There is more to ‘Kaios,’ the growing mas band

Kaios International, the Trinidadian mas band, is moving on up, or at least, it’s really getting much bigger. Last year, Kaios with 150 revelers registered as a small band; this year, it’s expecting 300; it’s in the large band category.

“Our main goal is for our masqueraders to enjoy themselves,” Natasha Mclean, one of the organizers in the mas camp, said, “We would like to win the costume competition but it’s not our main goal.” She then listed all the ways to enjoy the culture: music, festivities and colors of costumes.

The Mas Camp’s co-leader, Heather Greenidge, explained that the theme “Savage Paradise” comes from the vibe and music at the Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Carnival. “People were celebrating like savages–in a good way,” she said.

The colors of the Kaios costumes are supposed to reverberate the “earthy” jungle, but pretty much they’re the whole spectrum.

The name “Kaios” does come from the word “chaos” and according to Greenidge, is how the organizers sense Carnival–high-energy commotion, freeing up your mind and celebrating life.

How did 10-year-old Kios start? “Prices of costumes were going too high,” mused a group of seven friends–of which three are designers. And, “We wanted to design and feel the culture, both for adults and for the Junior Carnival.”

A wall in Band Leader Mark Mclean’s apartment displays the sparkled, feathered, costume designs available. Making the costumes right there in the apartment, the Camp tries to keep the prices down for access to participation. Costumes are $180 and up for adults, $60 for children.

Last year, “Kaios” came in second in the Small Band category. In 2011, the Mas Band came in third and some years back, it won in the “Individual” category in the Junior Carnival.

Passing on to the next generation is an important goal says Greenidge, a special needs teacher, who came to New York from Trinidad as a pre-teen. “We’re reaching our children. Off-season we have events to keep the juniors involved with the culture, holding holiday events and family picnics.”

Her 14- year-old daughter Toni has been playing mas since she was two. “She wants to start her own junior mas camp. Next year, she’ll have her own section within our junior mas band,” her mom says.

Who does participate? It’s a veritable UN of the Caribbean as Greenidge rattles off the home islands of the Kaios revelers: Grenada, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Haiti, Panama (they really like to salsa!), and Barbados. “And a lot of Americans who like the Caribbean beat,” she recounts.

“Americans are embracing our culture and that makes us happy. Not just African-Americans,” Adding, “There are about 10 Caucasians and 12 Latinos. Our band is growing every year.”

Greenidge admits that an improving economy may be a factor in attracting more participants. “Last year, there were people who wanted to join us, but just couldn’t.”

When Greenidge was asked: “Are you looking forward to next year?” the answer was surprising. “The fabric, other materials, and stones…so much,” she answered. “We’re (absolutely) already thinking about next year. There are a lot of members. We have to keep the mas camp going one year to the next. It takes a lot of planning.”

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