Batabano groups prepare for Carnival season

Carnival Nationz was the latest Batabano mas band to launch its costume lineup on Feb. 17 at George Town Yacht Club, after Tribal Carnival held its launch on Jan. 12 at Margaritaville and Fresh Carnival revealed all on Jan. 20 at Pedro St. James.

Toronto-based Carnival Nationz got fierce with its costumes representing five great civilizations: Amazonia, Caribs, Sparta, Shaolin and Zulu. Band organizer Ryan Bahadur promised to bring the goods to George Town this year.

“We thought, Batabano is becoming more prominent and we wanted to bring a band that would introduce more foreigners because we are based abroad, to bring new revelers to Cayman to show them to beauty of Cayman Carnival,” Bahadur said during the launch.

Carnival Nationz, Tribal Carnival and Fresh Carnival are just three of the full complement of eight mas bands making up the Batabano Carnival at the beginning of May. The leaders are looking forward to getting on the road.

Dexter Seusahai, with the assistance of his daughter, Chelsea, is the leader of Tribal and Olujimi La Pierre, local steel pan player, is the leader of Fresh.

Weekender: How many years have you been organizing a mas band?

Chelsea Seusahai: Tribal Carnival has been operating as a mas band for 10+ years in Toronto and has been operating as a band in the Cayman Islands for seven years.

Ryan Bahadur: Carnival Nationz Cayman will be participating in its second Batabano this year. We are pretty new on the Cayman scene, however, we are partnered with Carnival Nationz out of Toronto. They have been in existence since 2005.

Olujimi La Pierre: Fresh Carnival has been organizing a mas band for 6 years.

Weekender: What made you interested in the idea in the first place?

CS: It is our goal to promote the culture of carnival around the globe and Grand Cayman is a place where culture and celebration go hand in hand. After our success as a band in Toronto, it was only logical to spread our wings towards Cayman Batabano.

RB: Carnival Nationz out of Toronto started with four friends, two promoters and two mas makers who threw parties and events, so moving into mas was a natural transition for them. We wanted to support Cayman Carnival Batabano as it has a long standing track record and with partners out of Toronto, we hope to encourage their masqueraders to come join us for some fun in the sun and help the festival grow.

OLP: I have been a part of the carnival world since I was born. I have always been playing mas, and it definitely has been a family affair for over 20 years.

Weekender: How did you decide on your theme this year?

CS: Our themes are inspired by the world around us. Pirates played an integral role in the history of the island and we wanted to find a way to combine history with the carnival. That is how our theme of “Pirates Treasures” was born.

RB: We wanted to show a different side to the band from last year’s Native theme, which focused on some of the natural attractions native to the Cayman Islands. We eventually decided we wanted to pay homage to legendary warriors that campaigned throughout history, so this year our theme is “Fierce.”  We especially focused on those groups that had strong female members.

OLP: Actually, my brother Earl La Pierre Jr. came up with the theme. He is the creative mastermind behind Fresh.

Weekender: Which designers do you use and why?

CS: We do not use any designers for our Cayman costumes. All designs are created by our band leader Dexter Seusahai and are handmade by him and his family.

RB: The Carnival Nationz team designs all their own costumes, so when a theme is chosen, the costumes become their babies. They have over a decade of experience and success in delivering quality costumes and service over the years and we are hoping to extend that to the Cayman Islands.

OLP: Fresh Carnival uses both international and local designers. Our international designers this year are Sophia Rickson Designs Inc, Savage Carnival Arts, and Dr. Jay Mas. Our local designers are Laedy Elementz Mas and Renegade Mas.

Weekender: Why should people sign up to be in your band, and what makes it a winner?

CS: At Tribal, our goal is to ultimately provide masqueraders with wonderful costumes that will serve as mementos to last a lifetime. We aspire to showcase and promote the carnival culture to everyone. It is through our costumes that we are able to preserve our culture for generations to come. So if you want to get a great costume and a lifetime worth of memories you should definitely play with Tribal Carnival Cayman. What makes a band a winner at the end of the day is not the ranking the judges give you; it is based on customer satisfaction. If your masqueraders are happy and can genuinely say they had a great time on the road then you have won.

RB: Carnival Nationz is known for top quality costumes and designs and delivering “pure vibes” and excellent service. It has won “Band of the Year” in Toronto Caribana eight times in 13 years. Another reason people should sign up to support our band is part proceeds from the sale of every single costume this year will go towards supporting the Cayman Crisis Centre. Even though we are out partying and having a good time, we think it is important to give back to the community organizations that work tirelessly to make Cayman a better place.

OLP: People should sign up to be a part of Fresh Carnival because we bring a fresh, organic vibe to the road. We are a unique band which brings together cultures from all over the world. Our entertainment on the road is always top of the line with local and international DJs and artists. We make everything about playing mas an unforgettable experience.

Weekender: Do you have plans to take the band overseas this season, and if so, to where?

CS:  We have begun to branch out to places such as Honduras and we do already have a band in Toronto. A potential future goal may be Trinidad Carnival but of course, the future is never set in stone.

RB: Carnival Nationz is already established in Toronto for Caribana and does participate in Miami Carnival as well.

OLP: We currently have a team in Toronto and we have some offers on the table but won’t give away the secret just yet!

“As we celebrate 35 years of carnival in the Cayman Islands, we can only promise the nation a spectacular, memorable experience,” says Donna Myrie-Stephens, organizer of Batabano. “We want to welcome all of the residents to come out and be a part of this spectacular carnival.”

To learn more about Batabano and the masquerade bands, visit www.caymancarnival.com.