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Pushing the Carnival boundary

By Melissa Doughty Monday, February 22 2016

IN AN array of floral tones and colour, K2K took to the stage in Port-of-Spain once again in its search for Shangri- La. The richness of the bright colours through its 2016 presentation “Searching for Shangri-La” (inspired by a novella) creating a paint splash through the city’s capital on February 8 and 9.

The telling of this unique search led Karen and Kathy Norman to their second win as Medium Band of the Year; imprinting them as a new generation of mas leaders in TT.

There was a certain synchronicity to their actions. It is often said that this happens when identical twins are involved.

K2K’s Kathy and Karen have brought something different to the recently concluded Carnival celebrations. The band’s unique style merges fashion and masquerade.

It has been a long road for the sisters from when they first had their own band in 2012 with “The Waters-Seas of Consciousness.” For them, the road to becoming one of Carnival’s most sought-after bands was not an easy one. They have become so known it might now be hardpressed to find someone who does not know or has not heard of K2K.

The band’s recent alliance with famed mas legend, Peter Minshall and his king, Jha- Whan Thomas as “The Dying Swan- Ras Nijinsky in drag as Pavlova”, has also brought this band sharply into the public’s focus. While the twins did not have much more to say about the Dying Swan and public debate surrounding its “mas authenticity”, it was to them an honour to work with Minshall – to whom their work has been likened.

It is important to the Normans to stamp their own print on Carnival’s history books. In a 2013 “Caribbean Beat” interview, the twins then said, “We want to be our own image.” And that is what the band has done, having won the medium band title twice in a row.

The band also follows a philosophical aesthetic of bringing diversity to the Carnival platform.

“We try to marry the traditional with the contemporary,” the twins said. What K2K is; is a new, unique, evolving dispensation of the masquerade for which TT is known.

Their masquerade is, “beauty and it is fashion...” in a fashion- conscious world. “It is the traditional aspect of storytelling– each of our themes is more like a life lesson,” the Norman sisters said.

But Kathy and Karen were clear; K2K fits into no pre-determined mould of the Carnival/ masquerade aesthetic.

Their outlook on what and how Carnival should be takes a holistic approach. “The Beads, Bikini’s and Feathers (BBFs) have its space. It [masquerade] is an evolution and a cycle. I would like to think K2K has its space.

K2K attracts a certain kind of individual but the band itself is pretty mixed,” Kathy said.

The band often attracts the young and mature professional, who are sophisticated and kind of chic, they said. “You can use our costumes after. Keep it in your closet.” For the sisters, Carnival and masquerade encompass all in one form or another. Asked about the ever-raging debate as to whether or not TT’s Carnival now excludes people, the sisters said they had mixed views about that since playing mas is an expensive affair. Admittedly, Carnival has become an expensive affair. “Our band is non-sponsored.

K2K The extent of work done on our costumes makes it expensive.

Carnival in and of itself is expensive.” But that the viewing of it, the spectatorship of that spectacle belonged to the people. The sisters made it clear that their masqueraders and the band were opposed to the use of ropes around the band. It just might be that philosophy of inclusiveness while remaining exclusive which leads to a growing mas membership.

Karen and Kathy said each year there are more and more people seeking to become members of K2K Alliance.

For them, it is more than a band but rather a collective, family effort. Members call them to state how proud they are of the band’s accomplishments and are also proud of the collective work put into K2K and its family. The sisters do the work themselves from design to completion, ably assisted by the support of their mother and father and supported by their extended family of masqueraders.

The sisters have already wrapped up their designs for Carnival 2017 and if there is any lesson they want the TT public to remember is, “Don’t be afraid to step out and do something different; garner enough passion to fight for what you really want.”

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