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White Frock & Coals Dust, written by Grenada-born Toronto-based journalist Lincoln Toro Depradine, is an exploration of social life in the community in which he was raised. 

 “The main setting of the book is The Wharf/Carenage community in Grenada,’’ Depradine said.  “The Wharf is not just a community but an important slice of life in Grenada.  It’s also a community that could be found in all the former slave colonies of the Caribbean.’’ 

The 200-page book, with a foreword penned by Grenadian cultural historian Caldwell Taylor, is published by Mayaro Imprint in New York. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of the book.  The chapter is titled, “They are Barbarians.’’ 

While his brother, Arthur, arranged music for Angel Harps, George Coard produced mas’ bands consisting of hundreds of costumed revellers that enhanced the status of “Wharf’’ as a force in Grenadian culture.  George’s masquerades were annual contenders for Band of the Year title. 

However, his most famous mas’ band – and some say his best – never won Band of the Year.  His 1969 presentation was called “Barbarians.’’  Each costume, each headpiece, each prop, was meticulously crafted to provide a realistic representation of ancient Barbarians. 

“We portrayed Barbarians the way Barbarians really were,’’ said George, who has made Canada his home since 1972.  “Some mas’ players shaved their hair and then attached long ponytails, made of rope, at the back of their heads.  Others adorned themselves with fresh, new skins from recently killed goats.’’ 

The only people who weren’t impressed with “Barbarians’’ were the panelists judging for the Band of the Year.  They gave the Band of the Year title to “Fashion of the 20th Century,’’ a fancy mas’ of colour but far less extravagant and spectacular than “Barbarians.’’ 

“We really got robbed,’’ George said as he recalled “Barbarians.’’  Behind his bespectacled eyes, a glimmer of excitement was visible.  It could have been the memories of “Barbarians;’’ or it could have been the thrill he experienced now standing on Lakeshore Boulevard among tens of thousands of spectators observing revellers dancing and swaying at the 2006 Toronto International Carnival (Caribana).  After a comment or two about a costume in the Caribana parade, George returns to “Barbarians.’’ 

“The judges told us the reason we lost was because the masqueraders were too hostile,’’ he said. 

The Wharf was outraged at the judges’ decision to award Band of the Year to “Fashion of the 20th Century.’’  It was not the first time the community felt cheated out of winning Band of the Year, or the steelband panorama and festival competitions. 

The year after the judges’ snubbing of the “Barbarians,’’ George and Angel Harps refused to produce a mas’ band for carnival.  Instead they printed protest T-shirts.  At the back of the T-shirts were emblazoned the words, “Don’t Ask Me!’’

             

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