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Mas icon driven by innate passion
For decades, the name of one man has rung out within conversation of mas and T&T’s culture. His roots, his childhood, and an innate passion to take everything local to the world, keeps Big Mike Antoine on top of his game every year. In 2011, he’s coming again with his Big Band Legacy, which has over the years earned great respect, thanks to the ingenious creativity of this man and his team. A humble demeanor, a down-to-earth persona, and a graciously warm smile has taken Mike from strength to strength, and continues to keep his name among the top honchos of the industry.
From Best Village to the top
“I grew up in mas. I came up in Best Village,” he explained. At Ross Land, Bournes Road in St James, Mike learnt the art of Best Village, and with each strike of the African drum he saw his life develop before him. It was inevitable that he would be a culture-man. “I can play the African drums, tassa drums, the steelpan, and I do promotion of events, manage artistes and so many other things. All I know is culture,” he declared. Mike’s journey has been quite unique, with one door opening even before the other closed. And, as the saying goes, he has grabbed every opportunity as it arose. Decades ago, he started off playing mas with Harts. “All the guys from the gym played mas with a particular section in the band,” he said. Sometime later, Savage developed out of Harts, and Mike was charged with the responsibility of the Strong Men and Rude Girls section.
“That was about 25 years ago,” he mused, and highlighted that Barbarossa and Poison came out of Savage. He manned a section in Barbarossa, all the while gaining popularity and offering patrons an experience unlike the ordinary. “Legends later came,” he said, “but even before that we had begun capitalising on the Caribbean Carnival market.” Legends became a true Carnival winner, copping five Band of the Year titles during its time on the Carnival scene. Mike and his partner, Ian McKenzie, later parted ways and Legacy was born. “I don’t do it to make money. When we brought out Legends it wasn’t about the money for me, it was for the love of it,” confirmed the band-leader.
A need to raise the bar
As the energy of C2K11 heightens, Mike was reminded of where he had begun and the people who’d been around him from the beginning. “Most of the people around me today are from back in the day. They understand me and I understand them. They learn from me- we feed off of each other,” he admitted. Consistently thanking God for his good health and the strength to do what he does year in and year out, Big Mike highlighted that stakeholders of Carnival must strive to raise the bar. “We need to enhance it. Each and every one of us needs to raise the bar. We need to market this properly. Barbados has beaches, we have Carnival and we have to market that. It is the time of year when we get the most people here,” he stressed.
Mike explained that when the stage was taken away, he felt that it was a loss to Carnival. “We are the mother of all Carnivals. That big venue, for many years, was there to showcase what we had and it was taken away,” he recalled. Mike said the new government’s decision to bring back the stage was indeed a step in the right direction, but indicated that there remained a lot to be done for the culture. “There’s a lot more to be done and hopefully we can raise the bar and go to the next level,” he said.
Driven by passion
As a mas man, Big Mike Antoine said he’s always been driven, and if he had a choice, he would do it all again. “I’d do it the same way, just with a little more money and I’d be a little wiser,” he laughed. With some 45 employees hired for the season, and 25 on staff during the year, Big Mike explained that his mas camp was an institution, highlighting that throughout the year his team worked for presentations across the Caribbean, North America and other parts of the world. “I’m not making a killing. I’m making an honest living,” he said, adding that just like the rest of the population woke up and went to work, he did the same. With a love for children, the Legacy team led by Mike, has worked at ensuring children at homes across the country were treated well at Christmas time and at other times during the year. “I believe in giving to children. Children never asked to be here. Culture has been good to me, and this has been my way of giving back quietly,” he explained.
From mas to fete — nothing stops Mike
With the final destination of his Carnival journey on course for C2K11, Big Mike and the Legacy team are hard at work with their presentation of South Pacific. “There’s a buzz in this year’s Carnival and we think it will be nice —the music will be good,” he said, adding, “registration has been going really good, the Strongmen and Rude girls section is all gone, and the frontline of Waikiki is sold out.” With 16 sections to choose from, masqueraders are being guaranteed a special experience with the Legacy crew in 2011. On February 4, the band will present its Cooler Fete at the Queen’s Park Oval. With big name soca artistes and sheer fun on the agenda, there’s no doubt that this too will be another amazing experience with the Legacy family. “ I can’t ask for too much. I have been fortunate. I thank God for the health and strength that keeps me going,” said the culture lover.
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