Thursday, August 30, 2007

Marcus Eustace: D’ Man Behind D’ Mas

by Marie Fleming

Marcus Eustace is the engineer behind many winning costume pieces participating in both Trinidad and Toronto Carnivals. Son of Mr. Tedder Eustace, a man known for his great contribution to Trinidad Carnival for over 40 years, Marcus is the man behind all the glam and glitter displayed each year at the annual Dimanche Gras and Kings & Queens competition. Over the years we have become very familiar with the ‘Eustace’ name in relation to Trinidad Carnival and Toronto Caribana events. Born Trinidadian, Marcus Eustace, along with his brother Curtis fell in line under their father’s direction building ‘mas’ from a very young age. Mas-making quickly became rooted deep down in his veins and is now part of who he is.

At the age of sixteen, Marcus along with his brother moved to Toronto where they quickly got involved with Saldenah Mas Band through their father’s relationship and involvement with the band. Marcus stood by his father’s side learning all there was to know about mas-making and mas winning. Tedder Eustace has three winning titles to his name from the Dimanche Gras competition in 1975, 1977 and 1985, with the winning costumes entitled ‘Cock Fight’, ‘King Corbeau’, and ‘The Big Fisherman’ respectively.

Marcus Eustace worked hand in hand with his father over the years making dazzling costumes to present for the Saldenah Mas competitions up until 2001 when his father, Tedder Eustace, passed. From then on, Marcus knew it was his responsibility to carry on the Eustace name. Since the death of his hero and loving father, on Dec 31 2001, Marcus has managed to solely design and build 6 Kings to participate in the National Dimanche Gras competition held annually as a part of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival events. Remarkably 5 have won.

In a recent interview done with Marcus Eustace exclusively for WE Mag, Marcus described his role in mas-making as the “designer and constructer of it all”. Marcus’ brother, Curtis Eustace, portrays all his work at the Trinidad competition, while Rudy Rampersad does the portrayals in Toronto at the annual King and Queen competition. When questioned about his feelings towards having the portrayer getting all the credit for the wins, he seemed to not feel any resentment at all. As he says, “Well, nobody ever looks at the person who does the labour… they always look at the masquerader” and through his experience over the years he understands and relates to it comparing similar situations with Peter Samuel’s fame for his wins. He says, “Peter never built them... Aldwin Chowlnon did.” Nonetheless he holds his relationship with his brother dear to him as they work as a team to continue being successful mas-players with great achievements and recurring winning titles.

Not only is Marcus involved in the ‘big mas’ for the Dimanche Gras, but recently he has gotten more involved with the section mas in Trinidad. While he always had a section surrounding the King piece which he proudly referred to as The King’s Men, it wasn’t until 2001 when he brought an official section with Legends Carnival Band. He stayed there for three years before moving over to Carnival Tribe in 2005 when Legends announced their spilt into two bands, now known as Genesis and Legacy. In 2007, Marcus made another switch over to Island People, in light of some opportunities arising. For 2008 Carnival, Marcus will be part of the new band being born called Revolution which will be headed by his devoted brother, Curtis Eustace, and themed “The Imagination of Colour.”

In Toronto, Marcus Eustace also participated with the Loius Saldenah Mas Band bringing sections and numerous Kings and Queens until 2005 where Marcus and Curtis Eustace took on the challenge, joining with some other key players in the entertainment industry in creating their own band, Carnival Nationz. Leaders of the band are Marcus Eustace, Curtis Eustace, Dwayne Pitt (more commonly known as D’ Bandit), and Bryce Aguiton (a member of the Island Boyz team). This amalgamation brings to the table a victorious costume constructor and builder, an unbeatable costume portrayer, a flourishing DJ and an acclaimed promoter, respectively. All in all, it shouts success!

While meeting with Marcus and asked about his experience branching off to their own band in Toronto, he could not be any prouder of his achievements thus far. “Well”, he said, “the first year we won, and a lot of people were not expecting a band that’s going down the route last, after 6pm in the evening, to win [the Band Of The Year title]. We defeated all the odds and came first!” After a brief pause, he proudly added, “and the second year… when I looked over what we had [compared to] the rest of bands, it was an easy win.”

With such triumph in his voice I could not help but to probe for his thoughts on this upcoming year’s competition, and he wasted no time in divulging his confidence with what he foresees for this year’s events; “this year… I don’t see any band to give us competition when it comes to costumes.” He pressed back firmly into the seat of the chair and in the most nonchalant manner he completed his statement saying, “ I have seen all the other costumes, and I don’t see any competition… The closest thing I see to giving us any threat would be Dexter’s costumes… and he is considered a B band. So that wont be classified to compete in the same group, but I do see him winning [the title] for B band easily. After Dex and me there’s a big gap.”

Dexter Seusahai is another leading Toronto Mas Band builder that has been in the runnings for many years. This year marks Dexter inaugural year for his new band branching off from Callaloo Mas and taking with him, fellow section leader, Godfrey Wickham, to form Tribal Knights.

Marcus was hesitant to comment on his feelings for the King and Queen competition, as it is difficult since he has no idea on what the other Bands are going to bring to the event being held at Lamport Stadium, on August 2nd 2007. But he is confident in what he is ‘bringing’, he says that while it may not be his best piece ever, it sits high up in the ratings. For the Female Individual and the Queen, these too, he sees as easy winners. For his King piece this year Rudy will be portraying Ring Master, and Marcus says, “there’s a lot of different stuff in it, but it is nothing like anything anyone has ever seen at the competition in Toronto.” He is anxious to see how Toronto responds to his imagination.

Marcus’ ultimate goal at this point is yet to be unravelled and he sees the light in the next annual Dimanche Gras event. Marcus Eustace currently sits in a tie position with Peter Samuel, both for having 8 King victories to their names. His goal has been to surpass that record and next year, Carnival 2008, he expects to achieve his goal and make his dream a reality. “’Twas a lot of hard work to get there,” he sighed!

For his Circus theme this year, ‘The Big Top’ will be comprised of 11 sections entitled: Acrobats, Cotton Candy, Snake Charmer, Fire Dancer, Jugglers, Lion Tamer, Sexy Clowns, Wild Indians, Siberian Tiger, Gypsy, and Aerialists. He cunningly advised me that whatever may appear to be forgotten in the section mas, don’t be fooled as it was kept a secret for the Big costumes which will be unveiled at the King and Queen competition.

Marcus Eustace shared a great deal with me about his passion for what he does, the love of his father and his appreciation for all of his accomplishments thus far; mas-making sits at the core of his heart. He holds his father in high regard, nominating him as his one and only role model. Some other mas makers’ work, which he admires, are Wayne Barkley, Geraldo Vieira, and Peter Minshall, all legendary mas-men of Trinidad Carnival.

Nonetheless, Marcus knows how much he has contributed to making Toronto’s Caribana what it is today. And in his words he says, “anyone who is involved in Caribana will tell you that it is Marcus Eustace who has been solely responsible for changing the face of Caribana. I have brought up the quality to almost the Trinidad level, and costumes that win here can easily go down to Trinidad and be a contender… And that’s a great achievement for a Toronto Band Leader.” Marcus is proud of the level of work that he brings to the competition each year as he continually tries to be different. He puts his heart into it, ensuring that the costumes continue to hypnotize the crowd.

Marcus Eustace’s involvement with Carnival does not stop at Trinidad and Toronto. This successful mas-maker also participates in other Carnivals such as Boston, Tallahassee, Detroit, Baltimore, Miami, New York, and even England where he makes appearances with his winning pieces. This year at the Cricket World Cup Finals held in Jamaica, Marcus’ Dimanche Gras winning King of the Bands piece entitled, D’ Wrath of Tutankumhan, which also won Best Costume Design, was featured at the World Cup event. Marcus says it is “winning” that sets him apart from the rest!

When asked to comment on his different experiences with Trinidad mas and Toronto mas, he found it a bit difficult. “The level of mas up here in Toronto, compared to the level in Trinidad is getting very close,” he says. While Toronto still sits slightly lower than Trinidad Carnival, he attributes that to the funding available for mas up here. The quality of Caribana mas has improved three-fold, but the funding has not, and he feels that this will continue to keep the level hovering just below the quality being seen in Trinidad. Marcus hopes that in time, he will be able to see this change, to allow for a more thriving Caribana display with each year. Seeing it on par with Trinidad mas will be great, and if one day Toronto Caribana can eventually surpass Trinidad quality, this would be a breath of fresh air to Marcus. He feels it should be that way as Toronto Caribana sits at one of the most prosperous festivals all across North America.

Besides winning every year, he continues to be motivated by the enjoyment had by the masqueraders and spectators alike. It gives him great pleasure to know that people are happy with what he offers. Marcus concluded wishing good luck to all the other participating band leaders, and encourages them to keep on doing such a great job in promoting Caribana!

Achievements Over the years:

1992 – The Architect 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
1993 – The Nebula 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
1996 – The Ghost of Carnival 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
1997 – no Caribana event
1998 – The Predactor 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
1999 – The Millennium Bug 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
2000 – The Phantom 1st - portrayed by Dexter Seusahai (Saldenah Mas Band)
2001 – The Spirit of Carnival 1st - portrayed by Dexter Seusahai (Saldenah Mas Band)
2003 – The Skelotor 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
2004 – The Cobra 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
2005 – King Kong 2nd. - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Carnival Nationz)
2006 – Soca Warrior 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Carnival Nationz)
2007 – Ring Master - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Carnival Nationz)

1996 – The Great White Spirit 2nd - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
1997 – The Matador 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
1998 – Dis is we Carnival 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
1999 – Pazuzu: Protector of the Dark Crystals 2nd - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
2000 – D’ Rough Rider 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
2001 – Survivor 2nd - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Legends)
2002 – Jab Molassie 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Legends)
2003 – Sky is Your Limit 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Legends)
2004 – Drums of Freedom 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Legends)
2005 – War Chant, D’ Rise of Tatanka 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Carnival Tribe)
2006 – Out of d’Depths 4th - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Carnival Tribe)
2007 – D’ Wrath of Tutankumhan 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Island People)
also won: best costume design in Trinidad.

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