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.
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 →
Apparently, I’m a romantic. I don’t think it’s asking too much for a young man to put some thought into how he keeps my attention. I’m not against a little effort, or being impressed. It’s not that I’m into insincerity and sweet nothings. I simply believe that if life is to be lived abundantly, then matters of the heart should involve some involuntary fluttering. And frankly, on a lush tropical island, it is not exceedingly difficult to woo a romantic; breathtaking views are the norm, atmosphere is everywhere and a little creativity can go a really long way at literally no cost.
As a young, single woman with a cute English accent (although I didn’t know that ’til much later) from abroad I was bound to be a curiosity (read: fresh blood) when I moved to the French Caribbean. And I was semi-mentally prepared for it. In addition, as with the approach of summer in temperate countries, I had the swinging hips of a woman liberated from her winter wardrobe with suitcases of new light and colourful clothes to enjoy. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
As I’m far from home and much-loved traditions, I wasn’t sure how to feel about Christmas 2012. Although I refused to accept the fallacy that Christmas couldn’t possibly be Christmas without snow (have you seen a map of the world recently?), it still took me a while to get into the spirit of it. A night of enthusiastic chanté nweling which included copious amounts of Christmas ham, followed by a Saturday morning wake-up to a pile of presents and cards all with my name on (thanx peeps!!) got me thinking…
1) Family. I’m from a stereotypically Caribbean family as a Trini friend enlightened me once. I thought she meant in reference to raucously loud get togethers of very loving, proud black people convening for any occasion; Christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings, or funerals. But according to her, it was having more than 20 first cousins. ‘Have them?’ I can name and tell stories about growing up with them!! Continue reading →
As a recent emigré, this time of year has the potential to be the hardest. Despite subjection to some notoriously painful Christmas do’s with colleagues, I love the Christmas season. Christmas spirit for me is all about quality time, ideally spent at Christmas dinners, drinks and parties; with friends, family, food, laughter and good vibes, all in huge quantities. A good few thousand miles away from home however, forgive me if I was more than a little slower than usual in getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Thankfully, round here the Christmas vibes are no different even if the unchanged climate seems unsettling at first. I definitely enjoy the party; it’s called chanté nwèl, literally ‘singing Christmas’, which conveys the idea of a vibrant, musical personified Christmas perfectly.
Chanté nwèl, is basically carol singing. But that doesn’t do it justice. Continue reading →