THE SAILOR MAS - A HISTORY
By Carlton Francis
Dancer/Choreographer and former Cultural Officer
Ministry of Culture and Gender Affairs
August 13, 1999
This character was introduced during the 1880s when American, French and English naval ships came to Trinidad. Today it is one of the most dominant Carnival characters in Carnival and it has been modified into many different styles, such as:
Sailors Ashore, Fancy Sailor, Flour Bag Sailor, Fancy Sea Bees, Suck Me Nose, Fireman, Red Head Sailors, Head Mask Sailor, King Sailor, Free French.
American Sailors Ashore: These wear a white sailor cap, white long sleeve jumper with an insignia on the right sleeve and a very large collar bearing the name of the band or the ship crew of what they are portraying (e.g. USS Saratoga etc). a long flared bottom, tight-fitting white pants, black shoes and black tie. This costume is made out of white drill. This character may use either a walking stick or an umbrella, and would typically hold a pair of dice or a chamber pot in his hand. He would also have a garland around his neck, as is worn in Hawaii.
Suck Me Nose: This Sailor wears jumper-pants and a hood over his head with a very long nose. This costume is made out of flour bag.
Flour Bag Sailor: This costume is being made out of flour bag with a sailor cap and tie.
Redhead Sailor: this costume is made out f flour bag and the Sailor has on a hood with red hair on his head made out of rope and red dye.
Free French Sailor: this character is a French Sailor, his costume is a black beret with the name of the ship on the rim of the beret. A tight-fitting short sleeve bow neck jersey, with horizontal blue and white stripes, long, flared bottom black melton pants, and black shoes complete the ensemble.
King Sailor: The King Sailor's costume is made out of white drill or corduroy. He has epaulettes on each shoulder, a red sash across his chest, a crown on his head, cords, medals and war ribbons on the left side of this chest with a walking stick in his hand.
The Fancy Sailor: This costume is made out of lame, white drill or it is decorated with swansdown, sequins, foil and tinsels, with either a decorated officer's cap or a sailor cap.
Headmas Sailor: This costume is made out of white drill or any hard, coloured material. The head mask depicts the concept of his band e.g. the Crab, Flower, Mermaid etc.
The English Sailor: A white Coast Guard hat, white short sleeved jumper with a pair of blue stripes in a box shape around the neck, long white flare bottom pants, black shoes.
Fireman: This sailor belongs to the Engine Room; his costume is made out of black melton, black vest, waist cloth in his back pocket, an officer's cap, a pair of goggles, a large pair of leather gloves, an iron stoker decorated with prints, swansdown, metallic dust, braids and tinsels. Some firemen also wear blue melton cloth.
The Sea Bees: These are dressed in blue dungarees and blue chambre shirts with a white sailor cap. There are also fancy sea bees, made popular by the Dem Fortunates Steelband of Belmont.
DANCE MOVEMENTS OF THE SAILOR
Bote: The dancer moves along sideways on one leg, using the heel and toe movement to propel himself along. He then places both feet on the ground and continues the movement with both feet. This dance was originally done in dace halls but implemented later on the street.
Crab: The dancer squats in second position (sitting) and rhythmically moves his feet from the heel to the instep achieving an effect akin to a scuttling crab. At the same time he rotates his shoulders showing off his epaulettes.
Marrico: The dancer gyrates his hips in a circular movement and then pushes out his buttocks to the back.
Pachanga: The dancer uses a walking stick, a pair of large dice, or an umbrella and has a pipe in his mouth. In this dace he would make dramatic antics.
Rock De Boat: The dancers hold each other on their shoulders forming two or three lines moving across the stage in opposite positions.
Skip Jack: The dancers form themselves in threes moving in a hop and drop position going forward and backward.
The Camel Walk: The dancer stands erect with a walking stick in his hand, facing the ground, walking straight heel and toe with one of his knees slightly bent, rotating his shoulders, moving forward and backward to the Calypso rhythm.