The importance of the Notting Hill carnival

Dancers at the Notting Hill carnival, 2009. Photograph: Nicholas Bailey/Rex Features

Look at them,” instructs Clary Salandy, her voice growing ever more urgent. “Those boys are making hats. Those girls are making costumes. Those over there are welding structures for the costumes. They are creating things. They are not rioting. They like Nike and all that stuff but they are here working until the early hours and then they go to the shop and buy them. We have seen what some kids do. Carnival will show what our good kids do.”

It will if Clary has anything to do with it. She’s a veteran, colonel-in-chief of the celebrated “masquerade” band Mahogany. Its vivid designs and brightly coloured processions have been a highlight of every Notting Hill carnival that anyone can remember. That’s no accident. Mahogany know what they are doing and they worry about the details. An instruction here, some encouragement there; from her shop premises on Harlesden High Street in north-west London, Clary runs a tight ship.

It is people like Clary who put the spectacle on the street and make carnival happen. It’s hard work, not least because the event carries expectations commensurate with being the biggest street festival in Europe. But this year the stakes could not be higher.

The 46th Notting Hill carnival will attract a million people this weekend – more if the sun shines – and, as always, placing that many revellers in such a small space presents particular challenges. But it will also be the first big public event in London since the terrible riots that scarred the capital and other cities just three weeks ago. The first chance for the mob to run amok again, if permitted – and so inclined. For many reasons, that cannot be allowed to happen.

One is the future of carnival itself, for the event is popular but never universally so. Another is the reputation of the Metropolitan police, which met such criticism, not least from the prime minister, for the tactics deployed when the rioting spread from Tottenham and the looters appeared to have the upper hand. Another is the reputation of London, with the Olympics barely a year away. Then there is the reputation of the UK itself. No one cares to contemplate more shamefully embarrassing images of disorder making their way around the world.

So no chances are being taken. There will be a record 16,000 police officers on duty. Preliminary raids have already been carried out to identify known troublemakers and ban them from carnival. The event itself will provide between 500 and 700 stewards. This year, in an unprecedented move, everything will wind down at 7pm.

Notting Hill carnival, 1975. Photograph: John Hannah/Rex Features

One senior officer tells me carnival is being seen as a litmus test. “There is definitely a keen perception of the risks involved,” he says. “Not just at carnival but also the risk from those elements who think they might be able to fill their boots in other areas while so many officers are at carnival. We got a bloody nose in Tottenham and in other areas and we can’t afford to have this at carnival. The last thing we need is more pictures that say London isn’t safe.”

So the runup is a nervy one. But then, has there ever been a year when malign forces have not been conspiring to derail the Notting Hill carnival? No one can remember one. Consider the money. It is expensive to stage, the direct organising costs alone being around £500,000. Add in the amounts spent by the police and other public services, particularly the council cleaners, and then consider that for much of its life there has been no easy assumption that politicians or donors or individuals or corporations would come forward in sufficient number to fund it.

Consider that, even now, the event has no primary commercial sponsor and that much of the most vital work involved in putting the show together is done by volunteers.

In recent years it has been relatively tranquil, with new faces at the top and a marked improvement in the management of the event, but money has long been a problem. In 2003 the Arts Council refused to give the organisers a proposed grant of £160,000 because of perceived irregularities in the accounting. The Greater London Authority in response decided to steer its grant for stewarding away from the organisers and to pay the companies concerned directly. Three years ago, the new team took over and discovered that the event was seriously in debt.

Consider crime. Even without the backdrop to this year’s event, carnival has been forced each year to answer those who say that in terms of crime and antisocial behaviour, the annual revelry is a price not worth paying. Last year’s event was relatively peaceful. But these things, critics say, are indeed relative. Crime was down by 31% compared with the previous year, and some crime is inevitable, but still there were, at one stage, bottles and missiles thrown at police and 280 arrests.

Consider the route, always a point of contention, which one might expect given that last year up to one million people crammed the narrow streets of Notting Hill. Thousands flock to west London. At the same time, scores of residents keen to avoid the noise and disruption move out.

“Notting Hill carnival is almost here,” said one press release sent out on Wednesday, a catalyst, “for those toying with the idea of getting away over the August bank holiday.”

Jennette Arnold, the chair of the London Assembly and a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, believes carnival has only intermittently enjoyed the sort of support it deserves. “There has been an ambivalence about it. I think it is the jewel in the crown of London’s cultural life. But many throughout its history have seen it as just a black event. They have viewed it negatively, seeing only the potential for trouble.”

A reveller confronts a policeman at the 1976 Notting Hill carnival. Photograph: Homer Sykes

The event has regularly faced the threat of being taken off the streets, particularly those gentrified Notting Hill streets familiar to residents such as David Cameron and Michael Gove, and being cocooned in a more manageable open space, such as Hyde Park. Had the Royal Parks been more amenable to the idea, few doubt that by now it would have been condemned to such a fate. And to those who see carnival as just another festival – a black lord mayor’s show with dancers and tinsel – that approach might seem to make sense. But there is a history and a philosophy to carnival that sustains it, and frustratingly for politicians who would like to get a better handle on it, makes the event hyper-sensitive and hyper-resistant to change.

Claudia Jones, the veteran Trinidadian communist, activist and publisher exiled as a menace from America, is always known as the Mother of Carnival. The first one organised by her in 1959 was largely static, in St Pancras town hall, and was designed as both a comfort and a statement. The race riots in Notting Hill had scarred the area and shocked the nation the year before.

The first carnival as we know it in Notting Hill itself took place in 1964 when, spurred on by another pioneer, Rhaune Laslett, marchers and steel bands spilled on to the streets with their artistry. That took chutzpah, for though many embraced the idea and welcomed a dash of colour to what was then a down-at-heel district, race relations in Notting Hill were a constant difficulty. In his new re-investigation of the 1959 murder in the heart of Notting Hill of a black man, Kelso Cochrane, author Mark Olden brilliantly describes a postwar world where feral young white men, drunk on beer, high on bravado, terrified at the emergence of a community they did not recognise or understand, made a statement of their own with regular bouts of “nigger hunting”.

So carnival was a pointed response to recent domestic events. But it was more than that. Trace them back – the dances, the rituals – and they transport one back to the West Indies, but don’t stop there. They transport those who know back to the emancipation of forefathers from hundreds of years of slavery. The whole thing, beneath the swaying and the jollity, could not be more historically loaded.

Professor Gus John, the historian, author and government adviser says: “People must understand the origins of carnival. It is a festival created by freed slaves in the Caribbean in a period when the only opportunity they had to express themselves and their culture was at the end of the sugar cane crop. The British and French had banned the use of drums, cow horns and conch shells; not only because they were used in traditional religious practices that they wished to outlaw, but because they were also used to organise rebellions. In time, the resourceful workers started making percussion instruments with sticks and with bamboo and with metal implements.” Forerunners of the steel drums. Part of the ritual, he says, was a joyful mocking. “Carnival has always been associated with self-affirmation, assertion of cultural identity and African origins and a parodying of the habits, dress, mores and lifestyle of the oppressor class. The festival has always combined music, drama, costumery and satire.”

What happens, Clary tells me, while quality-checking a pointed yellow hat beautifully crafted from gold plastic and white foam, happens for a reason. “It is on the street and it stays on the street because once there were laws forbidding black people to be on the street. No more than 10 were allowed to congregate. We are not taking it to a park behind a fence. No way.”

There is a bitter irony this year, he adds. Unsolicited, it falls to carnival to provide some joy to erase the rancour, to show off London’s diversity, to rehabilitate the nation’s reputation as a place where mass events can occur without near anarchy. And yet recently, when there was a chance to truly embrace and promote carnival as part of the Cultural Olympiad for the 2012 Olympics with a widely trailed Festival of Carnivals, the officials responsible decided at the 11th hour not to bother. “One minute the money and the will was there,” Clary says. “We were all preparing to be part of it. The next it wasn’t. When I think of all the good that could have been done with that money, all the young people we could have engaged, doing things, learning things, it makes me disillusioned. What we do is world class. But we don’t get the respect.”

There is something unsatisfactory about the establishment’s relationship with carnival. It is liked – a study for the GLA in 2004 suggested it pumps £93m into the London economy. But it isn’t loved in the way that Rio loves its yearly spectacle. It too suffers from crime, sometimes deaths, but these never lead to a questioning of the fundamentals. It is one of the key ways in which the Brazilian city sells itself to the world. For all its longevity, carnival has never enjoyed that status here.

As a director of the Notting Hill Carnival Trust for the past three years, it’s now Chris Boothman’s job to change that. It’s a mammoth task, but many feel that so far it’s going well. After two years of internal changes and the forging of new relationships with politicians and the commercial world, this was to be the year carnival showed a new, confident face to the world. The goal is still to make sure everything goes right this weekend. Most believe that will happen. But more than that, it can’t afford to get anything wrong. Pressure aplenty but Boothman, a solicitor, once the legal head of the now defunct Commission for Racial Equality, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and a veteran carnivalist, has the sang-froid of a man who’s coping. “There will be 4,000 extra police a day on duty in the carnival area but they won’t be in the immediate area of carnival,” he tells me. “The look and feel of carnival won’t be much different. But they will be available if needed.”

Carnival always weathers the storms, he says. “There are people who annually whip things up; a small and hardcore number of individuals who want it scrapped and talk about violence when in fact the event is getting safer every year.”

He loves the traditions, but is unafraid to modernise. “The street parade will never disappear but part of the challenge is getting back to the way it used to feel. It has got so big.” Thinking aloud he wonders if they might extend the six-mile route. Or extend the event itself into a season, like the Edinburgh festival.

He hopes and expects to be able to continue that work unimpeded, with the aspiration that next year’s event, in Olympic year, will attract both establishment love and sponsors, creating a new normal. “The 80s riots never impacted carnival. When there was trouble, it was about issues between black youths and the police. But people rioting and looting is not something we expect to see at carnival. We have worked hard to get this far. Whatever happens, we’ll be here.”

For original article: The importance of the Notting Hill carnival | Culture | The Guardian.




Catholic Diocese

The Catholic Diocese on Eastern Parkway, 2006.

Caribbean Americans in Correction

The Association of Caribbean-Americans in Correction, 2006.

Dosmetic Workers United

Domestic Workers United, 2006.

Carnival purists visiting Eastern Parkway on Labor Day for the first time, looking forward to seeing mas’, would most likely be disappointed. Having arrived on site prior to the 10:00 am kick-off of the Parade of Bands, it is likely that enthusiastic spectators would be swamped, for the next 3 hours, with the parade of an array of associations, politicians, and other sundry groupings, such as colleges, churches, and businesses that move along accompanied by carnival music.

These entities use the occasion to highlight their wares, draw attention to their causes, and canvas support, all to the chagrin of the spectators, who came to see mas’ . This has been a source of frustration, not only for the spectators, but also for the costumed revelers, who must wait to follow in the wake of this parade that precedes the Parade of Bands.

This parade before the Parade is one of the the major distinguishing features of the Brooklyn Carnival, in comparison with the Carnivals of the Caribbean. Its significance can be lost to the observer, who falls prey to the feelings of disappointment brought on by expectations not being met.

This opening segment of the West Indian-American Carnival Parade may feature the Domestic Workers United, Medgar Evers College, the Catholic Diocese, the City University of New York, the Association of Caribbean Americans in Correction, and members of the Vulcan Society, the Black Firemen of New York, among others.

Apart from making themselves visible to the throngs of people on Eastern Parkway, these organizations’ participation in the Labor Day Carnival point to the role that Caribbean immigrants have played, and continue to play, in the economic, social, and cultural life of New York in particular, and the United States in general. For instance, the Domestic Workers Union exerts its efforts to bring dignity and improvement in their conditions of employment, and has been successful in its campaign for a bill of rights for domestic workers, which was ushered into being on November 29th 2010.

The work being done by organizations like these represents a continuation of the activity pursued by many Caribbean immigrants in the first half of the 20th century. Many Caribbean-born social activists worked in the Garvey-led UNIA and the labor and antiwar movements in the US in the 30s and 40s.

From that early period of migration West Indians participated in, and contributed to, all areas of New York’s development, including the Caribbean Carnival, one of the largest street festivals in North America. The presence of these organizations in the parade proudly puts this history on display.


In a Calabash or In de Savanah Party: Pelham Makes Music


Musician, arranger, and composer Pelham Goddard has been involved in the musical life of the Caribbean for over 4 decades. Pelham was born into a musical family that includes the renowned steelpan leader, George Goddard. His mother played the piano and his brothers were all actively involved in the steelpan movement in west Port of Spain, Trinidad. The music of the Goddard household took hold of Pelham at an early age, and he took up playing the piano.

Growing up in the town of St. James, with a proliferation of steel orchestras and Hosay yards in close proximity, significantly impacted Pelham musical drive. By the 1960s he actively participated as a drummer in the annual Hosay festival. He also became an in-demand keyboard and bass player for numerous musical aggregations participating in the burgeoning combo culture among young musicians in Trinidad at the time. During the late 60s Pelham made his foray into steelband as a five-bass player with Starlift Steel Orchestra.

The 1970s saw Pelham blossom forth in even greater demand, particularly for his keyboard/paino skill. He was invited to join the musical band, the Dutchy Brothers led by Pete de Vlught. Among the respected musicians he played alongside in this band was Earl Rodney, revered pannist and steelpan arranger. Following this experience with the Dutchies, Pelham was encouraged by the late Clive Bradley, talented musician and pan arranger, to join the Esquires, a combo led by Bradley.

Pelham Goddard – The Combo Experience from Ken Archer on Vimeo.

In this setting Pelham was driven to enhance of knowledge of music theory, and to write and arrange music for the Esquires with Brass. By the mid-70s, Pelham also became a steady studio musician and a stable member of the Art de Coteau Orchestra, which provided accompaniment on many calypso recordings and toured throughout the Caribbean, performing in many Carnivals, festivals, and shows around the region.

The 70s also herald two additional aspects of Pelham musical career. The decade saw Starlift Steel Orchestra endure significant ruptures that led to former members founding Phase II Steel Orchestra led by Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, the now-defunct Pandemonium Steel Orchestra, and the Third World Steel Orchestra. Pelham was recruited as the musical arranger for Third World, which was located in his native St. James. This marked his foray into the world of steelpan arranging, and he has gone on to be one of the foremost steelband arrangers, especially for his work with the Exodus Steel Orchestra.

Change and experiment also characterized the musical environment of the 70s, and Pelham was at the forefront of this. He was intimately involved in the advent of Soca music, performing with the late Garfield Blackman – Ras Shorty I, who is credited with development of this innovative genre in calypso music.

Pelham also played and recorded with Ed Watson, Dr. Soca. This bandleader, arranger, and composer is recognized for his contribution to the Soca genre, and is known to have arranged music for a number singers at the time, including Ras Shorty I and the deceased Aldwyn Roberts – the Lord Kitchener.

Pelham’s sterling contribution to this genre crystalized as founder, leader, and musical arranger for the Charlies Roots band, which became internationally respected for its calypso music played at Carnivals and festivals across the North and South America, Europe , and the Caribbean. Over that period Pelham penned arrangements for 13 road marches in the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and produced music for some calypsonians such as: Calypso Rose, David Rudder, Austin Lyons – Superblue, Chrisopher “Tambu” Herbert, and Cecil Hume – Maestro.

In the following video Pelham Goddard speaks about his early life as a musician in Trinidad; the different influences that shaped his development: his family, the steelbands of St. James, Hosay, and the developing combo scene. Great information, not only about Pelham’s formative years musically, but also the various bands existent at the time. Pelham – The Beginnings

Film and Art Music

Major Caribbean Films to Premiere In Toronto

The international curtain goes up in Toronto for the premiere of three significant Caribbean films at the 2011 CaribbeanTales Toronto Film Showcase.

The trio of major Caribbean cinematic offerings will be screened during the sixth annual action-packed Showcase set for “Hollywood North” at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto from September 7 to 17, 2011.

“Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle”, a documentary about the impact of the Trinidadian queen of soca music; “Ghett’a Life”, a new Jamaican film with positive messages of overcoming adversity and ignorance; and Antigua’s “The Skin”, a film on Caribbean mythology, will play in Toronto.
“We are overjoyed to present the North American premiere of not just the latest Caribbean films, but the best of the brightest of Caribbean filmmakers at our September 2011 showcase,” said Frances-Anne Solomon, CEO of CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution. She added that many other exciting films will be screened during the 10-day showcase which also features a market access incubator for Caribbean filmmakers.

Following the opening reception at Lakeshore Terrace on Wednesday, September 7, patrons will screen the Pascale Obolo-directed documentary about Calypso Rose, which will be followed by a live question and answer session with the uncontested diva of calypso music.

Living Legend, Calypso Rose

Calypso Rose, the “Mother of Calypso”, is a living legend, and the documentary features the many faces and facets of her life, including her reflective moments, a great passion for fishing and spirituality. It is a film not only about her vision and ancestral history, but also recounts the journey of a militant and impassioned woman, an Afro-Caribbean soul, and an exemplary artiste, who has touched the life of her people at home and many others in distant lands.

Watch a preview of Calypso Rose:

On Tuesday, September 13, “Ghett’a Life”, by respected director Chris Browne of “Third World Cop”, premieres at the Studio Theatre. Ten years in the making, the wholly Jamaican film – funded by local investors and featuring indigenous talent and music – is a depiction of what life can be like in inner city Kingston. The “against the odds” drama – set in a politically turbulent community – tells the story of Derrick, a determined teenager, struggling to realize his dream of becoming a champion boxer despite a country, community and family riven by divisive politics.

On Friday, September 16, “The Skin”, a mythological thriller set in Antigua and Barbuda, will have its Red Carpet launch. A young couple encounters strange occurrences when they unearth and try to sell an ancient artifact. This is the fourth feature film by the husband and wife team of Howard and Mitzi Allen whose work is widely celebrated in Antigua.

The Toronto Showcase, among other goals, aims to raise the international profile of Caribbean film, support the growth of a vibrant world-class Caribbean film and television industry, and serve as a platform for promoting the Caribbean as a premier warm weather travel destination and location for film production.

The Showcase is co-produced with the Harbourfront Centre, and partners include Animae Caribe Animation and New Media Festival, The Consulate General for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in Toronto, First Fridays, Green Light Artist Management, the International Development Research Centre, Pennant Media Group, Planet 3 Entertainment, Taffe Entertainment, Toon Boom Animation, the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services at the University of the West Indies, and WHATZHAPPNG. For tickets, the schedule and general information about the CaribbeanTales Film Showcase and Market Incubator, visit

For original article: Major Caribbean Films to Premiere In Toronto « Repeating Islands.

Dance Music

Afro-Caribbean Dance Rhythms

In the following video, Trinidadian dancer and choreographer, Gene Toney, demonstrates short examples of various Caribbean dance rhythms and songs. He is accompanied in these illustrations by his wife, Rosanna, herself a dancer, and Billy Sammy, who has been associated with Gene since his early teenage life.

Gene’s explication of the different dance genres show the continued impact of drumming, dancing, and singing of the different West African ethnic groups that populated the islands of the Caribbean during the colonial period, through slavery and post Emancipation. The first dance he speaks about is the yanvalou, an Afro-religious ritual dance of Haiti; one of the dances experienced and written about by the late Katrine Dunham during her research trips to Haiti in the 1920s and 30s.

The yanvolou is dealt with in some detail by Gerdes Fleurant in his 1996 book, Dancing Spirits: Rhythms and Rituals of Haitian Vodun, the Rada Rite. Trinidad has had its own Rada community, in Belmont for example, (see Andrew Carr’s A Rada Community in Trinidad, 1989), through which dances such as the yanvalou would become incorporated into the repertoire of dance companies.

Gene identifies the mandjani as another of the Afro-Caribbean dances and describes this dance as a “feat dance” traditionally performed during the initiation rituals to mark the passage youth into adulthood. In a comparative study of the performance of this dance in the United States and the African continent, Mark Sunkett (1995) noted that the mandiani (Sunkett) significantly influenced djimbe drumming and its style of performance in North America from the 1950s onwards.

Next Gene deals with the bele. He points out that there are different types of bele dances through out the Caribbean. This dance was observed and written about by anthropologists researching the culture of the Caribbean during the first half of the 20th century. Melville Herskovits spoke about the bele being performed at wakes as part of the burial rites for the deceased in the village of Toco, in his Trinidad Village, 1947.


Cowley (1996) speaks of the bele being performed in a completely different setting for the opening of official functions of the colonial authorities in the late 19th to early 20th century. Authors on the Big Drum Dance of Grenada and Carriacou, such as Pearse (1955) and McDaniel (1998), have identified the bele as one of the dance performed in this festival.

The bele is categorized among the creole dances as opposed to opening dances of the Big Drum, which are performed in homage to the African ancestors and in memory the different West African ethnic groups from which the enslaved came. Gene’s demonstration of this revered Caribbean dance highlights these contrasting contexts within which scholars have situated it.

The Grand Bele is described by Gene as having derived from the appropriation of the French minuet by enslaved Africans, who infused it with their aesthetics. In contrast with this, Gene notes that the accompanying drum rhythms of the Congo Bele are derived from the drumming played as part of the rituals associated with Shango Orisha practice. Additionally, with the title Congo, this bele can align with those Big Drum dances that honored the African ethnicities, and the refrain “rere, rere, Congo,” which is sung, suggest the calling of a Congo ancestral spirit into the performance.

Gene give some brief examples of Orisha dances; specifically the dances of the deities Ogun and Shakpana. These present further evidence of how the religious ritual practices of West Africa in general, and those of the Yoruba in particular, have informed the artistic creation of dance in the Caribbean.


Archie: An outstanding, unparalled contribution

Pat Bishop Dies:

Chief Justice Ivor Archie, centre, performs with the Lydian Singers under the leadership of Pat Bishop, during the opening of the law term on September 16, 2009 at the Trinity Cathedral in Port of Spain. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

Chief Justice Ivor Archie last night hailed the “outstanding and unparalleled contribution” of renowned composer, arranger, artist and cultural icon the late Pat Bishop, to the world of culture and the arts.
Manager of the Information and Protocol Division of the Judiciary, Jones P Madeira said Archie, a member of the Lydian Singers of which Bishop was the musical director, expressed shock and was “quite distraught” on hearing of Bishop’s death.
Archie was overseas and returned late last night, but spoke with Madeira just before boarding the return flight.
Madeira said the Chief Justice said the best way to honour Bishop’s “tremendous legacy” was to continue to advocate for the things she stood for and expressed so well in her various fields of work.
“The Chief Justice looked back on Bishop’s achievement in art, music, the development of steelband (through her affiliation firstly with Birdsong, Pandemonium, Phase II Pan Groove and most notably Desperadoes), her work with the Lydian Singers and other fields of culture,” Madeira said.
“And the Chief Justice said it was difficult to pay tribute in just a few words to Bishop. He extended condolences to all those who knew her and benefitted from her contribution.”
Bishop, who underwent triple bypass surgery in 1994 and suffered a mild heart attack in 2007, took ill yesterday while attending a meeting at the Ministry of Planning.
Well-known for her accomplishments as a pan arranger and musical director, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies in 1994 and the nation’s highest honour, the Trinity Cross in 1995.

For original article: Archie: An outstanding, unparalled contribution | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News.


Spicemas: Character, Class, Jab Jab, Controversy & More

St. George’s, August 18, 2011 – Spicemas organizers are standing firm on this year’s theme which sparked debate among Grenadians at home and abroad.

The 2011 carnival theme was, “Uniquely Rooted in our Rich Ancestral Traditions. Spicemas: Home of 100,000 Jab Jabs.’’

“I am comfortable in saying that traditional mas is what stands out for Grenada. Jab Jab is unique to Grenada,’’ said Senator Arley Gill, Minister with responsibility for Culture.

He made the comment on “Beyond the Headlines,’’ the live GBN television show hosted by veteran broadcaster Lew Smith.

Sen. Gill and Grenada Carnival Committee (GCC) Chairman, Collin Dowe, both defended the chosen theme, despite criticism from some individuals and groups such as the Alliance of Evangelical Churches.

The Alliance called the theme “distasteful and disrespectful of the sensibilities of Grenadians who subscribe to Biblical Christianity.’’ It described Jab Jab as “a celebration and worship of Satan who was cast out of heaven in the first place because of his ambition and desire to claim God’s prerogatives.’’

However, historian Dr. Nicole L. Phillip is among many Grenadians who find no fault with the theme.

“Firstly, throughout the debate the theme has been misrepresented in its stating,’’ argued Dr. Phillip. “Critics, including the churches, claimed that the theme was ‘Grenada: the home of 100,000 Jab Jabs’. Simple research and inquiry, just by looking at the advertisements on television, would have informed them that the theme was: ‘Uniquely Rooted in our Rich Ancestral Traditions. Spicemas: Home of 100, 000 Jab Jabs.’’

She added that by “misrepresenting the theme, the critics have entirely missed the point of or substance of the chosen theme. In so doing it is difficult if not near impossible to make a rational judgment based on erroneous information.’’

According to Dr. Phillip, Spicemas is one of the best carnivals in the Caribbean.

However, she said that if Grenadians are to compete and establish a carnival niche, “an appropriate tag line needs to be used to promote this festival. It seems obvious that this was the thinking behind the theme chosen this year. Grenada can boast of being the only island that displays, year after year, from as far back as carnival has been recorded, unique aspects of traditional mas.’’

As far as Dr. Phillip is concerned, “the choice of the number 100,000 is simply a play on our population figure. It does not imply that all other aspects of carnival would be sidelined and there will only be Jab Jabs on the road. It simply emphasizes the need to highlight our traditional mas as being different and thus making the Grenada carnival experience one of a kind.’’

For original article: » Spicemas: Character, Class, Jab Jab, Controversy & More.



Notting Hill carnival: fraught with risk, but the show goes on

Simone Ramdeen, 20, tries on a headpiece for the Notting Hill carnival at Mahogony in Harlesden, north-west London. Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

Behind the nondescript shutters of a shop unit in Harlesden, north-west London, a small army of creators from the Mahogany mas camp – one of the Notting Hill carnival‘s most flamboyant groups – are busy at work.

Giant scarlet dragons jostle for space with azure lions, while workers mould shapes from piles of lightweight foam, apply sequins to headdresses and hand-paint strips of material. In the back room, sparks fly from a noisy blow torch.

In little more than a week, this mas – or masquerade – camp will dress more than 200 people for the Notting Hill carnival, which participants insist must go on despite the civil unrest that sparked widespread riots and looting in London two weeks ago.

“Carnival absolutely needs to happen this year,” said Clary Salandy, a designer and director at Mahogany mas camp who has been creating costumes since the 1980s. “The Caribbean community needs to rekindle its identity. Carnival is an opportunity to demonstrate that we have a creative culture that England can benefit from.”

Doubts about whether the carnival – a celebration of African-Caribbean culture that brings an estimated one million people on to the streets of west London over the bank holiday weekend – will be held have been raised since riots broke out first in Tottenham on 6 August before spreading across the capital and to other major UK cities.

The event will go ahead, Met police chiefs said this week, but it will close early at 7pm on both evenings. Extra officers, at the carnival and around London, will be on duty.

“We totally encourage the earlier start and finish times of the event this year, given what has recently happened in London,” said the Met in a statement. “The Notting Hill carnival is an important event in the capital’s calendar, and we support it going ahead this year. Troublemakers are not welcome.”

  Carnival this year is an opportunity fraught with risk. If it passes without incident, the police have a chance to reassert their authority, and show that normality has returned to London’s streets. But in the past the event has been seen as a thorn in the authorities’ side and, if there is trouble, some fear it could be the kiss of death.

There is little chance of that, insisted co-director Ancil Barclay who said hundreds of extra volunteers had come forward this year in the wake of the riots. “We have got so much support from people saying we have to keep the spirit of carnival alive – lots of people who have been against carnival in the past are now in favour,” he said.

Taking a brief break in a local west London restaurant, after a meeting that had lasted all day and before another likely to last all night, fellow co-director Chris Boothman agreed. “Londoners are back in control of London,” he said. “If you wanted to cause trouble, this is really not the year – Notting Hill is going to be one of the safest places to be in the city.”

Not holding the event would have a dire impact on London’s image, added Barclay. “This is such an important year, it is a trial for the Olympics in 2012 and a chance to show the world that London is open and ready for business. Can you image the image it gives to potential visitors if it didn’t go ahead?”

Carnival brings in an estimated £97m to London every year and acts as an “escape valve” for the city to let off steam, said Boothman, who, like Barclay, has a full-time job and works unpaid to make carnival happen. This year’s event was a chance for carnival to rediscover the role it played in its early years, when the Caribbean community took to the streets in part as a reaction to race riots in Notting Hill.

“Protest is part of carnival – but it is creative rather than violent. It is a much better way for people to make themselves heard,” he said. “Lots of people see it as a street party, but it is a celebration of Caribbean cultural heritage and art that if we do not foster will die out.”

There have been grumbles from some that the early finish will cause problems – floats will have to start preparing at the crack of dawn, and the magic twilight hours, when costumes shimmer in the newly lit street lights, will be lost. But, for once, there are likely to be few complaints about a beefed-up police presence. “The police will be here to protect people,” said Barclay. “It is an opportunity to repair a relationship that has been damaged.”

This year’s event is also a chance to show the world what London does best, said Dexter Khan, band leader of the Cocoyea mas, who has been involved in the carnival for 44 years. “After what we have seen, this is vital for the community,” he said. “The riots have given a bad impression of London to the whole world, the carnival has to show that London thrives and that we can do these events on a big scale.”

Richard Gallimore, band leader of the Bachanal mas, a relative newcomer to the mas scene, said his camp was going “full-steam” ahead. “Shit happens but we are moving on,” he said. “We are not going to live in fear of these hooligans. Obviously you have to take precautions but we are determined to give a positive image.”

Back in the Mahogany workshop 20-year-old Koya Greenaway-Harvey, who first came here on work experience when she was 14, explains that this year’s carnival has the chance to turn “a negative into a positive”.

Cutting strips of foam, which over the next week with be transformed into a spectacular flight of fancy, she says: “The riots were scary; that’s not the London I know. But carnival is completely different – the music, the people. You just get possessed by the spirit of carnival. It shows that people coming together can be a wonderful thing.”

For the original article: Notting Hill carnival: fraught with risk, but the show goes on | Culture | The Guardian.


Ban on steelbands in Leeds West Indian Carnival parade Central Leeds

DOWN THE PAN: Members of the steelband that won’t be playing at the Leeds West Indian Carnival – from left, Ashley Hendricks, Victoria Jaquiss, Katie Smith and Varshika Patel.

Traditional Caribbean steelband music has been banned from the 44th Leeds West Indian Carnival parade.

The carnival committee of 13 members took the unanimous decision to have no live music in the parade itself at an emergency meeting this week.

Members said due to recent “unrest” in the Chapeltown area they felt they had no option but to make this year’s carnival “a bit calmer” with no steelbands playing on any of the floats.

Chairman Arthur France said: “We are not putting any steelbands on the road in the parade this year. It was a decision taken as we are being extra cautious following recent unrest. In light of violent events, and after careful consideration, we decide that we will not use any steelband on the road, which means no live music.

“We want to keep things a bit calmer. We fear it may cause trouble. It isn’t the noise, we just don’t want any interference on the road.

“We have been placed under a great deal of strain following the national youth uprising and other issues which have been local to our city.”

Music will be provided on a float by DJs and a sound system by Leeds Carnival Committee.

But Victoria Jaquiss, steelpan development officer for Leeds Music Services and band leader of the Foxwood Steel Bandits, The Leeds Silver Doves and Steel Rising, said: “Steelpan should be part of the carnival parade. It is the highlight of the musical year for some members, to play in front of their home crowd. I doubt very much that middle aged women and kids would attract any trouble.

“We performed at Otley Carnival in June and we were at Manchester Carnival last Saturday, following the riots there and it was brilliant atmosphere.”

She said they had been expecting to play at this year’s event and were bitterly disappointed after receiving a call and letter from the committee stating steelbands would not be invited.

Mr France who was founder of the first carnival in Leeds in 1967, one of the first in Europe, said: “At one point last week following an arson attack on carnival headquarters we were not sure whether the carnival would go ahead at all. This was a committee decision, not involving the police, but we have regular meetings with police to keep them updated.”

A steelband from Leeds, New World Steel Symphony Orchestra, will perform on stage in Potternewton Park after the carnival parade is over on Bank Holiday Monday.

Around 15 floats will travel the carnival route through Harehills and Chapeltown and feature people from the city dressed in colourful costumes as well as the carnival Queen, King and princesses.

For original article: Ban on steelbands in Leeds West Indian Carnival parade EXCLUSIVE – Central Leeds – Yorkshire Evening Post.

Dance Music

Clarence Curvan: Living the Love of Dance

Clarence Curvan on drums

His love for dance led Clarence Curvan from dancer to dance band leader. His entry into the world of music performance was unplanned, and may be described as accidental, but it opened the doors to an illustrious career. Following his passion for dancing, a teenage Curvan accompanied his mother and her friends to a party, which featured the Sonny Lewis Orchestra. Feeling out of place among the older crowd, he entertained himself by playing the cowbell along with the band. When he received the princely sum of $1 for his unsolicited night’s effort, he was encouraged to participate in subsequent engagements of the band on the invitation of Lewis, eventually becoming exceedingly proficient on the bongos.

His development as a bongo player sparked the interests of other bandleaders, and he was invited to join the Phil Britto Orchestra.  Part of this band engagement schedule included weekly radio appearances, and many of the arrangements highlighted the bongos. This further enhanced Curvan’s reputation as a player, and he subsequently received an invitation from famed Calypso bandleader, Cyril Diaz, to play on recordings of Slinger Francisco, the Mighty Sparrow. A tour to the French Caribbean Isles afforded him additional opportunity to showcase his skills in a production entitled “Les Bongo Nuits.”

Having acquired this respect and reputation as a percussionist in his teenage years, Curvan jumped at the chance to put together a group of young musicians to fill a performance slot on a local radio station. This led to  the formation of the Clarence Curvan Orchestra. He recalls the circumstances surrounding the band’s birth, and the musicians involved. Among them were Beverly Griffith, who played the piano and served as the band musical arranger, Stan Shaman on guitar, Kenrick George on bass, Philbert Cumminngs on percussion, and Curvan himself on drums. In early 1960, the group made its debut on the Teen Dance Party hosted in the studios of Radio Trinidad, and proved to be an instant hit, laying the foundation for the popularity and success of the band on the Trinidad dance music scene throughout the decade of the ’60s.

This engagement at Radio Trinidad was extended from a single session on Saturday morning with the addition of another in the early afternoon. A testimony to the great popularity of the radio broadcast and studio party, it also reflected the increasing admiration for the Clarence Clarence Orchestra, and fueled demand for the band at fairs and dances, almost immediately following its emergence in 1960. In the early months of the band’s entry into the musical life and psyche of the Trinidad’s dancing fraternity, Curvan solicited Emory Cook, then operating a recording studio in the Mt. Hope area of Trinidad, to record some of the band arrangements.  With the success of the the initial recording, an arrangement of Teensville that captured the imagination of the local youth, Cook recorded and released the band music regularly. Some of the tunes from these Cook sessions include:

610 Saga  (listen)Note: The title is taken from the track listing for the album, Belly to Belly: Dancing Calypso, on the Smithsonian Folkways website. However, this is erroneous. This correct title should be Royal Jail, which is given to another track on the Smithsonian’s list.

Rip Van Winkle (listen)

Portrait of My Love (listen)

Clair de Lune (listen)

In this early stage of the band’s existence, its composition included two saxes playing harmony, along with the piano, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion. Curvan notes that this sound was influenced, in part,  by the Sel Duncan band, which also incorporated two saxes and was exceedingly popular in dances at the time. The Curvan band played varied styles of music but emphasized calypsos, boleros, rhumba, and other Caribbean styles, along with the fox trot and waltz.  The different melodic instruments alternated in taking the lead, and while the saxes dominated in this regard, many of the arrangements featured the piano or guitar for extended solos.

Eventually, the band’s composition was changed to included the brass instruments. This saw the entry into the band of trumpeter, Ron Berridge, who would eventually become a respected and famed bandleader in his own right. The period of the sixties saw other young musicians, such as now-deceased Clive Bradley and Roy Cape, serve as members of the Clarence Curvan Orchestra. Saxophonist Cape eventually left to join Berridge’s band, and has led his own exceedingly successful aggregation, Roy Cape and the Calypso All Stars, for last three decades. Bradley became the pianist and arranger of the band after Griffith migrated. He too led his own unit, the Esquires, and became internationally renowned for his arrangements of steelband music.

The Clarence Curvan Orchestra has since survived some hiccups, but it still thrives in New York City and performs at balls and function across the United States.