Q&A with Richard Noel
Tucson loves a good party, and next weekend TMY’s Traditions of Caribbean will be THE place for fun, festivities, educational workshops and promenade. All authentically led by Richard Noel, master percussionist and TMY Board member, and presented by Kuumba Made. Carnival maestro Richard gives us the scoop on Traditions of the Caribbean:
BL: How are we expanding the Parade and Carnival folklife celebration this year?
RN: Our 2012 Traditions of the Caribbean program has grown into a three day experience where attendees can listen, watch, dance, play, taste, make, and participate in steel drum workshops, carnival parade, body & face painting, stiltwalking and limbo dance all weekend. We’ll have Tucsonans who hail from the island leading the show, as well as special guest artists/teachers coming directly from Trinidad. The program also includes presentations over three days of other related Afro-Caribbean sounds and rituals—including Puerto Rican “bomba y plena,” Cuban Orisha chanting and drumming, and Jamaican reggae. There will be dress-making demonstrations, calypso, soca, and limbo demonstrations as well as hands-on workshops. And bringing it all together is the Parade, presented by Arizona Bilingual Magazine. Everything leads up to this grand event, which starts 7:00 Saturday evening. Local favorites Flam Chen and Tucson Arts Brigade are involved as are special international guests.
BL: The Workshop is always popular, will you explain what’s in store for attendees?
RN: The 2012 tradition of Caribbean carnival steel drum workshop, hosted by Arts for Life, is being conducted by Professor, Musical Arranger, Conductor and Performer Anthony Rose of Trinidad and Tobago. Professor Rose will lead a steel drum workshop with students from local high school steel drum bands. TMY Attendees can listen in to sessions begin with a 15-minute performance and demo by Professor Rose, with me on Percussion. The workshop also includes a video performance by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Band. An open forum discussion follows along with hands on skills and techniques. Come join us!
BL: Will you give us an historical perspective on the TMY Carnival steel-pan tradition?
RN: Preparations for Carnival — whether it be in Trinidad, other Latin American countries or across the US and Europe — often can take all year. It is believed that Afro-Caribbean slaves mimicked the French’s Carnival and added their own cultural touches, which many considered subversive. This led some governments to ban carnivals, and at the same time this fostered a culture of underground improvisation. This improvisation included playing drums made out of oil drum bottoms. These steel-pans are now an iconic feature of Trinidad and Caribbean music and are featured prominently in TMY’s own original creation.
BL: The TMY Traditions of Caribbean program has an educational component that extends into the community this year, true?
RN: We have created a Steel-Pan Program for the schools, aspiring to unite youths, adults, families and communities, and to encourage families to be involved in the child’s uncovered talent. We are providing all steel-pan instruments for the implementation, maintenance and growth of a steel-pan orchestra under our leadership. The program will focus on the students creative abilities and provide a new medium of positive expression. Children who may not find music captivating and stimulating, will enjoy this instrument’s unique qualities, and also will discover the correlation between music, math and science as they apply steel-pan techniques. There will be lectures on self-esteem and cultural pride with emphasis on the origin of the steel-pan. The cohesiveness necessary to make a steel-pan orchestra successful will build awareness of teamwork and co-operation, plus foster a sense of belonging. This project will open the eyes and minds of young people to the vast possibilities and realization of their worth and gifts. We will be available for consultation and support with specific projects throughout the school year, so this project is truly exciting!
BL: We love our Tucson talent, but tell us about some of the incredible international talent who will be part of Traditions of the Caribbean this year.
RN: In addition to Professor Rose, TMY welcomes Sonny Salina, the renowned dancer, choreographer, costume designer & costume maker. Sonny is a native of Trinidad and Tobago and a virtuoso in Traditional Caribbean folk form. He has been acclaimed as the leading Limbo Dancer of the World. Currently Sonny is a dance director in New York and is flying in to be part of TMY. Al Roberts also is joining us. He is a singer, song writer and producer who has been performing for three decades in the Caribbean, USA and Europe. Since moving to Boston from his native Trinidad, he has performed with the Boston Globe Jazz Festival and received two nominations for Boston Music Awards as a member of the group MOZAMBA.
BL: Sounds exciting!
RN: It’s all part of the fun in exploring the Caribbean’s joyful musical heritage. I hope TMY attendees check out the entire weekend schedule, and head over to the TCC stage around 6:45pm Saturday night to participate in the Carnival Parade. It’s magic!