Lost Tribe bandleader humbled by international exposure

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A maquerader takes a selfie with creative director and bandleader of Lost Tribe Valmiki Maharaj on Carnival Tuesday at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. – AYANNA KINSALE

Valmiki Maharaj, creative director and bandleader of the Lost Tribe, says he did not believe his interview with the fashion magazine Vogue was “the real thing” until he saw the resulting article published on Vogue’s website last Thursday.

The article, titled The Story Behind the Lost Tribe, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival’s Most Fashionable Band, was written by Natalie Meade. It spoke of Lost Tribe’s theme, 202We, and Maharaj’s artistic vision for the band.

Maharaj told Sunday Newsday he was shocked when the article came out, especially as Vogue was one of his favourite magazines. He said he grew up reading Vogue and bought one every time he travelled abroad.

“In my vision, being featured by them was never even a possibility. I veered away from my original passion of fashion into Carnival. So the possibility of being featured there (in Vogue) in that respect (fashion) wasn’t something I considered. So to see that connection, to see them appreciate our art and our work, it’s a very humbling experience.

“We had just found out a few hours before that we had won (the National Carnival Commission’s) Band of the Year, and within the same whirlwind, then we saw the Vouge article. It really was genuinely a pleasant surprise. I take it as encouragement and as a mile marker for what is to come in the future.” Lost Tribe also won band of the year in the Uptown Carnival Committee competition.

He added that he loved the article, felt comfortable speaking with Meade via Zoom, and appreciated that she did her research and seemed to understand him and his ideas.

“There’s something to be said, as Caribbean artists coming from a small part of the world, about being recognised on a global scale. It reminds you of the bigness of your voice. It reminds you of the bigness of your craft and the impact that sometimes tends to get lost.”

He recalled that, a few weeks before Carnival, a friend told him someone from a “big publication” wanted to interview him concerning the band. While giving that friend information on who to contact for approvals, he was told the interview was for Vogue.

“To be honest, I was a little doubtful at first. But they followed up again through another friend. I really respected that because it showed they really wanted to get the article done.”

He said the article was like icing on the cake after a particularly challenging Carnival season logistically, emotionally, and mentally. He said it tested the limits of his mind and body, and he was extremely focussed on preparing the costumes and ensuring his masqueraders were happy.

So taking the time to sit and do the interview was a welcomed break and the timing of the article was also appreciated, but he hoped never to have another Carnival like that of 2023.

He added that, while some on social media compared his 2023 designs to iconic masman Peter Minshall and he appreciated it because he looked up to Minshall and all the great mas makers, he did not want to be “the next Minshall.”

“I love all the greats that have passed us, every single person who has been in the Carnival – those with us now and those who have left us – and I hope that I could contribute to that legacy in the same way that they have.”