Kids in the Carnival: Dominica’s Young People ‘Play Mas’ Big Time

School children from the east coast village of Castle Bruce proudly marched in the Carnival Opening Parade.

School children from the east coast village of Castle Bruce proudly marched in the Carnival 2014  Opening Parade.

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A young girl balances with ease on her stilts. She was part of the Afri-Culture Stiltwalkers in Carnival 2013.

After many years of revelling, I  decided to focus on something different in Dominica’s Carnival 2014.  It was time to take a closer look at the young people, as they do make vital and dynamic contributions to Mas Domnik  festivities.  I was amazed to witness  their earnest and dedicated approach  to numerous activities, which they presented at a very high standard to enthusiastic audiences and spectators.  I didn’t realize that so many students take Carnival events as seriously as the older crowd!  Their keen participation certainly bodes well for the future of Carnival on the Nature Island, which is a significant part of Dominica’s cultural heritage.

I attended the Junior Calypso Monarch competition for the first time and I was truly amazed by the calibre of the participants.  While the passionate and energetic ‘Irish Kid’ (Lemar Irish) was crowned as Monarch, I was more impressed with the first runner-up, Janae Jackson. Her clear diction and melodious phrases enabled her to easily relay her strong and loyal sentiments about her secondary school, Convent High. Not surprisingly, she is a previous winner of this competition. This year, she was crowned ‘Calypso Queen’ at one of the ‘tents’ which showcase calypsonians during the Carnival season.  Overall, I think the future of calypso is very strong due to the highly creative performances of these talented young people.  I wish them well!

Here are a few photos taken at the Junior Calypso Show 2014.  Unfortunately, I was not in near to the stage and lighting was not suitable to capture shots well on my simple camera.   A good round-up of pictures and reviews can be found on Dominica Vibes.

Janae Jackson received 1st runner up in this year's Junior Calypso Monarch contest.  This talented young lady sang about her collegiate, the Convent High School.  In 2014, she was also awarded the title of Calypso Queen in am ore senior competition.

Janae Jackson received 1st runner-up in this year’s Junior Calypso Monarch contest. This talented young lady sang about her collegiate, the Convent High School. In 2014, she was also awarded the title of Calypso Queen in another competition.

The Leo Club hosted the Junior Calypso Monarch competition at the Harlem Plaza entertainment venue in Newtown, just south of Roseau.

The Leo Club hosted the Junior Calypso Monarch competition at the Harlem Plaza entertainment venue in Newtown, on the south side of Roseau.

The eventually filled the netire space below the stage as afternoon turned into evening.

The audience eventually filled the entire space below the stage as afternoon turned into evening.

My next event was another first for me in the Carnival season.  On Sunday February 23rd, I hastened to the Windsor Park Sports Stadium around 5 p.m. for the Miss Teen Dominica show.  I was eager to see what young ladies from high schools around the island would offer up in terms of speeches, talents, impromptu interviews, evening wear and traditional costumes.  I had previously attended many Miss Dominica pageants and had a good idea of what to expect from the slightly younger girls.  When I seated myself in the bleachers, I looked  to the left and lo and behold – all the Miss Dominica 2014 contestants, along with Miss Dominica 2013, Leslassa Armour-Shillingford were present to give full support to their younger ‘sisters’!

The contestants in the Miss Teen Dominica 2014 pageant all put their best foot forward and performed very well in this popular high school competition. Interestingly, the winner, Shari Peter is first (left side) of this advertising poster!

The contestants in the Miss Teen Dominica 2014 pageant performed very well in this popular high school competition. Interestingly, the winner, Shari Peter is first (left side) of this advertising poster!

There is Miss Dominica 2014 again!  All of the pageant contestants introduced themselves to the audience during the Miss Teen Dominica show.

There is Miss Dominica 2014! (But we didn’t know it at the time!). All of the Carnival Queen contestants introduced themselves to the audience during the Miss Teen Dominica show.

The Miss Dominica 2014 contestants all came out to support their 'younger sisters.'  It is curious that in hindsight, Miss Dominica 2014 Francine Baron is seated in 1st place (left), while Miss Dominica 2013, Leslassa Armour-Shillingford is on the opposite end (wearing crown).

The Miss Dominica 2014 contestants all came out to support their ‘younger sisters.’ It is curious that in hindsight, Miss Dominica 2014 Francine Baron is seated in 1st place (left), while Miss Dominica 2013, Leslassa Armour-Shillingford is on the opposite end (wearing crown).

Once again, I was suitably impressed with the high standards of presentation from the teenagers.  But I would be remiss if I did not mention that this annual Carnival event is organized by the renowned Waitukubuli Dance Theatre Company, under the directorship of Mr. Raymond Lawrence.  This recently retired long-time Chief Cultural Officer certainly knows how to put on a production.  He ensured that it ran very smoothly, despite a few minor technical glitches.  His rich and resonant speaking voice added to the pleasure of the commentary about the colourful presentations by the students.

All of the traditional costumes were stunning.  I particularly enjoyed the lines of this flouncy gown.

All of the traditional costumes were stunning. I particularly enjoyed the lines of Miss Peter’s ‘Spectacular Creation’ which gave her one of a number of awards.

Retired Chief Cultural Officer Raymond Lawrence was master of Ceremonies for this Wiatukubuli Dance Theatre Inc annual event.  This group has been in existence for more than 40 years!

Retired Chief Cultural Officer Raymond Lawrence was Master of Ceremonies for this Waitukubuli Dance Theatre annual event. The dance troupe has been in existence for more than 40 years!

The Miss Teen Dominica contestants danced around the stage to popular band WCK's song entitled'767' before they introduced themselves.

The Miss Teen Dominica contestants danced around the stage to popular band WCK’s song  ‘767’  (Dominica’s area code)before they introduced themselves.

Members of the Waitukubuli Dance Theatre trope entertained the audience during the intermission.

Members of the Waitukubuli Dance Theatre troupe entertained the audience during the intermission.

There was no doubt in my mind - Miss Teen Dominica 2014 Shari Peter looked like royalty even before she was crowned!

There was no doubt in my mind – Miss Teen Dominica 2014 Shari Peter looked like royalty even before she was crowned!

After all was said and done at this well-organized show, I felt satisfied with the judges’ choice of Miss Shari Peter from St. John’s Academy in Portsmouth as the winner.  She has a certain ‘sparkle’ and I sense that she has ‘got what it takes’ to act in the capacity as a youth ambassador on island and elsewhere.  I wish her all the best, and congratulate the other contestants for their fine performances too.

You can see more wonderful photos  and a great review on Dominica Vibes.

A few days later, it was Carnival Monday, which featured an Old Mas and School/Youth Parade about mid-morning.  I arrived on King George V Street in Roseau and placed myself in the shade, as it was a very hot day.  The phenomenal creative contributions of the students, teachers and parents provided hundreds of spectators with sheer delight and a great appreciation for what Mas Domnik is all about.  Tears stung my eyes as I proudly admired the parade participants and their enthusiasm as they chipped ( rhythmically shuffled ) to the beat of the big hi-fi trucks in the sweltering heat.  It struck me that these young people were genuinely celebrating the spirit of Carnival in its purest form: no external or internal stimulants needed!  I highly commend all the participants and their schools for putting forth such an exceptional collective effort that gave so many people joy. Thank you for a wonderful Carnival parade. I hope you will do it all again next year!

Here is a photographic review of some of my favourites, mind you, there were many more!  DSCF1931

This group of children took the time to adorn themselves in black body paint to represent 'Darkies', which represent  a traditional type of Carnival band.

This group of children took the time to adorn themselves in black body paint to represent ‘Darkies’, which form a traditional type of Carnival band.

A few children got to 'sit out' the parade.  These two command the float for the Pioneer Preparatory School.

A few children got to ‘sit out’ the parade. These two commanded the ‘Sugar and Spice’ float for the Pioneer Preparatory School.

This little one seems to be a prince of a chap who certainly deserved the 'ride'!

This little one seemed to be a prince of a chap who certainly deserved the ‘ride’!

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The tradition of constructing toy trucks and then ‘driving’ them in the parade is increasing in popularity.

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A little Sensay masquerader studies the bigger ones to learn the ropes!

A little Sensay masquerader studied the bigger ones to learn the ropes!

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This internationally renowned Dominican musician took time out from her busy schedule to 'jump' with her youngest daughter's carnival band, the Nymphs.  If you don't recognize her, click here!

This internationally renowned Dominican musician took time out from her busy schedule to ‘jump’ with her youngest daughter’s carnival band, the Nymphs. If you don’t recognize her, click here!

This father and son were part of the Flames carnival youth band.

This father and son were part of the Flames carnival youth band.

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There is no doubt in my mind - the sentiment on this sign rings true as far as the Carnival 2014 Youth Parade is concerned!

There is no doubt in my mind – the sentiment on this sign rings true as far as the Carnival 2014 Youth Parade was concerned!

This  very high stiltwalker seemed to be a Carnival angel, to me!

This  angelic-looking stilt-walker seemed to  hover over the Carnival parade route with Sensay-style good tidings!