Want to 'jump up' at Carnival 2016? Go to these events
Grenada Carnival renowned for its colour, creativity and unique cultural character, Grenada’s Carnival is one of the island’s biggest annual festivals. Although each parish features its own brand of traditional costume or mas’, and many have activities at the Parish level, for many the main Carnival action is to be found on the streets of the capital city of St. George’s.
The festivities begin in July with the opening of various Calypso Tents where local calypso bards sing to entertain locals and visitors alike and to vie for a chance to compete on the big stage of the National Calypso Monarch Competition. School Calypso competitions culminate in the Junior Calypso Monarch and Junior Soca Monarch shows, where the young cultural talent of Grenada is brought to the forefront.
The Carnival celebration gains momentum in early August with cultural presentations and calypso shows almost every night of the week and the night air is filled with the sound of steel bands rehearsing their unique musical arrangements for the upcoming Panorama competition.
Finally the countdown to Carnival begins one week before, with the opening of the Rainbow City Festival in Grenville, St. Andrew. Also called La Baye, this craft and cultural fair serves up a weekend of fun and frolic and endless parties through the streets of the Grenville, Grenada’s second largest town.
Carnival week proceeds with the National Carnival Queen Show, where Grenada’s young women compete in Carnival costume, evening gown and cultural performance categories; the Soca Monarch Finals and the Panorama Steel Band competition.
Carnival Sunday brings the final countdown to Carnival with the Dimarche Gras Show, featuring the Kings and Queens of the Fancy Mas Bands in competition for King and Queen of Carnival.
Many revellers begin their Carnival marathon at the Dimarche Gras Show and continue straight into the J’Ourvert celebrations, where in the early hours of Monday morning, the traditional Jab-Jab or Devil Mas bands emerge from the darkness of the night to parade freely through the town. Blackened with stale molasses, tar, grease, creosote or mud, and wearing little more than their horned helmets, these masqueraders in previous times set out to terrify onlookers with their grotesque appearance and repulsive dances.
In modern times, the traditional Jab-Molassi have mutated into other creatures of colour, with Blue, Yellow and Green Devils joining in the early morning parade. These colourful devils are much more playful in character, wanting only to dab a bit of their body paint onto unsuspecting bystanders, as they dance through the streets to the rhythms of the accompanying drums, steel bands and calypsos from huge DJ trucks.
The Ole Mas bands are the only other inhabitants in the early morning, bringing international and local events to the fore through their double entendre (or double talk) placards and satirical costumes.
The Carnival devils disappear with the rising of the sun, making way for the Traditional and Fancy Mas bands in the Monday parade or Pageant. Each parish has its own brand of traditional mas usually represented by Short Knees, Vekou and Wild Indians.
With Arab-like head coverings, jumbo collars, batwing sleeves and three-quarter (short knee) baggy trousers, the Short knee Bands are now the most prevalent of the traditional masqueraders. Almost identical in appearance, they dance through the roads from their respective villages, into the town of St. George’s, passionately chanting, boxing the air and scattering baby powder with abandon.
Next come the modern costumed bands of revellers, who cross the stage at the National Stadium and then parade through the streets of the capital city of St. George’s in the afternoon sun, gyrating to the beat of the year’s most popular calypsos. Listen out for the song most played throughout the day, as this is the basis for the Annual Road March King competition. Costumed bands are often heralded by the arrival of the King and Queen of the band, the large costumes which vied for King and Queen of Carnival during the Sunday night Dimanche Gras.
Carnival Monday ends with the Monday Night Mas' street jump-up, where party goers in brightly coloured T-shirt bands, wave fluorescent wands and dance through the streets into the wee hours of the Tuesday morning.
On Carnival Tuesday, the fancy bands take to the streets again, parading through the capital city of St. George's, to the music of traditional steel bands or the pulsating sounds of the current calypso songs from mobile DJs. The party can continue long into the night until the most devout of revellers finally stagger home.