Articles by Angela Pidduck
I first heard the phrase "Without Rent-A-Amp there will be no Carnival" from Michael Arjune, a staffer of the Rent-A-Amp/Standby Power group. My unspoken thoughts were "Yeah right, and why should you say otherwise after all that's your company."
In the week that followed my conversation with this young man, I decided to spot-check people who would know about these things, and believe it or not the phrase was in fact a slogan repeated over and over again without my even mentioning it.
So up to the massive warehouse-like building which houses the Rent- A-Amp Sound & Lighting Company at No 13 Upper Bournes Road, St James, I went, to chat with managing director, Martin Boodoosingh, who started off in the deejay business as D.J. Davy while working in his father's supermarket.
"The deejay thing was a hobby, it was the only thing I really liked. Then I noticed that everybody who was short of an amplifier (the part which provides the power for the music) would come to 'rent a amp', so I registered the company in 1987" says Boodoosingh, who realised at the same time that in these days of numerous deejays, it was no longer profitable "and was more for fame and glory."
Today the company does not only 'rent a amp' but provides a range of services including public address systems, stages, tents, airconditioned dressing rooms, chairs, tables, sound systems, lighting and special effects, in Trinidad and Tobago, and through the Caribbean. Already this year they have provided services to the St Lucia Jazz Festival, St Lucia Carnival, Carifesta in St Kitts and more recently the Dominica Creole Festival.
As time went by and the Rent-A-Amp sign became the signature of all Carnival music trucks providing power for oldtimers like Sound Revolution, Charlie's Roots and Firefly, Boodoosingh realised that there was always a problem at Carnival with generators breaking down and bands losing their music supply during the festivities, which as most masqueraders know could sour an entire Carnival, and so he started putting diesel generators which were more reliable on the road.
And that is how the second company "Standby Power Limited" came into the business. To solve the poor shortage of power. There was a lack of generators which were not the proper sizes to accommodate the music. The generator is like your heart, without this power you have nothing, with weak power your system will be weak and so we have improved the whole area of power."
There is no Carnival for this young man who used to be in the heart of the 'mas as D.J. Davy nor for his general manager, Derek Douragh, and many other members of his staff of twenty, as spare generators must be driven around with diesel and spare parts to service any breakdown of their equipment. "We have passes from the police to go on all the roads. If you rent from Standby Power you are guaranteed a replacement or repairs in reasonable time."
Since the whole business has changed, Douragh explained "a deejay is a deejay and rents a sound system from a company, which makes for less overhead. The deejay has records, CD's, turntables and CD machine, the older ones might have sound systems."
Since I myself always believed that deejays and bands came with all the heavy sound systems which will definitely contribute to the destruction of the next generation's hearing, I was surprised to learn that these people do not own sound systems and must source the system. But in his company's defence, Boodoosingh was clear "sometimes you may rent a system but the bands' engineers are responsible for tone and level of the system, so do not blame rent-a- amp, it is not really our fault if they say the music too loud."
What happens when Rent-A-Amp has to move all this equipment up the islands? "It takes us about a week to move equipment for a show but it is cheaper from a Caribbean island than out of Miami. Also these people have found that our technology is better and more cost effective since we have state-of-the-art equipment which keeps us ahead of the competition."
Boodoosingh gives full credit to the key persons in the business, my managers, good engineers and the best technical crew, who maintain our international standards which gives us the edge over everybody else. To keep ahead, each year Boodoosingh himself looks for new ideas by going to shows, seminars, displays: "I just returned from a lighting convention in Las Vegas where I saw new technology." But whatever he learns, has to be adjusted to our needs, culture and environment. For example, to get our 155 beats a minute for soca, the system has to be of larger magnitude with high decibel as the Caribbean flavour needs a heavy base, so that a system for American standards will not be acceptable in the Caribbean.
For Carnival 2000, Rent-A-Amp introduced the linkage of five trucks in Young Hart's band which were all synchronised and played the same music. It was the first time this had happened, but then the Harts themselves introduced the idea of five deejays with no live music. "The Harts went with the new idea for which there is need in Carnival. New ideas bring improvement" says Boodoosingh.
And those of us who have suffered in silence for many years with the public address system at the Savannah's pre-Carnival shows, the vast improvement in the last three years has come through Rent-A-Amp. With Christmas right around the corner, the company is gearing for its share of charitable events. And for this young man, the sky is the limit, as he promises "in the next two or three years there might be a new spin-off company."