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Carnival Band Leader Dean Ackin on Innovation during the Pandemic

By

Ins & Outs of Trinidad & Tobago

April 24, 2022


If “necessity is the mother of invention” then the CEO of one of the most popular Carnival bands on the island has filled that need. Dean Ackin has been on a trajectory to change the face of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival for over two decades and is now making waves overseas.  

It’s interesting that in 2001, just out of high school and working at a local bank, Dean and a group of friends decided to create a section within the Carnival band Poison as more of a “hobby” than a career.  The section grew so quickly that he launched the TRIBE All-Inclusive Carnival band just four years later. Although most Carnival bands offer this today, the concept was truly inspired - an all-inclusive experience where revellers no longer have to leave the band in search of food, drink, restrooms, make-up touch-ups and even rest.  This would all be provided while on the road.  

The original idea was to take Carnival to the Seas. Combining the efforts of two carnival Mega Brands, TRIBE and Machel Montano, we had planned and launched a Carnival Cruise that would translate our Trinidad carnival in a different way… and then the pandemic hit.

Dean credits his team’s ability to adapt as the secret to their success, alongside a commitment to breaking barriers and celebrating Caribbean beauty.

“We listen, we pay attention to our environment, trends, and most importantly the voice of our masqueraders - what they ask for, we develop and provide. When we identify a need, we innovate…If the pandemic has taught us nothing [else] it’s that TT carnival is a beautifully unique and irreplaceable thing… our job is to translate, maintain, preserve and celebrate it.”

‘Tribe’ Mas Band - Photos: Anthony Maugee
‘Tribe’ Mas Band - Photos: Anthony Maugee

The brand evolved in size and scope with the addition of the Bliss and the Lost Tribe Carnival bands, tailor-made to meet the demand for an alternative aesthetic in terms of costume design, as well as entertainment.

“THE LOST TRIBE was a moment of evolution in our art form that married the best of modern-day road experience and the authenticity of our history of storytelling and design. It shook the industry with its out of the box design approach, unconventional material use and rejection of feathers in its material box.”

‘Tribe’ Mas Band - Photos: Anthony Maugee
‘Tribe’ Mas Band - Photos: Anthony Maugee

Not surprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of Carnival 2021 and limited celebrations this year in safe zones for vaccinated participants to enjoy select events, but not the two-day street parade.  But this has not deterred the team, they have continued to innovate, even looking beyond our shores into new collaborations in international destinations.

“It’s been a challenge, but the carnival has never been easy nor smooth,” Dean says with a laugh. “Our business is one of innovation, constant evolution and development in the face of adversity…As the road parade was not possible, we worked on developing other aspects of the brands.”

He went on to add that over the past seven years, inclusive of these pandemic years, “the Lost Tribe family, as we have grown to call our masquerader base, has grown in size, reach and impact, extending globally. LT continues to evolve with innovation as a core pillar of the brand identity and urged by demand, LT joined with its sister company Ultimate Events Limited in 2019 to open the ‘TALENT BANK’, a facet of the brand that presented entertainment, event performances, costumed performers and brand executions for clients...LOST TRIBE’s journey has been and continues to be one of breaking barriers, design and celebrating Caribbean stories and beauty”.

This leads us to one of the most anticipated events of the year, Melé.  In April, 2022, a destination all-inclusive pairing of the Carnival band TRIBE with Soca superstar Machel Montano takes off at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico. The sold-out event will include concerts, parades and “fete, after fete, after fete”.

Machel Montano - Photo: Christopher Daniel
Machel Montano - Photo: Christopher Daniel

“Melé has definitely been a journey and a product that blossomed in the face of the pandemic. The original idea was to take Carnival to the Seas. Combining the efforts of two carnival Mega Brands, TRIBE and Machel Montano, we had planned and launched a Carnival Cruise that would translate our Trinidad carnival in a different way… and then the pandemic hit. Facing the challenges head-on we decided to transform the production to a destination-based one. This year’s inaugural five-day event will be held at the Moon Palace resort in Cancun, Mexico, and will be a Soca experience like no other! The response has been great, we are sold out, and we can’t wait to show everyone what we have in store.”

And our Carnival tribe can’t wait to play mas’ in 2023!