Wanted: A rescue for the street masquerade bands

SN file photo: Masqueraders along Camp Street

Today, around the streets of Georgetown, small, straggly groups of youths dressed in motley costumes can be seen prancing about, almost to the rhythms of two or three lazy-looking drummers who stand at the side of the road. There is no continuous flow of performance, nor does the display take any particular form or shape; they spring to life every time vehicles pass, weaving through the traffic and blocking the way of passing cars in a good-natured manner.

These are the Guyanese masquerade bands. They make their annual appearance in the city each year at Christmas time and will remain through the season for a few days into the new year, then pack up their props and disappear until next December – perhaps.

These bands are greeted with mixed reactions, moving from nuisance to nostalgia. They are hailed and highlighted, mostly in the newspapers, where they are cheered and celebrated as proclamations of national heritage – of Guyanese cultural tradition. They probably rekindle memories for some. But largely and realistically they are cursed as a nuisance by most motorists who forced to stop – their journeys interrupted by out-of-time prancers wining up in their faces, and then having the audacity to smilingly stretch out a cap for money.

There are ….

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