Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Post-Carnival Recovery

It's hard to explain to my parents why I come to this thing each year, and spend all time in the hot sun, doing all sorts of things that many people say one just "SHOULD NOT DO!"

If it weren't so good, I would agree with the majority, and not do them.

As I say to Jamaicans who remind me that I "SHOULD NOT DO IT" -- "come try it nuh?" The truth is that we don't really have Carnival in Jamaica, we have elements that we have copied from Trinidad, and the truth is that we have copied only the most obvious, showy and recent pieces: small costumes, wining, drinking, jumping and waving, etc.

In Trinidad, Carnival means much more than that, viz:
  • Calypsonians singing in tents and saying things that would get them shot in Jamaica
  • Old Mas, which includes men wearing wigs, nighties and bras, carrying signs with jokes written on placards
  • Jouvert covered in mud, red, paint, blue paint, cocoa, black paint plus other stuff I'm not sure I want to know about
  • pan, pan and more pan... and of course, panorama
  • sailor mas -- played in elaborate sailor costumes
  • Indian mas -- played in Indian dress with huge head pieces
  • "fabric bands" -- with plenty clothing on
It just happens that we in Jamaica have picked the most scandalous and sexual part of Trinidad's mas to copy, thinking that that is the real thing. It's too bad (but probably no accident) as we miss out on so much of the depth of the experience, and have not done a good job of developing our own expression of Carnival.

An executive said to me, that if weren't for Carnival tis country would have serious social problems.

I extrapolated that to mean that because we don't have a widespread Carnival in Jamaica, we experience social problems as there is no equivalent opportunity to "let off steam." I'm starting to think that we have lots of unproductive ways of "letting off steam" in the form of too many protests, violence and murders.

It's a fact that over 90% of our murders are committed against people that are known to the killer, and most have to do with reprisal.

Trinidadians have traditionally known how to convert psychic and social pressure into a joke, a calypso, a lime, a drink, a game, a wine and a smile.

We Jamaicans probably have something to learn here.

4 Comments:

At 3/02/2006 12:54 PM, Blogger Rhythmwize said...

FWade sey: It just happens that we in Jamaica have picked the most scandalous and sexual part of Trinidad's mas to copy, thinking that that is the real thing. It's too bad (but probably no accident) as we miss out on so much of the depth of the experience, and have not done a good job of developing our own expression of carnival.
...................................
Oh, I wouldnt be so hard on Jamaica Carnival. Its only just a baby having been in existence for only about 15 years versus over a hundred years for Trinidad Carnival. Jamaica does have a couple good Jouvert events in the James Bond Beach Jouvert and the Friday Night Jouvert's in New Kingston. Those are great fun and unique to Jamaica, I dont think theres anything like that elsewhere in the Caribbean.

As far as Jamaica developing its own expression of carnival, not sure how that gets done except as a very slow process taking many many years to evolve.

But, from what Ive seen, Jamaicans seem to love carnival and have the spirit, talent and creativity to develop carnival into something great for the benefit of all Jamaicans.

Byron Lee and others got the carnival ball rolling in JA some 15 years ago but now its pretty much "last lap" for them and time to pass the baton on to others to move forward.

Perhaps its time for younger Jamaicans like you to take up the challenge.

 
At 3/04/2006 2:11 PM, Blogger fwade said...

I should have rephrased that to say: "We have FOCUSED ON the most scandalous and sexual part...."

That actually says more about our society than our revellers.

In Jamaica there is a very strong repressive element that judges Carnival as sinful, bad, etc. Trinidadians are way more supportive of their Carnival, and the vast majority are proud of it.

We do have history and culture that could be included in our Carnival, and I agree that it would take some time before that happens.

It might be time for the "younger" Jamaicans to take it up -- but when I hit 40 will I still be "young enough?"

(I'll be at as many events as I can make it to, incidentally, enjoying the scandalous and sexual parts!)

 
At 3/04/2006 4:39 PM, Blogger Rhythmwize said...

It might be time for the "younger" Jamaicans to take it up -- but when I hit 40 will I still be "young enough?"
.................................

Of course, thats probably the perfect age...at that age you will have both experience and youth(relatively speaking)going for you and at least another 25 years of high productivity.

Byron Lee is in his late 60's and still hanging in there but he is obviously slowing down due to his age and the burden of it all. He doesn't even go to Trinidad for Carnival any longer but he still manages to tour with his band.
He evens gets out to California every summer.

In fact, a few years back he tried to turn over the carnival leadership of his group to another person but I guess it didnt work out.

And as you probably know, there are two independent carnival groups in Jamaica and both groups appear to have stagnated in development and growth in the past few years. But Carnival is far from dead in Jamaica in spite of the large church opposition. Several years ago, the mas bands from both groups used to cross a stage set up in the park across from the Pegasus, with tens of thousand's there as spectators, but now thats no longer possible so that was a major setback.

Ideally, carnival should include something for everyone so that it can be inclusive for the more conservative types; Thus, more stakeholders and less opposition.
As I recall, when I was at Cropover in Barbados they had a Christian mas band in the parade and in St. Kitts this year we played mas with a Ministry of Health sponsored mas band, or troupe as they call them, and our theme was AIDS awareness and prevention. And, Jamaica usually has a nice Pan Night, with the appearance of a steel band from Trinidad as well as the local Hummingbird Steel Band. So, it doesn't have to be all just Jam and Wine.

Right now my last task for Jamaica Carnival is to book my room at the Pegasus. Having a little trouble with them this year, can't seem to get them to respond to my emails and provide a special carnival rate like previous years. And, I assume the Jamaican Government is still running the hotel, they did a good job last year...not sure whats going on now. Guess I'll be calling them Monday.

 
At 3/06/2006 7:24 PM, Blogger Rhythmwize said...

Update on the Pegasus.

Got an email today from the Pegasus Reservations; Chantelle gives me the spring rate of $175 which includes all taxes and fees and a full buffet breakfast for two by the pool.

I call her to ask about the special carnival rate, like the $146 I paid last year for the same deal. And in this nice sweet Jamaican accent she says...Mr. Newcomb, I'll book you now for the room and as soon as we have the carnival rate I will let you know.

Faith restored in the Jamaican Pegasus...that was so nice.

 

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