Tag Archives: Carnival

Who in Harlem or Port-of-Spain Remembers Claudia Jones?

I think I might have a country crush on Trinidad and Tobago.  As a country, it simply fascinates me and there’s a startling number of paradigm-shifting black radicals who were born and raised there which may explain why.  Claudia Jones is just the latest to set fire to my imagination.

I’m also a big fan of carnival.  In the part of London where I grew up, I felt like I was the only black girl whose parents didn’t make sure they participated in Notting Hill’s festivities in full costume, even though in the days before the jubilee line extension and the overground line, Notting Hill was FAR.  Some kids participated every single year throughout primary school.  We went as a family every year, but I wasn’t ‘in’ carnival.  My happy hippy school, wider community and black-and-proud family nevertheless ensured that I had it drummed into me that Notting Hill Carnival was an important expression of our Caribbean culture, and was also to be celebrated as an act of remembrance of our place in British history.

I thus grew up knowing the name of Claudia Jones as she was ‘the mother of Carnival’.  What she created sixty-odd years ago as an indoor event designed to demonstrate that Caribbean culture was joyous and valuable, not simply alien and inferior, is now the biggest street party in Europe. Continue reading

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3 Choons Currently Blowing Up My Radio in Martinique…and others now blasting out of speakers across Port-of-Spain

I really love the music I hear in Martinique.  Old and new. As people across the Caribbean from Haiti to Trinidad and Tobago and many of the islands in between, and the region’s many coastal nations all gear up for the most spectacular of our Caribbean traditions, carnival, I thought I’d share some of the (admittedly non-carnival) sounds that are just unavoidable in Martinique at the moment.

1) Soprano – Fresh Prince.  This track’s joy comes from a mixture of 90s nostalgia, dancing ‘à la Carlton’ and comedy lyrics like ‘Jeffrey, bring us some ice!’ Seriously catchy.

2. Lycinaïs Jean – Aimer (to love).  If the last big zouk tune you heard was a Kassav tune from the early 90s, catch up here.  This song has dominated the airwaves for MONTHS.

3.  E.sy Kennenga – Comme Si (As if).  As in…dance ‘as if’ no one’s watching, sing as if no one’s listening, live every day like it’s the last day of my life, as the lyrics suggest. Another catchy number with a video produced by fan-generated content. If you’re not in a place where dancing, drunkenness and disorderly or ‘no’ behaviour in the capital’s streets will be socially acceptable for the next 7 days, enjoy this taster of some of this French Caribbean island’s contemporary popular music.

If you’re not feting hard but you wish you were, this selection of the biggest, latest soca tracks from Trinidad Carnival 2015 is for you (from DJ Private Ryan)

Happy Carnival!

Carnival Caribbean Stylee: Very Possibly the Best Thing About Being Alive

In Martinique, as in many parts of the Caribbean, there’s one word that’s being whispered more and more frequently right now:  Car-ni-val!!  Official and unofficial public holidays, costumes, Caribbean music, mass participation and dancing in the streets = my kind of party!  With 5 days to go til Jouvert, the anticipation is in the air and I am not immune to it.Kiddies carnival 2013

Once upon a time, when I woke up on a February Sunday morning in Port-of-Spain, it wasn’t exactly a regular Sunday.  The day before I’d been watching the children’s carnival parade, and then been to a fabulous carnival fete (party/soirée) where I ate, drank and danced merrily in the company of fellow revellers to performances by some of the biggest soca artists Trinidad and Tobago had to offer.  Blaxx was my favourite, but Destra had put on such a fantastic performance at Soca Monarch two nights previously I feel the need to give her a shout out too.  The party was Penny’s Annual Bash.  A former Miss World/Universe and a born-and-raised Trini, her fete was a classy affair, and the only place I consumed wine and champagne with my three course meal that came with the ticket. I was due to leave Penny’s a little early to head to the steel pan finals (carnival’s brilliance is because at the heart of the festivities are the competitions), but we got caught up in the good time…

The other irregular thing about this particular Sunday morning alarm, was the time.  It was 3am.  It was dark.  I was waking up in the middle of the night deliberately.  To go to a party.  Yes. I was definitely in Trinidad, for carnival. Continue reading

Carnival in Trinidad: Possibly the Best Thing About Being Alive

A Carnival Costume in Trinidad's Carnival

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a Saturday morning not so long ago, I had to think hard to answer a question which had come to me as if in a dream; ‘Is Carnival in Port-of-Spain possibly one of the very best things about being alive?’  The short answer is  hell yes.  Especially if you like dancing, soca music, drinking rum, liming, being around people, or more precisely around hundreds of other people who share these interests with you.  If you also believe that the best location for these activities are the streets, i.e. public rather than private spaces, Caribbean carnival my friend, is for you. Continue reading

All Caribbean Men Dress Up As Women: Carnival in Martinique

Notting Hill Carnival 2006 (London, UK)

Notting Hill Carnival 2006 (London, UK) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Soooo…my first experience of Carnival in Martinique takes place the same day that the French government passes a law permitting gay couples to marry and adopt children.  I have yet to see this on a news site but multiple people mentioning it plus a sermon about how God instituted marriage to be between a man and a woman the following day have convinced me that it’s true. In case you didn’t know, here’s links in French (more authentic innit), and in English.

In case you’re wondering about the connection, seeing is believing.  As I’m not planning to be in Martinique for the official two days of carnival next week, I’ve been curious to know what I will be missing.  It’s a curious twist of fate (slash me taking every piece of holiday time literally) that despite two carnival-time séjours in the French Caribbean, and being somewhat religious about participating in London’s annual Notting Hill Carnival (and the biggest festival in Europe fyi) I’ve never experienced Carnival à la Martinique, Guadeloupe or Guyane.

I wonder if, as a Londoner born and bred, it doesn’t feel like Carnival Time.  My whole life, Carnival has been at the end of August, Carnival Monday is a day off work, and regular revellers know to book the Tuesday off to recover.  All summer long you’re outdoors; in the park, having BBQs, celebrating the appearance of sunshine, good vibes are buzzing like unendangered bees, and London is the best place in the whole world to be alive from May – September pretty much.  Carnival is the official closing of summer in London.  The Thames Festival wants to be, but no one’s heard of it (sadly, it’s actually good.  I blame Boris). Continue reading