by AMANDA LYNCH-FOSTER
THEY ARE BARBADOS' 'FIRST FAMILY' of mas'.
Long before the first Kadooment Day dawned in 1978, legendary
bandleader Winston Jordan was in a band-house, amidst the sequins, glue, camaraderie and 'ole talk'.
From the time he was a child, still in primary school, Jordan learnt
the art of costume-making from his stepfather, Trinidadian Emery Lawrence, and his mother Elaine Lawrence, who were award-winning bandleaders before him in the 1950s and 1960s.
This was back in the years between 1957 and 1964 when Crop-Over, as we know it, had not been revived as yet and the festival was run by the Jaycees and called Carnival.
"My story goes so far back. My uncle had a band and my mother and her husband had a band. When we had a Carnival, I was a youngster at primary school and when they were making the costumes for the Carnival band, I used to help.
To me it was a big thing, but to them it was a little help. I remember one year we played Dominoes and I had to paint the eyes of the dominoes and that was a big thing to me. I went to school and told my friends about it," recalls Winston with a nostalgic smile crossing his face.
Years later when Crop-Over came to be, his own children, Tricia, Winston Jr., and son Winslow, grew up as he did, in and around the band-house, as Winston was a bandleader from the first Kadooment until two years ago.
At the family home in Collymore Rock, St Michael, which for a long time was also the base of their many Kadooment bands, three generations of the mas'-making family, Elaine, Winston and Winslow, shared the experience of their unique family heritage.
Elaine described how it all began back in the late 1950s, in the early days of 'mas' in Barbados.
"My husband was a Trinidadian and he was always into that, and I would be with him helping him and we won a lot of prizes. We played Jab-Jab one year, we won with that. We played Dominoes, we won with that. And we played a band called Tourists and we won," she says.
At that time, she recalls with a smile, Winston "used to be a little boy jumping in the band".
These experiences sparked Winston's creative spirit and eventually he started designing. In fact, he designed his first costume as a teen, hoping his family would use it for their 1965 band, but unfortunately Carnival was discontinued that very year.
When Crop-Over was revived in the 1970s, Winston took the chance to express his creativity any way he could. Working as art director with Corbin Advertising, he designed the first logo and poster used for the festival.
Still he hungered for more.
"The Kadooment actually came out of my using my initiative in 1974 when we had the cart parade. They had brought in a steel band from Trinidad and we were supposed to walk in procession behind the carts and I told the fellas: 'Wait, they got a steel band from Trinidad and we walking behind the carts? No, we jumping!' and I was the person who started jumping in the streets, back in 74," he declares.
By the next year, Winston had his crew outfitted in colourful T-shirts with the logo of the popular 'Bajan Belly Laff' comic strip which he drew for THE NATION newspaper.
When the first Kadooment was held in 1978, Winston was ready with his band To Jenkins and Back which took home some prizes.
And so the second generation of mas' began, as Winston became one of the foremost bandleaders in the island.
It was inevitable then that his children would get roped into the art of
costume-making, particularly since 'back in the day' the band-house culture was strong, with everything being made locally by the members.
According to their father, the young Jordans got involved in the Kadooment culture "from a very small age". For years, they helped him make the band or played in the band, often taking leading roles.
In 1992, Tricia became the youngest-ever Queen-Of-The-Band at age 14, carrying a costume called Ella Mella Dressed In Yellow Went to Town to Meet a Fellow.
Twenty-four-year-old Winslow has followed most closely in his father's
footsteps, working as assistant bandleader and designer from 1998, when he was just 17 years old.
With a broad smile, he recalls growing up in the band-house, saying:
"It was an experience. Because a lot of other people that I knew as little kids didn't have bandhouses [at home.] When I got to an age where I could handle a knife and a scissors properly, I was helping."
In fact, Winston says, his children "started to frighten the other band members, they came to it [designing] so naturally."
That early creative experience clearly had an impact on Winslow as it did decades earlier on his father and he has associate degrees in both graphics and fine arts from the Barbados Community College.
The two have different, yet similar perspectives on the state of mas' now in Barbados.
Winston, who calls himself "a guardian of the culture" and whose bands were known for their strong emphasis on Bajan folk culture, looks indignant as he comments:
"I look around at the costumes they have now but I'm not satisfied. You can put all of them together and you can't tell one from the other. They're copying from Trinidad. The costumes have changed and there's nothing Bajan about them anymore."
Winslow, who has turned his creative touch to body-painting for other bands, agrees with his father to some extent, but notes that the trend of the 'bikini band' is driven by "what the people want".
"I ain't going to diss the people because they're trying to make money, but my personal experience right now is that there are a lot of people calling for true representation in costumes," he says.
He muses that perhaps it's "a call for integration" between the desire for the sexier, lighter costumes of the modern era and the more traditional costumes which have that true representation.
Perhaps that integration will be coming soon, when the Jordan family revives their legacy. After some years off, when Winston was seriously ill with diabetes complications, they plan to return to designing next year.
"In the end, I can't tell any designer what to do. I can only tell myself what to do. I would have to do something to show what I mean rather than only talking," vows Winston.