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Carnival & Events Cheat Sheet

Carnival requires complete immersion in a different culture, jargon, and genre of music and dance, but is said to be a liberating experience. Apart from being joyous celebrations these events also serve as platforms for preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of the Caribbean islands. Carnivals contribute to a sense of community and unity among the people of the region, as well as attract visitors from around the world who come to experience the unique atmosphere and festivities that Caribbean carnivals offer. **What is Carnival?** Historically carnival relates to a pre-emancipation period when slaves performed a ritual called ‘Cannes Brulees’ (French for sugar cane burning) when they set fire to this valuable export commodity intended for sale, as a demonstration of their resistance to enslavement. It also shouted a reclamation of their African and Indigenous culture and ancestry through their drums and rhythmic dancing. Caribbean Carnival is said to have originated in Trinidad in the 18th century when Europeans brought a Fat Tuesday masquerade festival to the Island. With the large number of African and French immigrants there occurred an evolution and transformation of this celebration of freedom that included elaborate dress, costumes with feathers and headdresses, loud music, dancing in the streets, and much gaiety and laughter, for those days. ‘Modern’ carnival often lasts approximately one week with fetes, events, and competitions that lead up to the festival. Food trucks and vendors line the streets along the parade showcasing delicious and diverse cuisines of the Caribbean. Yummy! **What is a Festival?** In the Caribbean, a festival is a lively and vibrant event that showcases the rich cultural diversity, traditions, and heritage of the islands. These festivals can highlight a particular theme such as culinary arts, but also like Carnival often feature a mix of music, dance, food, art, and various cultural activities all to celebrate the unique identity of each island. **What is a Fete?** A fete is a party, big and/or small featuring a live band and/or a DJ spinning his beats.

**Which Islands have Carnival?** Just about every Island celebrates its version of Carnival, each with its unique flavor, and maybe a different time of the year. **What is Caribbean Carnival Music?** It’s festive, celebratory music that includes a combination of drums, horns, acoustics, and vocals, as well as a mixing of rhythmic styles from varied peoples and cultures. It might include Calypso, Samba, Soca, Reggae and Kompa. Words alone cannot give accurate descriptions of these styles. They must be heard and experienced. *Calypso* is typically social commentary in a song known for its catchy rhyming phrases and conjectures. *Soca* is a blend of Indian, soul, and calypso music often characterized by its fast-paced rhythm and upbeat sound, with sexually suggestive vocals. *Samba* is a lively frisky genre that originated in Brazil. *Reggae* employs heavy use of drums and incorporates other Western Caribbean dance style music such as ska and dub, making it a vibrant and unique genre. It is the sound of Jamaica. *Kompa* is a type of Haitian music that is a mix of eastern Caribbean rhythms plus African beats and often includes a call-and-response banter-type singing.

**What is Jouvert?** J’ouvert translates to “day-break” and symbolizes the beginning of Carnival. Traditionally, in Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, J’ouvert begins at about 3 am on the Monday before Ash Wednesday and is celebrated by revelers (Jab Jabs) whose bodies are covered with paint, black oil, and chains around their torso, chanting and performing a specific prance like dance to a strong African drum beat. This tradition varies throughout the Caribbean from the day of celebration to the costumes. *Note:* If you are visiting and not participating you should wear clothes that you have no problem discarding or intend to keep as memorabilia since you will inadvertently and lovingly be tarnished in paint or black oil. **What is Bacchanal?** Bacchanal has a bit of a double meaning. It can be used to mean “drama” or having a good time at a party. Refer to Kerwin DuBois’ “Bacchanalist” on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU3qhoP9_X8 **What is Mardi Gras?** Mardi Gras or Tuesday Mas is the grand finale when the festival culminates with a giant parade of floats, bands comprising hundreds to thousands of masqueraders adorned in sequined costumes, glitter, and feathers all dancing down the streets to loud music emanating from musical bands with vocalists, and DJ’s on big trucks. The procession starts very early in the morning and dwindles at around 10 pm. So, let’s play mas! Look here for the 2024 calendar of Caribbean festivals and events. Wikipedia Ecda.northeastern.edu/carnival-an-act-opposition-introduction/