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Tassa Taal in Review
Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2004

By Stephen Kangal, Caroni

The sheer seductive and pulsating notes (taals) of the indigenous, folksy Tassa Taal reverberated through and perfumed the air of Debe 3 Saturdays ago as a persistent mellifluous breeze. Tassa Taal unfolded its full regalia in its 20th edition. Sixteen of the multicultural elite of tassa ensembles competed for a first prize of $5,000.00 and other individual rewards that were sponsored by Republic Bank.

Excellence in purity of hand, harmony and rhythm and presentation and performance were the criteria that propelled Country Boys Tassa Ensemble into stellar position followed by St. Johnís United and Railway Valley New Tassa Kirtan. While there are traditionally eight hands in the musical repertoire of tassa music the participants were restricted to 4 players. They played only 4 hands of the 8 to be judged by 4 adjudicators who were reputable connoisseurs of mirdang sangeet( drum music).

Tassa is pivotal to Hindu wedding ceremonies, Hoosay, soca-chutney shows, political meetings and as musical accompaniment to soca-chutney songs. It os one of the cultural instruments and medium for revitalising the rural fringe diverting the young from drifting into drug addiction and social deviance. Teamwork and harmony make the tassa stand out. We must capitalise on its uniqueness and magnetic appeal.

All the contesting Tassa ensembles were youth-dominated. But children and women were also included in the tassa explosion. It gave promise that tassa is rising to an implosion as well. Contestants were bedecked in their finest, most colourful, resplendent threads and attractive pagrees (turbans), dhotis evoking images of the splendours of Mogul India.

The feet-tapping offerings of tassa in full flight seduced the thousands of tassa aficionados in Debe by a gay revelry of colour, pageantry and innovative creativity. Gone are the days of the pot-bellied Base Drummer. The fit and the young have now excitedly assumed the mantle for taking tassa to new musical frontiers by presenting tassa music into areas where tassa has not gone before.

Tassa is indigenous to T&T. It is a creative, musical invention that can foster and promote our multicultural cohesiveness, is symptomatic of enormous, inter-active cultural tourism potential as well as an effective instrument for social re-engineering within our multicultural and social landscape. Tassa has met and exceeded all the requisite social, multicultural, economic and political imperatives to be declared a national instrument immediately.

The Debe Tassa Taal distinguished itself for clarity, sanitary sounds, crispness and distinctive penetrating notes that were deliberately harmonized to create a musical delight engineered to pander to the palate of thousands of worshippers of tassa congregated in the Debe ashram.

It was notably refreshing to see the San Juan Tassa Group and others experimenting with state-of- the- art synthetics instead of the original mango wood and goat-skins. Tassa reached a new plateau in its musical saga. It unleashed, radiated and conducted a symphony over our heads inducing uncontrolled and irresistible pelvic gyrations. It wove a magic spell and strung us like puppets to the sticks of the tassa men. The divine showered his approval and reflected perhaps, his own seduction by causing the rains to spray his people like heavenly "abeer" to symbolise the descent of his blessing in recognition of a great performance.

I could not avoid the elder cutterman (tenor pan equivalent) from the Barrackpore Group who conducted and led his saaj (group) with symphonic and spontaneous hand gestures that had us eating from the palm of the hands. The young Boodoosingh toddlers overawed me. Then there was the Evergreen Tassa representing the verdant Santa Cruz Valley with Seema Raghoo, the pioneering female Jhaal player adding spice, female seduction and exhibiting authentic synchronized pelvic gyrations to embellish and reinforce the notes of the cutterman.

My only regret is that Tassa that originated from the deep under belly of a creative sector of our ethnic diversity suffers from statal neglect and lack of private sector patronage that cannot be justified having regard to our panderings to multiculturalism. It is an affront to the full flowering of this cultural legacy lovingly bequeathed to us by our indentured pitris.

The tissues of soul T&T vibrated last Saturday. Tassa Taal launched us into orbits of sheer ecstasy and gay abandon that were therapeutic to our heart, oats to soul and channa amrit to the spirit of our peoples. The 20th edition of Republic Bankís Tassa Taal was at its musical best, awe- inspiring and constituted the sheer harmonious fusion and internal dynamics of drumology at its brilliant best.



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