Two-horse race for road march title – Bunji vs Teja

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PLAY YUH MAS: A reveller from The Lost Tribe’s Fly plays her mas on Tuesday during Parade of the Bands at the Queen’s Park Savannah. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

YOUNG King Mical Teja’s runaway hit DNA faced stiff competition from Bunji Garlin’s Carnival Contract, as the race for the coveted Road March crown tightened between the two performers.

From South Quay to Queen’s Park Savannah, the nation’s capital was transformed into a sea of feathers, beads, crystals and vibrant colours during the two-day Reign of the Merry Monarch.

A masquerader from Tribe enjoys herself at the Soca Drome at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Carnival Tuesday. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

From the start of the season, right up to when he was crowned Young King, Teja’s DNA was anointed by many as the road march song. But soca veteran Bunji would have none of it.

As the dawn broke on Carnival Tuesday, Garlin’s Carnival Contract was the clear song of choice at South Quay.

A National Carnival Commission (NCC) judge at South Quay, who asked to remain anonymous, said that on Monday, most of the bands crossed to Garlin’s Carnival Contract, and this was the same on Tuesday.

Air could not pass between these two Carnival lovers on stae at the Soca Drome, Hasely Crawford Stadium on Tuesday. – Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

“Mical Teja’s song is beautiful eh, but most of the bands want that power type of soca and they went with Bunji’s Carnival Contract,” the judge said. At other judging points, both songs were the stand out choice among bands.

A vendor at South Quay who identified herself only as June told Newsday that Carnival sales this year were slow.

“This year people are not coming out, and it’s really hard for us out here. Everything is up by the savannah, J’Ouvert morning, nobody passed this way,” she complained.

A masquerader with the band Southern Mas Associates which portayed Oklahoma Pride at King’s Wharf, San Fernando on Tuesday. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

June said the NCC should revise the routes it chose for Carnival and find creative ways to encourage the public to visit other areas of the Capital and not just the Savannah.

“Maybe it’s the amount of crime before Carnival that made people not want to come to Port of Spain, but it has been really safe. Everywhere you turn is police and I haven’t heard of anybody getting robbed.”

Asked for her road march pick, June said, “All I hearing is Bunji’s Carnival Contract, but then right after, they would play Mical’s DNA. So I don’t know who would win, but personally, I like Teja.”

A costume from Kinetic Mas’ Yokoso during downtown Carnival at South Quay in Port of Spain on Tuesday. Photo by Roger Jacob

On Charlotte Street, an elderly woman, surrounded by a group of people, was lying on the pavement. The unidentified woman said she came to watch bands pass and began feeling light-headed.

“It is the heat. I just need some air and water. Jusso jusso, I started to feel dizzy. Next thing, I just feel my body going down (sic).”

When Newsday left the scene, she was seated and given a bottle of water by other spectators.

Yuma reveller Sean Mahon said Bunji’s Carnival Contract was the only song to cross the stage. “Carnival contract gives you that energy boost when you cross.”

Nadia Batson entertains at Dimanche Gras on February 11, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.- Photo by Jeff K Mayers

Mohan said he was pleased with not just the band’s security but the police presence as well.

“Everything feels safe and the vibes are just nice and positive; there is no fighting or anything. I appreciate seeing police at almost every corner.” The Diego Martin resident said he has been playing mas for the past few years.

“I’m not new to playing mas, but this year feels kind of different. Carnival usually has electricity, but this year it feels a bit off. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t have the same magnetic energy as in previous years. I am enjoying it, but it just feels like something is missing.”

A group of young men liming on St Vincent Street, and who said they were from Laventille, called the road march winner on Tuesday – Carnival Contract. Asked why, one man said, “It’s just that rugged vibe that makes you wanna jump, so dat’s why (sic)”

Speaking with Spirit Masquerader Krystal Regis right before she crossed the stage, she described the season as freeing, saying Carnival is a reminder of who we are as a people.

“There are a lot of things that need addressing in this country, no doubt. But when you see all aspects of our beautiful culture, from the traditional Mas to the pretty Mas, J’Ouvert and Canboulay, how can we not love this country? We need to remember this feeling of love and unity after Carnival and start working to bring back love in this country.”

She too backed Bunji for the road march title.

American Karen Cummings said she has been visiting and playing mas since the 80s and had long fallen in love with TT’s culture.

Cummings, a travel agent, said she usually visits with about 50 people, but this year she is vacationing with a smaller group.

“When Carnival was announced, Jet Blue ticket prices went from US$250 to US$900. That is madness! That is why a lot of people didn’t come this year with me.”

Speaking with Newsday at Memorial Park, Cummings said despite the US’ travel advisory warning its citizens about visiting TT, she said she felt safe. Asked her choice for road march, Cummings was clear: Bunji’s Carnival Contract was winning.

Bar woman Marcia Bastien, who was stationed at Keate Street, also picked Bunji as the road march winner.

“His song is real vibes, it is a call to jump up and misbehave. DNA is what you chip to, it is a great song, but Bunji commands you to move,” Bastien said.