In Trinidad, Carnival is a national holiday. For many, it begins a month before the official celebration with an extended vacation, nightly parties laced with soca music, calypso and steel pan bands.
In the summer months, Duncan and other D’Midas associates hit the carnival circuit, decorating costumes for celebrations in Miami, St. Croix, England, Toronto, Montreal, New York and, of course, Boston.
While many carnival bands have affiliations with organizations in Trinidad, D’Midas is unique, operating as a kind of multinational conglomerate. Barrett comes up with the group’s theme for each year, dictating color schemes.
Duncan hits the road, working with wire benders like Pankey Abdul, who is visiting Boston this summer from his home in Montreal and has 40 years of carnival experience under his belt.
The advantage of employing traveling professional decorators gives D’Midas a winning edge in most cities.
“We’re a threat to everybody,” Duncan said. “When they hear D’Midas, it’s a threat.”
While Duncan takes his work here seriously, he said he considers the Hub’s celebration a bit of a joke because of the supremacy of TnT, which regularly wins the king and queen competitions.
Duncan said the fact that Boston Caribbean Carnival President Shirley Shillingford’s three daughters have each won the queen competition with TnT is more than coincidental. This year, with judges brought in from Trinidad, Duncan said he hoped for a more impartial contest.
Whatever the outcome, Duncan seems happy with his work. One day before Carnival, armed with a pair of heavy-duty fabric shears and a fist-full of plastic ties, he secured feathers and fanciful plastic masks to a 12-foot tall wire-framed outfit worn by Glen Foreman, who played the Roman-themed part of Claudius Maximus.
Foreman was gearing up to compete for junior carnival king in the annual Kiddie Carnival event, held in Franklin Park’s White Stadium.
Duncan, Abdul and others struggled for a few tense moments, helping Foreman lift the costume and secure himself in it.
Moments later, Duncan took a drag from his cigarette, admiring his work as Foreman made his way down the track to the judging stand.
“I like watching this costume,” he said. “I like to see my work. When I see it done, I feel good. Sometimes, it makes me cry.”
Working in the group’s Harvard Street pan yard — a large shed that
serves as the band’s practice space — 17-year-old Dorchester resident Shaquan Gabriel turned the tune into an
arrangement that had the whole Branches steel pan orchestra rocking. More »
Working in the group’s Harvard Street pan yard — a large shed that serves as the band’s practice space — 17-year-old Dorchester resident Shaquan Gabriel turned the tune into an arrangement that had the whole Branches steel pan orchestra rocking. More »
Caribana was not only a celebration of cultures, but also a celebration of community and unity amongst the various Caribbean countries. People from all over danced in the streets, sang songs and shared in the fellowship of the carnival. More »
By all rights, 13-year-old Chanel Cowan-Cummings should have Carnival in her blood. “I’ve been doing this since I was 2,” she says. “I remember winding to the floor like my aunts taught me ... I’ve been doing this since I could walk.” More »