Mashramani then and now
―Ron Robinson reflects
DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Since its launch in 1970, the concept of Mashramani has evolved quite a bit, and there is a school of thought that believes it should be adapted to meet the tastes of the current generation.
However, there is another camp which believes that the festival should return to its origins. According to veteran radio and television broadcaster Ron Robinson, this could be done with a few tweaks.
Speaking to DPI, Robinson noted that three aspects made the original Masharamani festival the spectacle it was. Punctuality, publicity, and unobstructed passage for the floats and bands along the route.
“What I remember vividly is that we would start at nine in the morning and the first masquerade band [would come] in because we always started with a masquerade band, they led the way… and by the time they came past the judges and were going out the park a second band was coming in … there was a continuous flow,” he recalled
According to Robinson, this seamless flow was in large part responsible to the organisers. “I think it was because of two persons, one was Mr. Bernard ‘Bunny’ Fernandes who was a no-nonsense man, and what he expected was all the participants in their costumes on time.
He assigned or they pulled numbers for placement along the route. If you were number four you came in at number four, you could not come in at number five or six; if that was the case you were not judged, the judges were told you were cancelled.”
Publicity was another instrumental factor in the hosting of a successful Mash., and here Robinson pointed to the efforts of Victor “Vic” Insanally.
“The other person who was a part and parcel of that organisation, and he is a giant at that, is Vic Insanally. All that publicity, all the raising of expectation through radio because we didn’t have TV back then, was his responsibility, and he was also part and parcel of what comes next or what happens, the events over the period it wasn’t just one day it was spread over some time.”
Robison also feels the Mash route should be re-examined. “I think they should get back to using the route along Irving Street. And Vlissingen road on the other side is where all the spectators should be lined; no spectators should be allowed on Irving Street only officials and participants.”
Robinson explained that with this route being utilised spectators would get a better view of the costumes.
“You don’t see the tops of the costumes because people have crowded the sides of the route. Even some of the large costumes – the King and Queen of the band costumes, they can’t really display those because the crowd tends to be in the way. So, if you want to enjoy the colour and spectacle of Mash, spectators will have to view the parade from Vlissengen. It will also allow the organisers to have a more ordered parade.”
The broadcaster notes that while Carnival is observed in many Caribbean countries, Guyana is the only country with a Mashramani celebration and it is imperative to remember our history and maintain standards while improving on the national festival.