Dominica’s Carnival Opening Parade 2013: Simply Wonderful!

Miss Dominica 2012, the beautiful Nadira Lando of the Carib Territory and superbly talented Calypso Monarch Dennis "Dice Joseph were the leading float at the  Mas Domnik 2013 Opening Parade.

Miss Dominica 2012, the beautiful Nadira Lando of the Carib Territory and  the superbly talented Calypso Monarch 2012 Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph lead the Mas Domnik 2013 Opening Parade in regal fashion.

“I love a parade, the tramping of feet,

I love every beat I hear of a drum.

I love a parade, when I hear a band

I just want to stand and cheer as they come…”   (Arlen/Koehler (1931))

There is something about that vintage Cotton Club song that rings so true.  Although I am in a different time, place and culture than the setting for that familiar refrain,I feel that the sentiments are exactly the same!

On Saturday January 19th, I joined a small crowd of enthusiastic photographers near the starting point of the Opening Parade of Mas Domnik 2013 in Roseau. We were a diverse mix – visitors, members of the Dominican diaspora, expatriates, residents, families, couples and individuals who seemed to share in the excitement of the colour and pageantry of one of Dominica’s best known traditional cultural festivities.  I have previously written about its history and origins, which you can refer to here.

Although the event got off to a late start, it was definitely worth the 1/2 hour wait.  Dull,overcast skies and a cool light breeze eventually gave way to warm late afternoon sunshine – the perfect backdrop for a brilliant panorama of Carnival sights and sounds.

As the parade got underway, a large assembly of indigenous Kalinago people, accompanied by drummers traditionally called  a

The Kalinago band really revelled along the parade route.

The Kalinago band really revelled along the parade route.

The Kalinago band danced with glee and energy on the parade route.

The Kalinago band danced with glee and energy.

lapo-kabwit  (goat-skin) band sang and danced with energy and enthusiasm as they followed  directly behind the Carnival Queen and King (see first photo above).

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Colourful Sensay costumes added to the splendour of the parade.

Then came the mysterious and marvelous Sensay masqueraders, decked out in traditional fashion as per ancient African customs.  I really admired the skilful creation of these costumes and the organized manner in which they presented themselves to the awed crowd.

Scary Sensays were out in full force for the opening of Mas Domnik.

Scary Sensays were out in full force for the opening of Mas Domnik.

Sensays on Parade

The Sensays had a very organized marching routine.

A typical 'goat-skin' band helps revellers to keep the beat on the 'road'.

A typical ‘goat-skin’ band helps revellers to keep the beat on the ‘road’.

By this time, I jumped up on a solid concrete plant stand (without disturbing the greenery, of course) so I could get a better perspective on the bands and their participants.  Early on in the parade, every group was accompanied by drummers, which I mentioned above.  This was the original way that revelers ‘marched’ through the streets during Carnival ‘jump-ups’, before the advent of hi-fi’s on trucks and electronically amplified bands.  Dominica’s Carnival offers spectators the best of both worlds, in terms of musical accompaniment, and this year is no exception.

These young ladies play their  pans directly on top of a truck as they move along the route in the hot sun.

These young ladies play their pans directly on top of a truck as they move along the route in the hot sun.

There is always some sonorous steel pan music, as well.  Sweet sounds from a group of young people filled the air as they played on their melodious pans.  Then along came fathers and sons, who kept pace with their cleverly crafted traditional home-made toy trucks.  Everyone admired their designs as the fathers proudly coached the young boys on the route.

The tradition of fathers and sons making toy trucks by hand is a parade pleaser.

The tradition of fathers and sons making toy trucks by hand is a parade pleaser.

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This pretty girl from Grand Bay is a Teenage Pageant Contestant. I wish her well!

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The Flag Wavers take their roles very seriously and put on a great show.

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The little girls are learning the ropes. They look so adorable in their outfits.

This was followed by a sequence of pretty girls  of various ages who were decked out in seemingly royal splendour.

These young ladies are involved in various competitions – The Princess Show, the Teenage Pageant and Miss Dominica.  These spectacles draw very large crowds!

Leslassa Armour Shillingford gave me a  warm smile. She is a contestant in this year's Miss Dominica pageant. With her lovely looks, sparkling personality, engaging presence,  natural talent and academic prowess, I think she'll be the winner. I'll let you know post-show!

Leslassa Armour Shillingford gave me a warm smile. She is a contestant in this year’s Miss Dominica pageant. With her lovely looks, sparkling personality, engaging presence, natural talent and academic prowess, I think she’ll be the winner. I’ll let you know post-show!

I am always entertained by the ever-popular flag wavers.  This year was no exception.  I really smiled as I watched the little ones in training and then the older girls – who really put on an athletic routine that does require considerable skill and coördination.

These colourful costumes capture one's attention.

These colourful costumes capture one’s attention.

After this point, shimmering, shining, sparkling and sometimes sexy costumes appeared ‘on the road’.  And that is what Bacchanal is all about!  By-standers definitely got a taste of what would come in the Street Jump-Ups, Parades and festivities on the forthcoming Carnival Monday and Tuesday (February 11 + 12). I have `jumped`with a costume band several times before and I can assure you that it was lots of fun!

There was also a serious side to this festive affair – the St. John Ambulance group reminded everyone not to forget the sensibilities of life.

Towards the end of the parade, some of Dominica’s big bands put in an appearance on the big Hi Fi trucks.  Most memorable to me was the music of WCK, a long-standing group with a big following.  As they went by, they  relentlessly repeated a key phrase from a popular song: `Pass the bouyon`.    Now if that seems boring to you, then you`ve  never been in a Carnival band!  Bouyon is a type of Creole music that was created in Dominica several years ago.  Its infectious rhythm is well beyond toe-tapping.  You just absolutely cannot help but move every part of your body to the beat.   I can assure you I did just that – and so did every single person I could see on the street.  By the time that music had infused my heart, I was more than ready to jump-up for sheer joy!

And then the band turned a corner and continued along the parade route – now packed with people.  I headed away from it and made my way to the bus stop for home – knowing fully well what I would be doing on Carnival Monday and Tuesday in the streets of Roseau!

There was a serious side to the revelry, which balanced the festivities nicely.

There was a serious side to the revelry, which balanced the festivities nicely.

The WCK band heats up the crowd with their hot bouyon beat.

The WCK band heats up the crowd with their hot bouyon beat.

These young ladies seem to suggest that the spirit of the Bacchanal is alive and well!

These young ladies seem to suggest that the spirit of the Bacchanal is alive and well!

Some of the assemblies are downright cute!

Some of the assemblies are downright cute!

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4 comments on “Dominica’s Carnival Opening Parade 2013: Simply Wonderful!

  1. Looks like a great time!!

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    • gwendominica says:

      It was fun, Rachel. The parade was perhaps a bit more subdued this year, as there weren`t as many bands on the road. I didn`t hear any of the new calypso songs either, which is unusual. But at the end of the day, everyone seemed so happy, whether they were participating in the parade or watching it from the sidelines. I felt a lot of joy all around me. I really couldn`t ask for more!

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  2. sandra says:

    why not all the queen contestants photos on this site for the opening. Leave overseas, and would have been delighted to see all the young girls and not just one.

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