Arts council guides mas camps tour

Arts council guides mas camps tour
Boroughite Yvette Rennie puts her best foot forward for Haiti’s earthquake victims.
Yvette Rennie, president of J’Ouvert City International.

“It’s our first endeavor of its kind,” explains Brooklyn Arts Council folk arts director Chris Mulé, elaborating on the Council’s first guided Brooklyn Pan Yard Tour to mas camps in Brooklyn. Leaving from the Brooklyn Museum on Aug. 23, from 7 pm — 11 pm, participants will visit six locations starting in Crown Heights.

Collaborating with J’Ouvert City International and City Lore, this is an opportunity to see the complexity of masquerade and steel bands as they prepare for J’Ouvert (6 am procession on day of the parade) and Carnival, in industrial yards and abandoned spaces in Crown Heights and East New York. Mulé emphasizes that “expressions for J’Ouvert revelers are steeped in traditional music (steelpan, Haitian rara), dance and costuming (masquerade).”

Mulé and cultural guide J’Ouvert City International’s Yvette Rennie will lead the tour to three mas camps and three steel pan yards including Despers USA and Phagwah Mas.

Visitors might experience practicing of steel band orchestras, tuning and toning by steel pan drum makers and technicians, steel band arrangement techniques by composers and arrangers, and wire bending and design techniques by mas camps.

“For neighbors of J’Ouvert and the Caribbean Day Parade as well as the general public, our goal is to raise awareness of the process and preparations of what it takes for the celebration,” said Mulé. “It’s for people interested in traditional arts.”

He added that as gentrification affects the neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Flatbush, and the garage rents rise where the workshops take place, mas camps move farther from the center of the parade. Mulé gives the example of D’Radoes that has moved its mas camp to East New York.

City Lore’s Poet Mobile has limited bus transportation seating for the tour ($40, register at A guided-tour timeline will be available for those taking public transportation.

BAC folk arts director Chris Mulé explains his division, “We present, safeguard, preserve, and promote traditional art forms of primarily ethnic groups in Brooklyn,” citing Irish, Italian, Jewish, Pakistani, Arabic as well as Caribbean groups he works with. “We’re interested in music, dance and material culture. This tour definitely fits into our mission.” BAC is starting small for its first tour.

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