.
Jagessar said during the early 1960s he started making his own costumes to play mas. Later on, his friends also wanted costumes, so they pooled their money to buy materials to create mas. Over the years the group evolved to a section, and then into a band, and is now a company.
Jagessar said since he started producing mas in 1979, his band has received numerous accolades.
His children Junior, Denise Kuru-Bhagwandeen, Darryl Kuru, and Nicole David produces the Fancy Indian productions.
Jagessar said he was looking forward to reviving Carnival in the south city.
He said the responsibility to getting children involved in traditional mas was not the responsibility of the government but should be tackled from a community standpoint.
Meanwhile, principal of Windermere Laureen Debance-Misir agreed that it was important for students to learn about the traditions of Carnival.
“Its not just about reading it in the book it is about seeing it come alive. It’s a memory that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Each class is doing research on a calypsonian and they are learning the songs of that calypsonian,” Debance-Misir said. She commended Jagessar for continuing to educate the youth and for his contribution to San Fernando Carnival.