Charles Brings Revival and Brass for Carnival 2023
Etienne Charles’ riddim, brass and mas will herald a long-awaited return of live brass to the streets of Port of Spain next year for Monday and Tuesday mas.
Charles announced 2023’s theme, Revival – a new band with an old concept – when it launched on September 16, ahead of its performance last weekend at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port of Spain.
Charles was in Trinidad last weekend to perform at Jazz for the Cathedral, a fundraiser for restoration work at Trinity Cathedral, Port of Spain. The show also featured David “Happy” Williams, Ray Holman, guitarist/songwriter Theron Shaw and vocalist Vaughnette Bigford.
“I can’t wait to get back on the road for Carnival 2023, this time with a new team, new management and a new name.
“Same energy, same vibe, same great music, same kind of special guests,” said the acclaimed trumpet player and composer.
“We rekindle the energy of the road after being on our couches in a world stop and we rekindled the brass live on the road.” Charles originally came up with the idea in 2016.
“(That year) our highly acclaimed musician-trumpeter Etienne Charles came to Trinidad to do some research and was appalled at the lack of brass instruments on Trinidad’s carnival routes. And those of us old enough to remember, brass on the roads, all the big bands, all the music, musicians and artists singing, and they’ve been replaced by DJs and music trucks said Laura Dowrich, public relations manager for Charles’ group.
The group then took off from 2017 to 2020 before Carnival was canceled twice due to the covid19 pandemic.
“In 2017 he was on the road on Carnival Monday with live brass. It was a sight to behold,” Dowrich said.
“I remember we were jumping into the group and we were passing Bliss and half of Bliss ended up getting into the group and jumping with us. People were amazed because there are so many who have never had the experience of live brass.
Charles, speaking ahead of the band’s Trinidad Carnival debut, said: “(Before the pandemic) we also relaunched the brass on the road in Toronto in 2019 for Caribana and on the road in London in 2019 for Notting Hill Carnival.
“The impetus for this (comes) from years of not hearing any brass on the road after growing up in Trinidad and hearing it.
“So when I came home to do my research Guggenheim for Carnival (in 2016), A Sound of a People, and I was on the road on Carnival Tuesday, and I didn’t hear a sound trumpet and didn’t see a single drum beat, I was immediately confused.
“I told my friend Maria Nunes that I had to do something about it and it all came together.”
Charles said that conductors and promoters viewed live brass as “an expense and not a necessary part of carnival”, essentially diminishing the quality and historicity of the annual national celebrations.
He complained that there are far fewer parties booking live marching bands during carnival season and even fewer bands booking brass sections for the road.
“The live music industry at Carnival has gradually gone downhill over the past 15-20 years. Many organizers opt for the scenario where the artist sings accompanied by a backing track played by a DJ,” he said, describing the practice as “essentially karaoke.”
That, he said, changed when he and his team implemented plans made in 2016 for the following year’s carnival.
“We secured a truck. A concrete plan formalized and a team formed in 2016. I announced my first Carnival group in January 2017 (and) the response with support has been immense.
Charles will perform with Lima Calbio, Roger George and Keith Prescott (also known as Keith Styler) on vocals; Dean Williams on guitar; Leston Paul on keyboard; Rodney Alexander on bass; Tamba Gwindi and Kayode Charles on percussion; Tony Paul on saxophone; KJ Marcell on drums; and Shaka Charles on trombone.
DJ Adrenaline will also provide music.
Hats, backpacks, food and drink packages are available for masquerades. Charles said there will be an eco-conscious element to the group, with disposable corn cups, real straw hats and recycled material t-shirts all being used.
Registration for the group opened online on September 17 at etiennecharles.com.