Wednesday, 6 February 2013


I first met Kelly Rajpaulsingh in 2011 at the launch of the Bacchanila presentation; 'Alter ego through the looking glass’. Kelly was the first NHC designer/band-leader to actually invite and welcome the Mas Assassin to a launch fully understanding the critical nature of the blog, but welcomed both praise and critique with an equal amount of attention gratitude.

“ my opinion showed a supreme confidence, in their  product, a desire to progress, and a mature understanding that the opinions expressed in my posts are constructive (most times)  in intention, and done with an undying  love for  the art form that is MAS.(Massassination 18:4:11)

Fast forward to 2013 and with under a week to go, Rajpaulsingh’s Bacchanila  is set to hit the streets of  Port of Spain Trinidad with the ‘Sorcerer’ section in the Genesis carnival Ltd 2013 presentation  ‘Mirror Mirror  who is the...’
In doing so Bacchanila has joined the growing contingent of Trinbagonian Brits who return to Trinidad and Tobago annually not only to take part, but to creatively contribute to the Islands version of the greatest show on earth, the Trinidad and Tobago carnival.
With an incredibly busy schedule to execute Kelly took some time out to answer a few questions from ‘Massassination Insight’ so you can learn a little more about the force behind Bacchanila and the plans for the bands future ...  

MA: Who is Kelly Rajpaulsingh?
KR:  Kelly Rajpaulsingh is half of the husband and wife team that forms Bacchanalia – one of the leading mas bands in the UK.  I have been involved in the carnival scene in London for over 10 years and have worked with a number of mas bands in various capacities.  I am Trinidadian born and bred and moved over to the UK when I was 19. 

Kelly and Andrew Rajpaulsingh

MA: Kelly what is your earliest carnival memory?
KR: My earliest carnival memory is that of Fancy Indian mas. I was spellbound by the costume, the colour, the dance and I am pleased to say that this band is still alive and going strong as one of the main producers of Fancy Indian costumes in Trinidad – also San Fernando based. Up to today, this is still my most favoured costume of all time.  I remember moving to San Fernando and walking up the promenade and the very first thing I saw was a fully dressed, Chief Indian - resplendent and decorated in green and yellow, face painted, feathers everywhere, beautiful tribal patterns on his body and gown. It’s remained with me ever since.
We are lucky in that as children of Trinidad, we are introduced to carnival at a very young age.  Primary and Infant schools where you can make your own costumes using materials from your home and have a small parade on the school grounds or even by participating in what I believe is the best example of Trinidad carnival – Carnival Sunday – otherwise known as Kiddies Carnival. 

MA: When were you bitten by the carnival bug?
KR: I believe as Trinidadians, carnival is in our blood.  If you are a ‘creative’ and come from Trinidad, then it consumes you.  This is how I feel about the work I do. I am surrounded by it, my thoughts are always on it and I absolutely and irrevocably love it.  A few years after I came to London and visited the Notting Hill Carnival, I was deeply unimpressed by what I saw. What I left in Trinidad was the most creative and splendid spectacle when it came to mas – and those were the days of Berkeley, Minshall, Harts etc whose creations and ideas literally blew the mind.
Without any understanding of the structure, the bands, the restrictions, the audience or participants involved in the Notting Hill Carnival, I was almost dared by my other half ‘to do something about it’ rather than bemoan the fact that Notting Hill was a poorer and much less acceptable presentation of Trinidad carnival. So I did and haven’t looked back since.

MA: Tell us about your band and its origins.
KR: We launched Bacchanalia in 2005 with 
our friends and family supporting us and used very simple materials and fabrics in our first presentation. Since then, we have gone from strength to strength and work very hard throughout the year in raising the profile of the event and in welcoming all nationalities and backgrounds to be a part of it.  Our ethos is to bring friends and family together – and this is precisely what we have done. We have created a warm and caring community that come together during the year and help us with our production.  One of the best parts of what we do is taking that step back and looking at the friendships and bonds built over making mas and learning about other cultures.  At the time of launching, Bacchanalia was a word made up by my husband and co-founder – today if you Google it, it is a real word of Greece/Roman origins celebrating the God of Wine and Revelry.
Our designs are well known for being intricate and very detailed – a derivative of my fashion interest and extra-curricular studies – I am a banker by day.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the theme, searching for new materials and concepts to use and cost-effective ways of bringing it out on to the road.  I think Mas is a learning process – one person will never know it all but it’s always fun to try new things and learn.

MA: Do you see Bacchanalia as a home away from home for its members and yourself?
KR: Yes and No. The experience offered in London is not at all similar to that which is offered in Trinidad.  During the months in the lead up to carnival, you can see it everywhere in Trinidad – the songs are on the radio and being blasted everywhere, parties and shows and events and the entire country works itself up into a near frenzy climaxing on the 2 days of revelry on the streets.  London is a much more diluted affair - even the people that come together to make it happen are different.  Both places offer a fantastic experience but I always say to our masqueraders – ‘We give you the very best that we can and the closest thing to a Trinidad carnival experience, but you have to go there to get the real thing!’. I see London as a teaser for Trinidad for new masqueraders.  My case in point – we are taking quite a few masqueraders and new joiners to Trinidad 2013 to play mas for the first time.  London carnival is not a highly publicised affair so there are still barriers to entry where the masses still do not know if they can join in the bands or how to do so.  London carnival masqueraders are not just Trinidadians either – they are people of the Caribbean and other cultures and many are 2nd or 3rd generations that have not yet travelled to the Caribbean.  What we try to do is put carnival on everyone’s radar and show them how they can become involved.  This isn’t just subject to joining our band either.  We work with a number of bands in the UK and do what we can to help others too.

MA: So, Bacchanalia is going to Trinidad Carnival in 2013, how did that happen?

Sorcerer backline.
Sorcerer frontline.
KR: It was a conversation that an extremely talented colleague of mine from Trinidad initiated.  I worked with Elwin Johnson for my NHC 2012 presentation.  I have been admiring his work for some time now and we were extremely pleased to welcome him on board and bring him in to work with me under the Bacchanalia banner for 2012.  Elwin is one of the most talented mas makers I have seen and his skills stretch across the board – wire-bending, costume and set design, characters and models etc. Elwin had already done some work with the Genesis team and when he mentioned that we could produce a section for them, we were happy to bring forward our plans and design and produce the section – which I might add, was very well received.  We can only see this relationship growing and getting stronger over the coming years.

MAIs it a coincidence that your theme for NHC 2011 is very similar to the theme for Trinidad Carnival 2013?

KR: Yes, very much so. We were introduced to Genesis Carnival quite late in the year via one of my colleagues and co-designer. Bacchanalia was making preparations to make its entry into Trinidad Carnival for 2014 but this opportunity came up and I was very excited so we didn’t say no. The similarity ends with the theme as the designs and story being portrayed are very different. I am quite pleased and proud to be under the Genesis umbrella for Trinidad carnival 2013.

MA: Tell us about your section. (name, influences, package etc).

KR: The section is called Sorcerer.  It’s the ‘Magic Mirror’ element in the story.  I wanted to bring out all the elements of the character that was already known – beauty co-mingled with darkness and vanity – which are often linked.  I chose a dark gold and black as I wanted a representation of the actual Mirror and found large mirror like stones to use as the reflective pieces.  The individual character will show a representation of the mirror being smashed and the pieces exploding.  The black feathers – I had this image of the crow that is an extension of the witch in the actual story – and we used it on the headpiece of the male and covered the female in it. 

The package offered to masqueraders is as follows:

Sorcerer female frontline.
Female Section (Backline)
VVIP package = £349.50
Standard (no VIP) = £299.50

Male Section (Backline)
VVIP package = £299.50
Standard (no VIP) = £239.50

Female Frontline
VVIP with Backpack = £549.50
VVIP without Backpack= £429.50
With Backpack= £499.50
Without Backpack= £399.50
Female Frontline VVIP without Backpack= £429.50
Without Backpack= £399.50.

MA: Do you think Bacchanalia the band will soon be on the streets of Port of Spain in the future?
KR: Yes, the plan was there for 2014 but we were offered this amazing opportunity with Genesis Carnival Band and could not say no for 2013. I am from Trinidad and intend to return there in the near future so my overall plans always included bringing not only my costumes and band back but also opportunities and avenues for other mas bands and carnival artists access to new products and materials for their own bands and designs. Watch this space!

MA: What do you think is the future of Notting Hill Carnival?
KR: Uncertain. I see the potential for growth and creative opportunities but this is marred with lack of organisational structure and funding.  London carnival holds many opportunities for bands, designers and carnival artists to showcase our rich culture to the world and to take that very culture and fuse it with others to create something new – however, this platform is under-funded and not operating under a cohesive and stable structure – which in the end hurts everyone.  To bring out a band costs on average £20-30k – and this is for a small band – which has to cover all these costs, advertise and market for new masqueraders and provide facilities and teams to bring out a production – not an easy feat to take on on one’s own. But what is there is a solid line-up of bands that have shown longevity and small signs of growth. They do not give up and some have been very successful in taking their performances and costumes internationally.  I see London as that very thing – the platform to launch mas into an international arena.

MA: What is your 2013 NHC presentation about?
KR: I am very excited about our 2013 presentation – this year we are portraying Species – The Evolution.  It is the story of the human race in a few million years and what we could evolve into.  I am telling the story in 4 parts, with individual piecess making up the lead characters.  I wanted a story that was interesting, open to imagination and costumes that capture our masqueraders as they bring the portrayal to life.  I have been dabbling in custom made fabrics and plastics and other materials that could bring the characters to life but in reality, we are subject to budget constraints so I am faced with finding interesting materials – but at a fraction of the cost to achieve the desired effect.  Our launch is set for April and I am currently working on the prototypes now so watch this space as that is all I am going to say for now.

MA: The year is 2020 where do you see Kelly Rajpaulsingh and Bacchanalia?

KR: Interesting question.  I often think about how far I can take this and the general direction the mas environment is heading in.  I would like to see myself as a fully established carnival artist – displaying carnival work in major cities all around the world and bringing different cultures together under one banner.  I am a firm believer that what we do is actually performance art – a theatre in the streets – and open to all.  I would like to work with artists from different backgrounds and use the knowledge and skillset gained to create something new, dynamic and push the boundaries – whilst still remaining true to the origins of carnival and where it came from.

For the band, I want us to continue to grow and develop the brand offering our masqueraders not only the best carnival service, but to continue to excite them with new concepts and for their children in turn to also be part of our carnival family and keep our legacy strong.

Thank you Kelly and best of luck to Bacchanalia for 2013!

If you want more information on Bacchanaila you can find them on Facebook,
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