Magnificent Troopers smiled broadly as they set the pace for revellers in the Bacchanal Jamaica band during Sunday’s carnival road march in Kingston. The Troopers, which is led by Milton Wong, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
“To be honest, we are excited. We were on the last carnival road march in 2019 and it is good to be back with a bang,” Wong said as his team drummed pulsating beats.
Despite the excitement, some band members lamented the recent surge in violence in St Catherine, particularly Spanish Town, that has impeded their ability to practise. Band members were forced to change their practice hours, opting for earlier times, and shorter sessions.
One member, Foster, shared that he is longing for peace to be restored to the old capital. Foster, 30, who has been part of the band for the past eight years, shared that the band has been instrumental in keeping him out of trouble.
“I grow up and I live in Spanish Town, and this [the band] has been good for me. Being back on the road, I missed it and things like this, carnival road march, being back on the road, it is a very good experience. I have been longing for it. I really want Spanish Town to be a better place. We want peace, love and respect,” Foster said.
To keep youths occupied in the crime-plagued communities of Spanish Town, the band hosts recruitment drives to have them engaged in sewing at a tailor shop which it operates. The band also hosts outreach projects.
Even so, Wong is eager to see a full revival of the entertainment industry, with greater inclusion of marching bands. He explained that the pandemic saw a dismantling of marching bands and with a reopening of the sector, there is now an increased demand for them. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Wong said he invested in improving the quality of his band, as he hosted training sessions through overseas partners.
“We had online music class, especially with the wind section, for at least seven months. So we made use of the time to bring out the quality of our sound. We had to spend time with that. Bookings is kind of overwhelming to be honest because there is a lack of marching bands, especially in Spanish Town,” he said.