Culture Dance

Kwe Kwe Nite’ in Brooklyn

Lin-Jay Harry-Voglezon reports on a traditional Afro-Guyanese premarital ceremony, Caribbean Life, September 14, 2012.

On Friday, Aug. 31 the St. Stephen’s Church Auditorium in Newkirk Avenue, Brooklyn, was a hive of dramatic moments and laughter, as emigrant Guyanese acted out Kwe Kwe ceremonies. Traditionally, Kwe Kwe is a premarital ceremony, the night before marriage, done mainly by the rural Afro community in Guyana. It’s a night when the prospective bride is hidden away and the prospect groom has to find her, as the beating of drums to the rhythm of folk songs charge the atmosphere. On finding her, their family processions meet and the prospective husband and wife are soon encircled. The tempo of the drums intensifies, and the songs become increasingly rhythmical, brazen in extemporaneous composition, and romantic suggestiveness. Among other things, the prospective bride and groom, individually and collectively are asked to “show me yuh ‘science’”; they have to wine. Onlookers are amused, impressed or disappointed and accordingly speculate on the couples’ romantic capabilities and potential outcomes.

Kwe Kwe Nite” as promoted by the Guyana Cultural Association of New York, Inc., is another attempt at helping the Guyanese emigrant community to retain elements of their culture. Earlier this summer it sponsored a Heritage Camp where children were taught Masquerade among other things.

For original report: Kwe Kwe Nite’ in Brooklyn • Caribbean Life.


New Chac Chac in town

The Trinidad Express Newspaper on Sept. 12, 2012, reports on the innovations of instrument maker, Gyasi Wells.

Gyasi Wells is the inventor of the Space Shack. This new type of chac chac is smaller than the conventional style and fits into the palm of your hand. According to Wells, the Space Shack has taken the market by storm.

“I can’t produce enough to satisfy the current demand. People prefer this style of chac chac because it is easier to carry and so paranderos are more comfortable with it. They find it more user friendly.”

Wells is an established craftsman specialising in the field of calabash products. From successfully selling calabash bags on Frederick Street in Port of Spain, he graduated to the chac chac.

“Long time chac chac used to sell mostly around Christmas time but now with an increase in churches and bands, everybody wants the shack shack. It sells right around the year.

I have a good market there so I focus on different types of shack shacks including the dumbbell chac chac and now the space shack. The idea about the space shack just hit me one day. Instead of making the whole calabash bag, I used to cut off the top and make a flat bag. The covers just remained there wasting. It was then that I realised that I could make something with that too.

I took one cover, put seeds in it, and glued another cover onto it. Then I carved a local natural design like a coconut tree and turtle onto it. This was when I knew that I had something new for the market.”…

“There are the less fortunate children who are very skilful with their hands and I work with them. I also work with children here in Trinidad, for example, at St Judes and other homes. It is a joy for me to do that.”

Peak time for Wells is Christmas into Carnival.

“Not many people make chac chacs. It takes about four hours to make one chac chac. The demand is so huge that the trees in my yard are not enough. I have to go out to other areas to get calabash. Also, there is no other seed to make the chac chac like the chac chac seed. Some people use all sorts of things even stones. This could never produce the sounds of a true chac chac. I have a few plants around the house but these are never enough. Producing chac chacs is a full-time occupation.” Wells regards the calabash tree as a money tree and urges people who have trees bearing calabash not to cut them down.

“If you must cut the tree to use for building purposes or anything else, you can replant a branch. The calabash grows from branches. This is how I got my bearing trees. I encourage people to plant calabash. You could make so many things with it.”

For the original post: New Chac Chac in town | Trinidad Express Newspaper | Featured News.

diaspora Festivals

Thousands line up for West Indian Day parade in New York

Metro New York reports on the 2012 West Indian/Caribbean-American Carnival, which is hosted annually in Brooklyn New York.

Grey skies and threats of rain didn’t deter the thousands who celebrated New York’s thriving Caribbean heritage with a vibrant parade on the streets of Crown Heights on Labor Day.

Participants were covered in body paint and elaborate feathered costumes. People practice all year long for parade dances.

People waved flags, played drums, danced and wore bright costumes of feathers, sequins and little else.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Parade Grand Marshal Harry Belafonte all joined in to honor Caribbean cultures.

The NYPD had no reports of violence or unrest at the parade, but there were two shootings and a stabbing after the parade, according to the Daily News. Last year, a bystander was killed by a police officer’s stray bullet during a shooting after the parade.

For original report: Metro – Thousands line up for West Indian Day parade in New York.

Festivals Music Steel Pan

Oasis Youth Steel Pan at Trini Flag Raising

Oasis Youth Steel Pan at Flag Raising 3 from Ken Archer on Vimeo.

The Oasis Youth Steel Pan of Newark, New jersey, under the leadership of “Mauby”, provided musical entertainment at the Sixth Annual Flag Raising in celebration of Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence. The event was hosted at the East Orange City Hall on August 31, 2012. This year marked the 50th Anniversary of the twin-island state’s Independence.

diaspora Festivals

50th Anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago Independence Celebrated in East Orange, NJ

On August 31, 2012, the Sixth Annual Flag Raising ceremony was held in the city of East Orange, New Jersey to commemorate Trinidad and Tobago’s National Independence.

2012 marked the 50th anniversary of Independence for the twin-island Caribbean state and this gave additional significance to this year’s flag raising.

The event was led by Gail Bell-Bonnette, who has been at the forefront of Trinidad and Caribbean cultural activities in the Oranges. Trinidad and Tobago nationals from East Orange and surrounding cities such as Orange, Irvington, and Newark gathered in their hundreds to pay homage to the nation of their birth on the attainment of this jubilee milestone, having overcome slavery and colonialism.

The Mayor of the City of East Orange, Mr. Robert Bowser, brought greetings to the festivities on behalf of himself and the City Council. He urged Trinidad and Tobagonians and all Caribbean nationals resident in the city to participate fully in the politics and general life of the city and to value education, which ensures the foundation for the protection of the freedom and liberties gained. The organizing committee, in conjunction with the New Jersey Carnival Committee, also presented awards to community activists and leaders for their contribution, dedication, and hard work towards the well-being of the Trinidadian community. Many of them had assisted in the East Orange Carnival, which was held for 21 years under the leadership of Gail Bell-Bonnette. In 2012, these faithful are making efforts to successfully re-institute the Carnival in the Oranges, New Jersey.

The crowd, which came out to witness and support the raising of the Trinidad and Tobago flag, was treated to the music of the Oasis Youth Steelband, a rhythm section, and DJ.