Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Pt. 9: Brian MacFarlane

Sitting here on a Carnival Tuesday night, watching Brian MacFarlane’s opening presentation for his band this year “Resurrection the Mas”

By this time tomorrow we should all know if he has been able to achieve an unbelievable 4 consecutive “Band of the Year” titles. MacFarlane is currently my favourite band designer. I am not a fan of the generic beads and feathers style of mas, it doesn’t capture my spirit or imagination, and the half-hearted attempts by bandleaders to give their thongs and headpieces some kind of ‘narrative’ or ‘backstory’ always comes across as disingenious.

MacFarlane is not without his critics, and I’m sure some of them will come forward, however at the moment he is for me the only torchbearer of the idea of mas as street theater and populist performance art.

The attention to detail (historical and technical), and the fabrication that borders on the couture, this is the mas and other-worldly escapism that riveted me, moved me and inspired me the most as a child holding me to the screen.

Right now the Midnight Robbers are crossing the screen and the smile on my face couldn’t be broader 🙂 I so wanted to play this year. Oh well 🙂 Here’s to another win!

From his website:

Brian MacFarlane’s heart has always been into carnival, starting out as an unpaid proletariat with one of the bigger names in mas, Raoul Garib. He learned quickly and turned into a ‘mas man’ himself.

Brian’s first Carnival King was portrayed by Junior Regrello which won South King of Carnival for his portrayal ‘Prisma-Man of Colour’. He continued to do Kings and Queens of Carnival between then and 1994 which always placed in the top four of their respective competitions. It was in 1994 that Brian won his first King of Carnival and the best designer with the portrayal, ‘The Conquest’ by Anthony Paul. This costume went on that same year to be crowned ‘Carnival King of the World’, at the first ever, International King and Queen of Carnival Competition in Trinidad and Tobago which hosted entrants from some thirty-eight countries.

Brian has also designed for international bands, including one for Carnival in Australia. His creation won band of the year. A feat he repeated when he designed a band of the year for Carnival in Vancouver, Canada. In 2000 Brian designed for Rosalind Gabriel’s junior Queen of Carnival entitled ‘Exodus the Power and the Glory’. This spectacular creation gave the appearance of an entirely different design when the individual moved in different directions and broke all records for Carnival, winning the seventeen competitions in which it was entered. Later that year at the request of the Trinidad and Tobago Government, this costume was used in a performance for Prince Charles of The United Kingdom on the occasion of his official visit to Trinidad and Tobago.

Over the years Brian has designed Kings, Queens, and worked with all forms of mas. In 2005 he designed and led his first full presentation, ‘The Washing by fire by water’, which copped band of the year medium category title and created great hope for mas in Trinidad & Tobago. In 2006, his creation ‘Threads of Joy’; won several accolades: Band of the Year Downtown, on the Greens, at the Renegade competition and 2nd place at the Savannah.  

Brian continued his carnival tradition of hand crafting costumes for the theatre of the streets in last year’s (2007) portrayal ‘India: The Story of Boyie’ which was the first ever portrayal of an entirely east Indian large band. This creation surpassed his efforts of 2005 and 2006 and received the top awards at all of the Carnival venues at which it was viewed. His 2007 presentation again copped Band of The Year Downtown, and on The Greens of Piccadilly. In addition, “India – The Story of Boyie” received the prestigious award of Band of the Year at The Savannah and was the highlight of the Champs in Concert.

LEFT: His Worship, the Mayor of Port of Spain, Mr. Murchison Brown and Brian Mac Farlane (image via

In 2008 Brian’s presentation “Earth – Cries of Despair, Wings of Hope” copped first place in all of the major judging points.
A first for Trinidad Carnival, this band highlighted the effects man has had on his environment, and along with the endorsement of the United Nations sought to educate both masquerader and spectator of the potential benefits lifestyle changes can have on our environment.

Ladies in Waiting – Masqueraders from Brian MacFarlane’s 2008 Carnival Band
(Photo courtesy Bobolee Pix)

2009 saw Brian again at the forefront Trinidad Carnival when his presentation “Africa – Her People, Her Glory, Her Tears” copped first place in all large band categories as well as the King and Queen of Carnival.

Brian’s 2010 presentation “Resurrection – The Mas” promises to be as spectacular as his previous productions.



MacFarlane Pierrot Grenades, Taste of TNT 2008


Opening Ceremony (2 of 5) – Summit of the Americas 2009




Callaloo, is a well-known local dish, one that is considered by some to be our national one.