Every time I hear the word ramajay I automatically hear Soca music. Whether it’s a Machel Montano or Lyrikal tune or the original G.B., Mr. Gregory Ballantyne singing about pan men ramajay-ing; it is always a good and exciting feeling. I recently attended the VIP/Press launch for the New York-based Ramajay Mas Band preview and was given the opportunity to find out a little bit more about RAMAJAY Mas with band leader and co-founder Reishelle Maynard aka Prinzez Diva.
Jay Blessed: When was the idea of a mas band named Ramajay conceived?
RAMAJAY: The idea for Ramajay Mas came about in 2008. GB God Bless & D’Original Divas had an independent section in Hawks Int’l, it was a great experience but we wanted to broaden our horizon. Therefore, the idea of doing our own mas band was born. We felt that New York was missing what our mas counterparts already had in Trinidad and Canada: breathtaking costumes combined with an extraordinary all-inclusive experience.
JB: Who are the founders of Ramajay Mas?
RAMAJAY: The founders include myself (Prinzez Diva), GB God Bless, and my sister Reisha Maynard-Holder.
JB: What does the word Ramajay mean to you?
RAMAJAY: ‘Ramajay’ is a folk word that originates from Trinidad and Tobago. It was a term mainly used by steelbands when a panist had a solo or jam session. It was their time to “show off”. Now the word is synonymous to ‘partying’, ‘liking yuh self’ and ‘having fun’.
When we were brainstorming ideas for the name for the band we had so many different options. Ramajay was actually the name of a Caribbean media website I started in 2004. Back then I asked my father for ‘Trini words/slangs’ hoping for one that fit the theme of the website. So one day while driving I remembered the website “Ramajay” and I said, “yessss that fits our vision for the mas band perfectly.” I took it back to the team and they loved it! The rest is mas history.
JB: Why a large band and not a t-shirt band?
RAMAJAY: My sister and I grew up in the culture of pretty mas. My father used to design for mas bands back in Trinidad. So every Carnival we were engulfed with the excitement of sequins, feathers and beads while costumes were built in our front yard, especially large King and Queen costumes. So it wasn’t an option to bring anything else. We wanted to bring the same excitement and beauty we grew up with to others on the Eastern Parkway.
JB: How many years has Ramajay Mas band been in existence?
RAMAJAY: Ramajay Mas‘ first year on the road was 2009. That year we placed 2nd in the large band category with over 600 masqueraders in the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association’s (WIADCA) Labor Day festivities.
JB: How do you feel about your growth thus far?
RAMAJAY: When we had the idea to start Ramajay, of course, success was our goal. However, we are humbled by the response the band has received. To win “Band of Year” in just our 2nd year on the road was amazing. To see the band expand from 600 masqueraders to over 1000 in one year was a great experience! But more rewarding, last year we had masqueraders from Sweden and Brazil. To know our culture reaches so far is what makes it all the worth the hard work.
JB: Ramajay Mas came out like David (from David and Goliath) when you won “Large Band of the Year” in WIADCA’s 2010 Labor Day parade. How did you manage to beat out Sesame Flyers and Borokeetes?
RAMAJAY: The win was amazing because Sesame Flyers and Borokeetes are the foundation of mas in Brooklyn. Growing up in Flatbush, all you knew was Sesame Flyers, Borokeetes, Hawks Int’l and Savage! For Ramajay‘s name to be known among them is a great accomplishment!
JB: Are you actively involved in the creation of every costume?
RAMAJAY: Design wise, yes, we work closely with Trinidad designers, Richard & Anthony. We have the vision and they work their magic to execute it. As far as the independent sections, we encourage teamwork and unity. We often share constructive criticism and ideas. So while each section is independently designed it benefits the overall vision of the band.
JB: How many hours would you estimate it takes for one costume?
RAMAJAY: Last year, the production of each costume was done ourselves. That process was extraordinarily time consuming. It varies on how intricate the design of each costume. Ramajay costumes are known for being very detailed, so therefore it takes a lot of time.
JB: This year the band has title their 2011 display “A Night of a Thousand Dreams,” what’s the significance behind your theme?
RAMAJAY: The inspiration behind our theme is the story of the Persian Queen Scherazade and her 1000 stories. Last year we did a historical theme and this year we wanted to touch on the realm of fantasy. We will take some popular dreams and showcase how they reflect our everyday lives.
JB:How many sections are you showcasing this year?
RAMAJAY: This year we have 13 sections, ten of which are independent sections.
JB: Of recent, I have noticed that most mas bands only have bikini clad revelers. So is it only bikini costumes or do you cater for everyone and every size?
RAMAJAY: This is something we need to clarify…RAMAJAY MAS CATERS TO EVERYONE!!! Last year, we tried to accommodate all body types with our many options Bikini, monokini, whole pieces, corsets, thongs, we had it all! This year will be no different. And if you don’t see it on display in our mas camp, simply ask for it. We try to customize the costumes to fit you as much as we can! We embrace the fact that each woman is different and unique!
JB: Ok enough about the ladies, what about the men, can they play as well?
RAMAJAY: Of course! Carnival is woman but the fellas makes it sweeter!
JB: Your tag line states “Dare to be different,” what makes your band different?
RAMAJAY: We pride ourselves in being more than just a pretty masband but an overall “experience”. From the minute you walk into the mas camp to register, to the last jump on the road; we want each masquerader to feel a part of the Ramajay Family. We pride ourselves in being able to remember each masquerader. not only by your face but also by your name. This year, we want to be known as the “interactive” mas band. We listen to all of our masqueraders’ ideas and try to make it an experience they will never forget.
JB: Give me 3 reasons why a masquerader would be crazy not to play mas with Ramajay.
RAMAJAY: 1) Our road experience/vibes is comparable to no other…you never know who will show up on our music trucks! *wink*
2) At Ramajay, you will feel like family not just a number. We are strong believers of ‘quality over quantity’.
3) An ultra-premium experience worth every cent of your money…the costumes (while beautiful) is only complimentary!
If you would like to take part in Ramajay Mas revelry, contact them below:
Contact: Ramajay Mas, Inc.
Location: 950 East 92nd Street, Brooklyn NY 11236
If you are a band leader or Mas leader and would like to be featured on www.jayblessed.com, then CLICK HERE and send us your info.