Following, their return to Dominica after completing university Geida Seaman and Kiyana Edwards felt like their Dominica Carnival experience could be much improved taking into consideration their experiences of other carnivals across the world. According to Geida, “If I experienced this somewhere else why can’t I experience it in Dominica”.
After discussing it the two went about registering the company in November 2014 and Hysteria Mas was born.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Seaman who shared her experience of starting a costume band.
“In the beginning it was a learning curve and we kind of just went with what we think should happen, we spoke to some people who were experienced in creating carnival bands in other islands, but we basically stuck to the ideal of how we would want to be treated…if you don’t like something how can you expect anyone else to?”
2015 was the first year Hysteria Mas took to the streets for carnival.
Seaman stated, “Our goal is to have the complete carnival experience!”
Where did the name Hysteria come from?
We went through a few names actually before we got to hysteria…originally we had the idea of Nirvana but in trying to register the company we realized that many of the names were taken. At one point the team at the time got so tired of going though the names (as every time we went to the cooperation to register we were told that the name was taken) we emailed them 15 potential names of what we thought it could have been called. We even mashed things together Fetopia, Fetiopia… it was terrible.
Hysteria was not our first choice but it fit and rolled off the tongue. When our graphics Director Petrea worked on the logo that was also a challenge. The logo is simple but getting something simple to look good is takes longer than something complicated, the font and the look all of that.
Kiyana was the one who decided that our colors should be a clean black and white as that looks sleek. All these things took time and planning before we launched in 2015.
What was one of the major challenges in starting a costume band in Dominica?
One of our main challenges was the food. This was because we previously used just one caterer who always confirmed that they could cater to the number of people that we gave them but we have had two caterers who let us down in the past.
They tended to be overconfident, but not only do we have to feed band members but staff and other persons, these caterers ended up failing us in the end. We ended up having to apologize several times to inebriated people who want something to eat and disappointed a lot of people. We did however try to rectify that by buying food from local vendors. That was a big problem for us which we resolved by splitting the caterers which worked out well.
Getting things into Dominica is also a problem. Although the Dominica festivals commission has duty free forms for carnival the process to get the form approved is quite tedious. We’ve only done it two out of our three years and both times were difficult. We would like to source things directly but its hard as much of what we need we can’t find locally. We can use some local places such as L.A. Dupigny, Stedies, La New etc. but overall a lot of what a costume needs to have to import. That created some problems for us in terms of delivering on time.
If you had to go back in time and give a young hysteria team advice you wish you knew back then what would it be?
- Make sure you have more than one caterer.
- Ensure to do complete contracts though a lawyer before you start anything.
- Don’t beat yourself up about things that are out of your control.
What are some of the most memorable experiences that you have had as a group?
For us I would say its when we are together late at night, it can be 11 o’clock at night and we have some soca music playing or we decide to listen to the queen show or calypso show while we go over last-minute details for carnival Tuesday, just being together. Even if we are missing out on certain events we are still trying to have a good time. The team itself our memorable moments are building carnival costumes and having experiences joking together.
Dominica was struck by Maria in 2017 which affected the Island majorly. Why did the group decide to go ahead with the costume band anyway?
Because of Hurricane Maria we initially thought that the DFC was not going to move forward with carnival 2018 based on the first 6 weeks after the hurricane, and then when they decided to we battled within ourselves. One of our members told us to just propose it to the band members to get a feel of what they want and sure enough we had over 60% of band members saying yes, it didn’t matter what we did, to just go ahead as they still wanted to be a part of carnival. So, we really did it for our hysterics.
We decided that even if it was something simple we can still provide a lot of the experiences that you get even if it was on a smaller scale and more minimalistic.
Another reason why is that some people need that emotional and mental break. Even if people don’t like to think to hard on it the shared experience that we have of Hurricane Maria will have an effect on you emotionally and mentally and some people deal with trauma differently. So, if your way of dealing is to put on a one piece with two feathers then do you!
So why Phoenix Rise as a name?
Phoenix Rise came from my brother Dr. Garvin Seaman. He thought of Phoenix as what a Phoenix does is rise out of the ashes, so in a sense its meant to represent Dominica rising out of the ashes of Hurricane Maria. So even If we’ve all experienced this devastating tragedy this does not mean that we can’t be beautiful and more than what we were before. So we wanted to give people that feeling. When he told me Phoenix Rise at first I thought it was a bit clichéd but sometimes clichéd works to try to return a sense of normalcy.
We went back and forth for a bit in terms of the section names finally deciding on Soar, Illuminate, and Rebirth. We recently added Evolve as people wanted more of the once piece we had for Soar.
What do you hope that hysterics and people joining the band for the first-time experience from Hysteria Mas?
We want them to just be joyous and have a good time. Entertainment should be about that first and foremost, just getting people to enjoy themselves. One of my favorite things to do during carnival is to just stay on the truck and watch people enjoy themselves. I love to see Dominican’s enjoy themselves, and although one of the things that Dominican’s like to say is ‘its Dominica what do you expect’ I never really liked that phrase and you don’t want that to always be the case.
So I just want people to come out and say ‘Yes carnival Tuesday 2018 even if we didn’t expect to have a carnival I had a great time with Hysteria and I wish I could do it every day’. We want them to end carnival Tuesday by having a great time.
*From the Hysteria Website https://hysteriamas.com/
Hysteria Inc was created out of a partnership of young Dominicans that have permanently returned to the island, and have identified the need for economic and cultural development via the presentation of the Ultimate Carnival Experience. The objectives of the organization are to celebrate diversity, support the local art industry and encourage education enhancement, while promoting Dominica’s rich culture and supporting the development of Dominica’s carnival product.
WHAT WE DO
Celebrate diversity: Via the power of a carnival costume band we infuse Dominica’s ‘ole mas’ with new cultural norms that have evolved in Mas Dominique. This will allow masqueraders and carnival spectators to appreciate the history and evolution of carnival.
Supporting Budding Artists: We use local creative’s – fashion designers, graphic designers, musicians, chefs and the like, to provide us with the necessary goods and services we need to create our product. This will provide budding artists with a platform to showcase their work, and expand their network and services.
Carnival development: The introduction of a new costume band with a social mission into Dominica’s carnival will provide a new and fresh option for the Dominican people and will support the expansion and development of Dominica’s carnival product in the regional and international arena.
WHY WE DO IT
While we are driven by our social mission of celebrating diversity, education enhancement, and supporting local artists, we believe that we have a unique opportunity to provide our fellow Dominicans with the ultimate carnival experience that is underscored by innovation, quality costumes and exceptional customer service. Further, we believe that it is important to embrace the unique history of our culture while revolutionizing Dominica’s carnival product.