Horns grow from the bejeweled men’s helmets. Brown and aqua feathers-matching the women’s carnival/jungle-adapted attire–sprout from their headpieces. Of three women’s costume styles, the headpieces become more and more elaborate. These are the Vikings and warrior princesses of the Backyard Mas Band.
Bunji Garlin’s Soca song “Savage” from this year’s Trinidad Carnival, with Viking references, inspired the Backyard Mas theme. The costumed characters portray “Savages of a Dark Age.”
In this, the second year for this Queens-based mas camp, the band is diverse but predominantly composed of Trinidadians and Guyanese of Indian descent, similar to the background of Band leaders Shiva and Karma Siewharack. “We’re based in Queens–Richmond Hill (central, southern) –where many of those of (East) Indian ancestry live,” Shiva informed. With pride, Shiva boasts of the reference that this is the first Mas Band in Queens.
Previously, participants had been in a section in other camps. “We decided to form our own,” he said, expecting 150–the small band category–revelers this year. In years’ past, Band participants have also played Carnivals in Florida, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.
At the age of 14, Shiva came to New York from Trinidad. “I grew up playing mas as a kid, was around the mas camps at the parade,” he said. “I was always a fan of arts and crafts and that’s what these costumes are.” To him, Carnival is a day to put aside all differences and “enjoy yourself,” in the form of mas.
His wife Karma had been a masquerader for years and the seasons of masquerading inspired her to be a leader. The two took it to the next level organizing a mas camp. Shiva is also a DJ and a promoter.
While the two designed last year’s costumes, this year, they had the artistry of a designer help them.
The body pieces of the costumes are assembled by outside companies. The feathered pieces are fabricated by the organizers at the Mas Camp. “Women like to dress in costume,” said Shiva, explaining how the band will have two women for every man on the Parkway.
Potential revelers are still learning about this mas camp, one of the newer bands. “We’re still registering people,” Shiva said.
“We are getting people, brand new who have never tried mas before. Some people (playing mas with us) are experiencing mas for the first time,” explained Shiva, on the pleasures and of a new band.