Fantasy Becomes Reality on the Nature Isle: The Mas Domnik 2016 Costume Parade

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My favourite costume was worn by Tatyanna Dangleben, first runner-up in the Teenage Pageant.

On Tuesday February 9th, 2016,  a beautiful morning  dawned for Mas Domnik’s Costume Parade on the streets of Roseau.  Slightly overcast

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This was the only ship anchored off the port of Roseau on Carnival Tuesday 2016. I hope the crew and passengers had a fabulous time!  The promontory of Scotts Head can be seen in the background.

 

conditions and occasional drizzle acted as the perfect backdrop for the brilliant costumes adorned by the participants as they made their first pass around the route that mid-morning.  By the time it was over a few hours later, a brilliant sun heated up the streets but didn’t prevent throngs of revelers from jumping up well into the evening as they made the most of their ‘last lap’ of Dominica’s Carnival 2016.

I always delight in the spectacle of the Costume parade and the cheery ambiance that surrounds it. Much respect and admiration is also offered to the designers of these incredible outfits, as it is their creativity and ingenuity that is being ‘shown off’ by the ‘models’. DSCF6852

Once again, I was very fortunate to have a front row seat at the Cat Café on King George V Street . I appreciated the filling crêpe and energizing Viennese coffee as I perched myself on the balcony and occasionally ran down to street level for a different vantage point to watch the activity ‘on the road’.

When the parade passed by my location just after 11 a.m., I immersed myself in the magical fantasy of the seemingly surreal participants in their spectacular wear.  As I watched the King, Queen(s), Princesses and Princes of Mas Domnik, it was easy to forget about my cares and fill my heart with the joy of this celebration of Dominican culture and tradition.

So I gave myself over to the sheer enjoyment that surrounded me on the streets of Roseau during the Costume Parade of Carnival Tuesday 2016.

Pictures are worth plenty of words.  Therefore, I present to you some snapshots of that fun-filled occasion.  It is my pleasure to share a sense of this unique festivity with you.  If you like what you see, then please let me know!

Carnival 2016 Calypso Monarch, King Dice (Dennison Joseph) and Miss Dominica 2016, Queen Tasia Floissac easily demonstrated the essence of Carnival through bountiful smiles and spontaneous merry-making:

 

Then came a train of royalty that well-defined the meaning of Carnival pageantry:

 

 

Plenty of Princesses:

 

Revellers ‘playing mas’ in their own style:

 

Flag Wavers adding to the ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ of this special day:

The Old  Time Sake Band has a solid following.  Year after year, they establish their presence in the Costume parade.  I have had the pleasure of ‘jumping’ with them before.  You can read about that fun experience here:

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Then along came the prolific Thunderbirds band.  Their commanding presence and spectacular costumes earned them  a second place award with their theme: Junkanoo:

I remember the first time I ever saw the Karnival Korner band. It was at a pre-Carnival dance in 1998 at Springfield, my first home on the Nature Island.  There, the Swingin Starz band had everyone jumping to the beat.  I was in awe of the brilliant costumes that this troupe introduced to the enthusiastic party-goers. They’ve been around for a long time, and their annual creations always draw a crowd!  This year, they placed third in the Tuesday Costume parade with their Kaleidoscope theme, but they have been winners many times before.  They also captured the Adult King of the Band prize:

When you see these pictures of the exceptional, amazing, fantastical Afri-Culture Stilt Walkers (Bwa Bwa in Creole), you will easily understand why they won the Band of the Year prize, along with Adult Queen of the Band award. I confess that when I saw them on the parade route, I was  already convinced that they would receive the top honours.  I don’t have to explain further.  You can see for yourself:

I hope you won’t become hysterical when I tell you that I was not able to take photos of the sexy Hysteria band this year.  They were the last formal group to join the parade, on its third ‘lap’ around Roseau – and they won the award for the largest band on the road!  By then,I had taken so many photos that my camera’s battery ‘died’ before I saw them.  If it’s any consolation, you can see a few shots of cool ladies (and men) dressed for the Bacchanal that I took last year.  And unfortunately, ever-popular Mercury band, with its revealing costumes did not take part in Mas Domnik 2016.   But you can find some sizzling photos of their members  here.

Now if you are convinced that you really want to experience this fantasy for yourself, then this is a ‘heads-up’ for next winter’s escape plan:  Dominica’s  forthcoming Carnival Holidays are the 27th and 28th of February 2017.   Hope to see you ‘pon de road’!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Magical Way to Start the Day:Dominica’s Carnival 2016 J’ouvert!

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Gwendominica ‘played mas’ on J’ouvert Morning of Carnival Monday 2016.

When I arrived  in Roseau around 5 a.m. to participate in the Dominica Carnival annual predawn celebration called J’ouvert (pronounced joo-vay) , the streets of the city were filled with revellers.  Many of them were in disguise or at least, dressed very differently than one might expect. Some had formed small bands, and  were wearing the same type of costume. They really captured the attention of admiring onlookers. Others were dressed in any old thing, including pyjamas, underwear and very short shorts.  It’s the  bacchanal, after all!  But in keeping with Carnival traditions, plentiful groups of  brightly costumed Sensays added to the magical aura of this celebration on the dimly lit streets.

This year, a number of lapo kabwit  bands, (the drums were

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Some of the people who help to make Carnival happen were on the road very early on J’ouvert morning!  From left, Mrs. Anita Bully, Film Development Officer at the Discover Dominica Authority, her husband, renowned cultural icon Dr. Alwin Bully; middle man not identified;Mr. Colin Piper, CEO, Discover Dominica Authority and Mrs. Piper.

originally made from goat skin),with modern and traditional percussive instruments and horns of all types kept everyone ‘chipping’ (a fast walk) to the beat on the pre-established parade route. I delighted in admiring the costumes and the cheerful ambiance of the participants.  I did not notice many by-standers,other than those situated on porches and balconies.  In my view, almost EVERYONE was on the street, enjoying themselves immensely – seemingly catching hold of authentic Carnival ‘vibrations’.

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Gwendominica hailed the spirits of Carnivals past as day broke at the end of the J’ouvert celebration on the streets of Roseau.

Just before 6:30 a.m., I noticed the sky lightening up over the mountains to the east: almost daybreak!  This is the time of J’ouvert when I can actually feel the spirits of

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The house in the background once belonged to the family of internationally recognized Dominican writer, the late Jean Rhys. When she was a child, she would have gazed down on a similar scene in the late 19th and early 20th centuries!

Carnivals past descending from the hills and infusing everyone who cares to ponder about this ancient ritual with a little intrigue and  appreciation for the magic and mystery that represents the true meaing of Carnival.  If this concept sounds a little far-fetched, well, you have to be here to appreciate my meaning!  I am sure friend Jen, who has ‘jumped J’ouvert’ with me before has a good idea of what I am trying to say! You can read about our  earlier fun-filled experience here.

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Charismatic  Chester ‘Daddy Chess’ Letang, calypsonian and lead singer of the Swingin Starz band is surrounded by adoring fans and other members of the band.

In the full daylight of this Carnival Monday, I abandoned the streets and enjoyed a Viennese coffee along with a feta and egg crepe at the Cat Café, located upstairs at 50 King George V Street.  I appreciated this tasteful French inspired meal, and was grateful to have a front row seat on the porch.  Of course, it wasn’t over yet – in fact, Carnival street festivities had only just begun.

From 7 a.m., huge hi-fi trucks with mega-amplified sound systems and some local bands appeared as if out of nowhere, with hundreds of weary but ecstatic fans immersing themselves in the blasting, pounding sound that could only infuse the spirit of Carnival into one’s soul.

After I finished my delicious breakfast, I leaned against the railing, and moved my body to the incessant beat of the passing hi-fi trucks. I enveloped myself in the vibrant ambience of a memorable morning, unlike any other, because I had willingly succumbed to the

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Check out some scenes from magical J’ouvert below.

magic of J’ouvert in Dominica.

DSCF6852Many thanks to Mylène, proprietor Cat Café, for the early opening, delicious food and available porch for my Carnival enjoyment.  Also, big up to Melinda, who willingly took photos of me and served up the wonderful meal.

 

Here’s a glimpse of some of the faces on the road:DSCF6720

 

The musicians kept us moving to the incessant beat:

There were traditional Sensays with a colourful twist:

Some of the ‘trucks’ on the road:

 

Revellers filled the streets as dawn arrived on the Nature Island:

Dominica’s Calypso Fever: It’s Contagious!

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Showdown Mas Camp is one of two popular weekly ‘tents’, where enthusiastic audiences watch and hear member calypsonians in the run up to the formal competitions during the Carnival season in Dominica.

I’ll never forget the first calypso show I

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King Dice did it again!  He won the 2016 Calypso Monarch competition last night – that’s his 8th crown! (Photo taken in 2012).

attended in Dominica. It was Carnival season 1998 and I walked in to the Stardom Monarch of the Tent competition at the Sisserou Hotel with a young Dominican lady that I had only recently met.  The place was packed – with hardly a space to move, but somehow this attractive young woman was able to charm bystanders so that we could step in front of them to stand directly below the stage.  I looked up at a handsome man, known in calypso circles as ‘De Hunter’ who was dressed in traditional Kalinago attire.  He was singing a composition called  ‘Carib Bacchanal‘.  I was so caught up in the  powerful refrain, the throbbing beat and the sweet repetitive melody that I instantly fell in love with this special genre of music. And that year, ‘Hunter’ went on the win the big Carnival Calypso Monarch  competition with that enduring song.

Since then, I don’t attend as many shows as I once did:  too many late nights for me in the damp, chilly air (relatively speaking) that prevails in January and February.  But that doesn’t stop me from continuing with my deep affection for this art form.  I listen to all the songs each year, the detailed professional commentaries and  also contribute to lively discussions with friends and strangers alike.

So, what makes calypso so ‘hot’ on the Nature Island?  “Let me tell you something…” to use a Dominican expression.  It’s true, it didn’t originate on the Nature Isle.  That honour belongs to Trinidad, where Carnival, in which calypso plays a huge part, is a  VERY big deal. But that being said, Dominica’s brand is not to be underestimated. Part of the fun is the intimacy of the performances, the familiarity of the political and social issues and the overall popularity of the songs amongst a small population that gives tremendous support to its calypsonians.

The concept of calypso evolved from a fusion of West African and Latin rhythms, with the idea of a lead singer with crowd responses about social injustices during the periods of slavery and colonialism.  A more detailed description of its background can be found on the web site of local historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, right here. In Dominica, calypso competitions became formalized in the 1950’s, where one singer discreetly performed/presented a certain social or political issue to a listening audience. More details are available in a previous piece on Ti Domnik Tales right here.

The Dominica Calypso Association is a formal organization that ensures that standards

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Daryl “De Bobb” Bobb is a gifted and  longstanding calypsonian who also writes his own lyrics.  He placed second runner up in the Calypso Monarch 2016 competition.

are met in terms of the art form and the calysonians’ performances.  If you think that writing a calypso or performing it is just a simple matter of venting one’s concerns in any old way, then think again!  Specific guidelines exist that outline the way in which this genre of song must be written, composed and performed. A detailed breakdown of the components required in a calypso song can be found  here on the avirtualdominica.com web site.  Lyricists must cleverly disguise the outstanding theme in the literary guise of double-entendres, puns, metaphors, similes, and parodies, with plenty of satire, allusions and sometimes parables.  The point is that the message is not supposed to be glaringly obvious, but it can be deciphered by the listeners as a result of the careful crafting of the composition: the obvious subject often alludes to an entirely different matter.

When I taught students  English Literature at Orion Academy, I derived tremendous pleasure from using examples of literary devices from the calypso songs of the day to illustrate their meaning and usage.  The kids really enjoyed it too.  On one occasion, we were graced with the presence of prolific veteran calypso songwriter Pat Aaron, who writes exclusively for 8-time (2016) Calypso Monarch Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph.  He had written lyrics for a calypso entitled ‘Animal Farm’, which was performed by ‘Dice’.  It was based on themes presented in the allegorical novel, ‘Animal Farm‘ by George Orwell, which I was teaching to second formers at that time.  He carefully explained to the class  about his methods for incorporating some of the ideas from the novel into the calypso song, making it relevant to various political, social and topical issues of the day in

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Tasha ‘Tasha P’ Peltier was the first woman to ever win the Calypso Monarch Competition in 2011.

Dominica.

There is one caveat, however.  If one is not familiar with the issues of the day in Dominica, then it is more difficult to interpret the message that is being relayed by the calypsonian.  I found this out in my early days here. Apart from being entertained by the spectacle of the staged show, and being caught up in the excitement of the crowd, I often did not understand the disguised message in the songs.  But after almost 20 years on the Nature Isle, I can assure you that I am well versed in the issues of the day, as I follow current events very closely and frequently discuss them with my Dominican friends!

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Janae Jackson is a very talented 17 year old girl who went all the way to the Calypso Finals this year.  While she did not place, she did win the Calypso Queen 2016 award. She is definitely one to watch!

So last night was THE big night for the Calypso Finals.  This enormously popular show is traditionally held on the Saturday before Carnival Monday. While I didn’t attend this year, I was able to listen to part of the show on the radio. But it went well into the early morning hours, and I fell asleep before it was over. When I woke up sometime later, I immediately went to my computer to find out the results.

Calypso fever finally spiked and King Dice did it again – the eighth time in fact! He’s now tied with Trinidad’s  ‘Mighty Sparrow‘, renowned all over the world – who previously captured the crown in his country that many times.  Congratulations to ‘Dice’ for a superb performance and to his songwriter, Pat Aaron, who has an uncanny gift for creating the best in calypso lyrics.  What a team!

I am also delighted for Webster ‘De Webb’ Marie, who was awarded the first runner up position.  I have had the pleasure of singing with this young man in the RiverSong choir many years ago.  He has a wonderful tenor voice and is a natural on stage.  He was a longstanding member of the well-known Sisserou Singers and was the first winner of Dominca’s annual Cadence-lypso competition in 2012.

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I have to update my photo with King Dice, now 8-times a Calypso Monarch.  Wendy Walsh took this photo of me with the talented calypsonian a couple of Carnival Mondays ago.

Now that this year’s calypso fever has broken, I’ll prepare myself for tomorrow’s early morning J’ouvert and all the fun that follows in the next two days (Carnival Monday and Tuesday).  I’ll be on the lookout for the amazing Calypsonians on the Carnival route and will certainly offer my heartfelt congratulations for keeping Calypso music very ‘HOT’ in Dominica!

 

Under the Spell: Carnival Magic in Dominica

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Carnival Queen 2015, Odessa Elie and Calypso Monarch 2015, Gregory ‘Karessah’ Riviere warmly greeted spectators while their float guided the 2016  Opening Parade along the streets of Roseau Dominica.

When the Carnival Dream berthed at the Roseau Cruise Ship Pier on the same

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The Carnival Dream arrived in Dominica on the same day as Dominica’s dreamy Opening Parade!

day as the Opening Parade of Mas Domnik 2016, I felt that it had to be a magical coincidence.

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What’s going on?  This band of ‘Darkies’ wanted everyone to know that it is Carnival time on the Nature Isle!

I arrived at the start of the parade route near the Fort Young Hotel on Victoria Street just before the 3 p.m. start time.  The bands, that is, specific groups of participants were assembling and warming up for this celebratory afternoon.  It would be the first major event on Dominica since the devastation of Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015.  While the country continues to recover and rebuild, I noticed that this much-anticipated Carnival  event brought joy to the faces of the revellers and spectators that afternoon.

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This pretty Carnival Princess contestant  welcomed everyone as she processed in her float along the parade route.

Although the parade started a little late, it was well worth the wait.  To see the smiles of delight on the streets after several stressful months lifted my spirits and brought tears of happiness to my eyes.

Of course, there were hundreds of cruise ship passengers viewing the spectacle too.  I spoke to a few of them and they were completely in awe of the creativity and colour that surrounded them on this beautiful day in paradise.

Traditionally, the Opening Parade gives everyone a taste of what will come over the next few weeks, culminating in two days of street jump-ups on Monday February 8th and Tuesday February 9th this year.  Those particular days precede Ash Wednesday and the commencement of Lent.  You can read more about the origins of Dominica’s Carnival in an earlier post right here.

Beauty pageants, along with calypso song competitions form a big part of the Carnival activities.  All of the Queen, Teen and Princess contestants looked lovely and sported their sweetest smiles in anticipation of winning their ‘crown’.

Here is a peek at some, but not all of the lovely ladies and girls who made their presence known on that beautiful Saturday afternoon in Roseau:

 

From top left: Carnival Princess 2015 Lytleen Julien; Supporters of their  Convent High School Teen Pageant Contestant; Teen Pageant Contestant from Convent High School

From bottom left: Contestant in the Dominica State College Jambouree; Miss Dominica Contestant Nawana Shillingford; Miss Dominica Contestant Tasia Floissac

All of the young ladies sparkled and shimmered in their finery.  I succumbed to the magic of their Carnival charms as if I were walking around  in a fairyland!

But there was much more than beauty on the streets of Roseau that dreamy, steamy afternoon in the nation’s capital.  After the procession of pageant contestants, plentiful beasts emerged en masse, creating an extreme juxtaposition with the earlier serene scene. The prolific masqueraders clearly portrayed what ‘playing mas’ is all about!

Scary  bestial Sensays in horns and masks, the fiersome and feared ‘Bann Mauvé’  with their wizard-like hats from the village of Colihaut, frightening ‘darkies’ covered in black, cracking whips all added to the sinister side of Carnival magic.  Some of them did actually try to scare me as I boldly stepped on to the street to capture them with my camera.  However, I did not succumb to fear for one good reason: despite their attire, they all appeared to be having a fantastic time.  I could only smile and laugh along with them.  What better Carnival dream than that!

Here is a glimpse at what they looked like ‘pon de road‘:

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Then the Carnival dream changed direction again, and I found myself admiring a large band of little boys pushing their cleverly constructed home-made toy trucks, called

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Young boys proudly push their  creative kabouways in the Carnival 2016 Opening Parade.

kabouways. This longstanding Dominican tradition has recently regained prominence, and the craft is a tremendous source of pride – especially for fathers and sons who make them together.

And little girls demonstrated their rhythmic and athletic prowess in coordinated movements, despite the soaring temperature, as renowned ‘Flag Wavers’.DSCF6517

DSCF6451I also admired an ornately-dressed band of Kalinago people from the northeastern village of Sineku.  Their pride of traditions was clearly evident and they too, were clearly enjoying themselves.

After an hour and a half, the late afternoon sun began to cast long shadows, as well as an intense glare on the road. The magical dream switched again and this time gorgeous revellers and other vibrant characters, suggestive of the bacchanal appeared on the street, captivating onlookers with their flamboyant costumes, like this:

This Carnival fantasy just didn’t seem to end.  But I began to return to reality with the pounding beat of the traditional lapo kabwit (goat-skin drum) bands.  Sweat poured from their brows as they marched along the parade route.  But there was no stopping them: the rhythm of the magical Carnival season is in their blood!

 

There were reality checks too:  The Police Band posted this sobering suggestion on the front of their Carnival truck:DSCF6489

As I awakened from my personal revelry, I realized that I did not see the ever-popular stilt-walkers (Bwa Bwa), as they must have entered the parade further along the route.  I’ll be sure to include them in my next Carnival dream!

Once again, I had fallen under the spell of Carnival magic in Dominica.  I suspect the potion should last until Ash Wednesday.  Be assured that I’ll let you know about other reveleries I experience during Mas Domnik 2016!

 

Scenes from a (Tropical!) Winter Wonderland: Dominica’s Carnival 2015 Season*

Roseau is a busy port  in wintertime, filled with voyageurs from northern lands who have come in search of winter sunshine!

Roseau is a busy port in wintertime, filled with voyageurs from northern lands who have come in search of  warm winter sunshine and a lot of fun!

When I hear about how cold February 2015 is in eastern Canada, I thank God for the incredibly beautiful tropical weather that Dominica has experienced over the recent Carnival season.  No, I am not trying to ‘rub it in’; it is cooler here too (relatively speaking).  I did shiver at night during a recent sojourn at Springfield, my first home in Dominica. It is now a  private international research and study center for students, which  is located at about 1,200 feet above sea level, on the edge of the rainforest. I am sure the temperature dropped to below 20 Celsius (plus, that is) in the wee hours there.

When it rained heavily on Carnival Tuesday morning in Roseau, I feared that the grand

No, this is not a dream.  This is the Mercury Band tempting you to partake of a winter Carnival in Dominica sometime soon!

No, this is not a dream. This is the Mercury Band 2015, tempting you to partake of a winter Carnival in Dominica sometime soon!

Costume Parade might be delayed.  Evidently, it was slow to start, but the show was  ‘on the road’ by 11 a.m. – only one hour behind schedule! The streets of the capital dried up fast and the city quickly poured colour and spectacle on excited bystanders, who sought some shade under umbrellas or overhanging porches as the temperature soared!

 

I am sending you a little tropical sunshine, warmth and good cheer through the photos below.  I suggest that you look them over, and then dream of Dominica while you’re out shoveling snow or sheltering from the frigid winds! And maybe sometime, you’ll consider a wintertime visit to this tropical wonderland.

I started the Carnival long weekend at the place I love the most on Dominica: Springfield Plantation:

As dawn is breaking on the old estate, I am always reminded of the magic and mystery of this beautiful place.

As dawn is breaking on the old estate, I am  reminded of the magic and mystery of this beautiful place.

I always admire these stately royal palms, which typically mark the location of an estate in Dominica.

I always admire these stately royal palms, which typically mark the location of an estate in Dominica.

Cacao pods appear ready to burst with chocolatey flavour. They were once a prolific crop at Springfield.

Cacao pods seem ready to burst with chocolate flavour. They were once a prolific crop at Springfield.

This river pool at Springfield is a place where I spent many moments in meditation whenever I visit Springfield.

This river pool at Springfield is a place where I  have spent many moments in meditation  and relaxation when I visit Springfield.

I love to wander around the grounds of Springfield, which is an old estate that dates back to the 18th century.

I love to wander around the grounds of Springfield Plantation, which  dates back to the 18th century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of days of solitude and tranquility, it was time to immerse myself in the vibrant energy of Dominica’s traditional Carnival and its sensational Costume Parade:

This creative costume caught everyone's attention and was frequently photographed.  I think it is a dragon and Jenny thinks it is a crocodile.  What do you think?  Photo taken by Jenny.

This creative costume caught everyone’s attention and was often photographed. I think it is a dragon and Jenny thinks it is a crocodile. What do you think? Photo taken by Jenny.

Pretty little princesses in lovely gowns were admired by all.

A pretty little princess in a lovely gown was admired by all.

Some little girls displayed their athletic and rhythmic talents in choreographed routines as Flag Wavers.

Some little girls displayed their athletic and rhythmic talents in choreographed routines as Flag Wavers.

King Karessah, Calypso Monarch 2015 out-performed 7 time champion Dice to capture this year's crown.  Well done, Karessah!

King Karessah, Calypso Monarch 2015 out-performed 7 time champion Dice to capture this year’s crown. Well done, Karessah!

Carnival Queen contestants impressed thje corwds with their creative traditional costumes.

Carnival Queen contestants impressed the crowds with their creative traditional costumes.

This brilliant traditional costume quickly caught the attention of enthralled spectators.

This brilliant traditional costume quickly caught the attention of enthralled spectators.

The Carnival Princess and Miss Teen Dominica were tow of the most photographed celebreties on the parade route!

The Carnival Princess and a Miss Teen Dominica contestant were two of the most photographed celebrities on the parade route!

This traditional costume was my favourite: simple, yet colourful and cleverly constructed!

This traditional costume was my favourite: simple, yet colourful and cleverly constructed!

Ready to roll!  Gwendominica is set to take in the sights and sounds of Dominica's Carnival Costume parade in Roseau.  Photo taken by Jenny.

Ready to roll! Gwendominica is set to take in the sights and sounds of Dominica’s Carnival Costume Parade 2015 in Roseau. Photo taken by Jenny.

 

The members of the Thunderbirds Band are always a sight to behold!

The members of the Thunderbirds Band are always a sight to behold!

Hysteria was a new band on the Carnival road this year.  They made quite a splash with their sexy costumes and high energy music. Photo taken by Jenny.

Hysteria was a new band on the Carnival road this year. They made a splash with their sexy costumes and high energy music. Photo taken by Jenny.

The Old Time Sake Band was out in full force, as usual.  I 'jumped'  with them last year and had lots of fun!

The Old Time Sake Band was out in full force, as usual. I ‘jumped’ with them last year and had lots of fun!

Some ,e,bers of the Mercury Band adorned themselves in blue body paint.  Awesome!

Some members of the Mercury Band adorned themselves in blue body paint. Awesome!

They guys in the Hysteria Band looked very cool under the hot sun! Photo taken by Jenny.

The guys in the Hysteria Band looked very cool under the hot sun! Photo taken by Jenny.

The Afri-Culture Stiltwalkers are beyond spectacular!

The Afri-Culture Stiltwalkers are beyond spectacular!

Do you think you could do that?  This troupe practises for months on the stilts while their club also puts time and energy into impressive costumes.

Do you think you could do that? This troupe practises for months on the stilts while their club also puts time and energy into impressive costumes.

This lady is totally into the Carnival vibe as a member of the sensuous Mercury Band.

This lady is totally into the Carnival vibe as a member of the sensuous Mercury Band.

Jenny strolls along Mero Beach on a quiet Friday afternoon immediately following Carnival celebrations in Dominica.

Jenny strolls along Mero Beach on a quiet Friday afternoon immediately following Carnival celebrations in Dominica.

On the Friday immediately following Carnival, friend Jenny and I did  a ‘last lap’ at Mero Beach.  While it was a

A beautiful sunset perfectly complemented the completion of Dominica's Carnival 2015 season.

A beautiful ‘winter’ sunset perfectly complemented the conclusion of Dominica’s Carnival 2015 season.

drizzly day, we were not deterred by a little dampness.  After a hearty lunch  beach-side at the ever-popular Romance Cafe, a  walk along the surf and a sea bath on  this quiet afternoon was a fitting completion to the lively events of earlier in the week.  I thoroughly enjoyed the my time spent in nature before and after the vibrant and festive Carnival Costume Parade in the city of Roseau.

And to all of you in the frozen north, I hope that these photos will bring you a little warmth – straight from my heart!

* Many thanks to Jenny Spencer for some great photos. She is a volunteer with the Zoological Society of London who is in Dominica for the third time to assist with  collaborative efforts to save the critically endangered ‘Mountain Chicken’ (Crapaud) frog.  You can read my earlier blog post about this important initiative here.  For the latest information about the Dominican Mountain Chicken Project, click here.

 

Dominica’s Carnival 2015 Opening Parade: A Spectacular, Sinister, Sensational Masquerade*

Where are you?  We're waiting for you to come to Dominica to 'play mas' with us!!!

Where are you? We’re waiting for you to come to Dominica to ‘play mas’ with us!!!

Although my mind is still on Paris, I had to pause before I chronicle my European visit to soak up the positive energy emanating from Dominica’s Carnival 2015 Opening Parade.  It was filled with all types of revelers and exhibited Dominica’s masquerade traditions to the fullest extent of the imagination.  As well as being a riot of colour, beauty and creativity , the sensuous side of the Bacchanal also intrigued thousands of satisfied spectators, who filled the sidewalks along the parade route on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Roseau.

Feast your eyes on these photos.  It is hoped they will tempt you to come to Dominica to “play mas!” If the spirit doesn’t move you this year, then plan for next! And if you’re on island, I’ll see you on the road!

A Calendar of Dominica’s Carnival Events 2015 is located here.

There was a Carnival Queen,  a King,  several Princesses big and small, as well as lovely ladies and girls set to contest crowns in upcoming pageants:

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Queen and King of the Opening Parade, Miss Dominica 2014, Francine Baron waves to her adoring admirers while seven-time Calypso Monarch 2014 Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph smiles and gestures at his enthusiastic entourage.

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Kitana Joseph, Carnival Princess 2014 sweetly smiles at her supporters along the parade route.

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These young ladies from the Dominica State College are proud participants in this year’s ‘Jamboree’.

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The ‘Darkies’ , a traditional type of masquerader who completely covers in black body paint and attire were well represented in the Opening Parade, as usual.

There was a wonderful mix of traditional costumes in this year’s Opening Parade.  I admired the creativity, cost and construction of each one..Scary Sensays were abundant ‘on the road’  as they covered faces with masks, heads with horns or hats and bodies with colourful fabrics.

It wasn’t all fearsome though:  the female Flag Wavers and the  boys with their home-made toy trucks drew appreciation and admiration from the crowd.  Hi-fi trucks kept everyone ‘chipping’, that is moving to the beat, but there were also a number of lapo-kabwit (goat-skin) drum bands on the route, which added the traditional rhythmical twist to Dominica’s original Carnival.

Of course, there was plenty of hot attire, suggestive of the bacchanal. But there were also liberal smatterings of individual freedom of expression through Carnival costume creation, all amounting to personal joy, and immense pleasure for the onlookers. Isn’t that what Carnival is really all about, after all!

* Many thanks to Jenny Spencer for her Carnival cheer and the contribution of some of her brilliant photos!

 

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The boys displayed their hand-crafted toy trucks in large numbers. This Dominican tradition has been revived in recent years, and fathers often play a big role in providing help for this fun-filled project!

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The stilt-walkers ( also called Bwa Bwa or Moko-Jumbies) are a sight to behold. If they don’t give you the shivers, then you are not into the Spirit of the Mas(querade)!

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Watch out for those wicked Black Devils! They don’t hesitate to crack that whip on the road.

 

This was my favourite costume of the masqueraders.  Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.

This was my favourite costume of the masqueraders. Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.

The stilt-walkers fascinate me endlessly. Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.  (They intrigue her too - she watched them practising in the Botannical Gardens a number of times!

The stilt-walkers fascinate me endlessly. Photo taken by Jenny Spencer. (They intrigue her too – she watched them practising in the Botanical Gardens several times!)

The speakers on the hi-fi trucks produced a serious amount of sound. (I wore ear-plugs. Ha!) Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.

The speakers on the hi-fi trucks produced a serious amount of sound. (I wore ear-plugs. Ha!) Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.

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Wow! A veritable kaleidoscope of colour in Sensay fashion!

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Flag Wavers delighted the crows with their lively dancing routines.

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I can’t imagine singing above it all. It must be a thrill to look down on the crowd and watch the action all around!

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Traditional, rhythmical lapo-kabwit bands were out in full force. There was no reason to lose the beat with their powerful percussive sound on the road!

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Kubuli, Dominica’s refreshing locally-manufactured beer is sure to enhance the spirit of the Bacchanal!

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‘On de Road’ in Roseau for Dominica’s Carnival 2014*

It had been a few years since I ‘jumped in a band’ (put on a costume and played masquerade with an organized group) during

Gwendominica was set to 'Glow' with the Old Time Sake Band on Carnival Monday night in Roseau Dominica.

Gwendominica was set to ‘Glow’ with the Old Time Sake Band on Carnival Monday night in Roseau Dominica.

Dominica’s Carnival celebrations.  Most of the time, I had  remained on the sidelines, contenting myself with plentiful photo opportunities and bountiful smiles from enthusiastic parade participants.  But this year, I felt I was overdue for a little spontaneous merrymaking ‘on de road’,  which, for two days forms part of   the traditional pre-Lenten festival’s claim-to-fame on the Nature Island.

It all started for me on Carnival Monday night.  As the sun set, I parked the car well away from the parade route and ran through the streets of Roseau to rendez-vous with the Old Time Sake band.

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The organizers had arranged a ‘Glow Band’ for our evening warm up before Tuesday morning’s Hawaiian ‘chip’ (shuffle to the music’s beat) around town.  By 7 p.m., we glowed as we moved along the parade route in Roseau to beat of the rhythms emanating from the huge speakers on the hi-fi truck.

I stayed at the front of the `band`so that I could turn around, run back and forth beside the group and take plenty of pictures.  As we moved through the streets, others joined us with their glow gear. Soon we were about 100 strong.  A lovely cooling breeze blew down to town from the mountains and tempered our exertions.  I was quite comfortable in my black attire and I kept moving to the momentum of the music.  By now, other big bands ( I mean real ones with instruments and singers) were now on the road.  Sidewalks filled with keen observers and children ran to and fro in great excitement.  Now I was sure that   I felt the  presence of `Spirits` from carnivals past: shadows and silhouettes of uncertain shapes and sizes seemed to grace darkened door ways and unlit alleys.  As I was only drinking spring water, I knew that it must have been my imagination…  In my mind, it`s all part of the fun!

The Old Time Sake Hi-Fi Truck rolled along behind the band as we glowed in the dark!

The Old Time Sake Hi-Fi Truck rolled along behind the band as we glowed in the dark!

After about an hour, I stepped out of the band, citing this little trip around as my warm-up for the next day to those who expected me to keep going until 10 p.m.

Gwendominica is ready to fete (party) with the Old Time Sake Band and their Hawaiian theme on Carnival Tuesday in Roseau.

Gwendominica was ready to fete (party) with the Old Time Sake Band with their Hawaiian theme on Carnival Tuesday in Roseau.

On Carnival Tuesday morning, I felt refreshed and ready for a bigger and hotter endurance test ‘on de road’.  The brilliant sunshine bouncing off  the steamy streets of Roseau  would definitely enhance my daytime ‘glow’.  Just after 10 a.m., the truck started to roll, and within minutes, over 200 happy and colorfully costumed revellers set out to show the gigantic crowd how the Old Time Sake Band’s Hawaiian theme  complemented the collective cheery mood of  participants and spectators.

Again, I took a place in the front line of the band.  I liked being able to move in and out, on and off the road  as I pleased to take photos and see what was happening in the other bands.    The only challenge in my starter position was my urge to ‘chip’ too quickly.  As an habitual walker and hiker, I am used to picking up the pace.  But the skill attached to chipping is the discipline of the  rhythmic slow shuffle: no long strides.  Occasionally, I found myself pacing too far ahead and then I was caught between the music of the band in front of me and the Old Time Sake tune behind me.  It was a challenge for this musician to try to move to two different beats simultaneously.  But what can I say – you just had to be there – to take part in all this fun!

This is what a 'chip' ( slow shuffle to the beat of the music) looks like. But you really have to be there!

This is what a ‘chip’ ( slow shuffle to the beat of the music) looks like. But you really do have to be here to try it out!

We hadn’t been on the road for an hour yet when I stepped out to find  the pageant winners who were at the head of the street parade.  They were decked out in traditional costumes, and I wanted to capture their fresh faces  and gorgeous creative attire before the day got too hot.  I was definitely not disappointed.  The day was  relatively young, and there was still space on the street for me to boldly move among the winners and contestants to get good shots of them.  Here is a sample of what I saw that enhanced my growing smile as I admired them all.

Miss Dominica 2014 Francine Baron has a wonderful smile and a cheerful demeanor.

Miss Dominica 2014 Francine Baron has a wonderful smile and a cheerful demeanor.

Queen Francine and King Dice graciously obliged for thousands of photos during the Carnival Tuesday parade.

Queen Francine and King Dice graciously obliged for thousands of photos during the Carnival Tuesday parade.

King Dice 9Dennision Joseph) has the right to 'ham it up' in the Carnival parade.  he's now won the Calypso Monarch crown 7 times!

King Dice (Dennison Joseph) has the right to ‘ham it up’ in the Carnival parade. He’s now won the Calypso Monarch crown 7 times!

Miss Teen Dominica 2014 Shari Peter is undisputedly a lovely young lady.

Miss Teen Dominica 2014 Shari Peter is certainly a lovely young lady.

The Old Time Sake Band members all seemed to have a great time.

The Old Time Sake Band members all seemed to have a great time.

Then I ran around the parade route and jumped back into the front of the band again.  As we chipped along to the calypso and sometimes soca beats, I fixed that permanent smile

Gwendominica was revelling in the Tuesday Costume Parade with the Old Time Sake Band when Georgie caught her on camera. revelling

Gwendominica was  blissfully revelling in the Tuesday Costume Parade with the Old Time Sake Band when Georgie caught her on camera.

on my face as I greeted familiar faces and strangers too.  All of a sudden, I realized that I  was absolutely and completely without a care in the world!  For me, this highly unusual state-of-mind was  trance-like.  If I was thirsty, I drank my water. If I was hungry, I ate a snack provided by the band and looked forward to a big lunch.  When I needed relief from the scorching sun, I stepped into  a shaded side street for a while.  I did wear ear plugs and a big hat, along with strong sun screen, so I really was completely carefree.  Ah…this is what Carnival is all about!  If you want a glimpse of why this is so true, take a look at the piece that I wrote a few years ago about the history of Mas Domnik. You will find it here.

I was really impressed with the endurance of the leaders of Old Time Sake band.  Despite hot Sensay costumes, the never took a break!

I was really impressed with the endurance of the young leaders of Old Time Sake band. Despite heavy Sensay costumes, they never took a break!

The littlest member of the Old Time Sake Band was a real trouper!

The littlest member of the Old Time Sake Band was a real trooper!

I also had fun watching the crowd have fun!

Some of the costumes had to be admired from the back as well as teh front.

Some of the costumes had to be admired from the back as well as the front.

Now there is a spectator who really has the spirit of Carnival.  Giselle is the Editor of Domnitjen Magazine, a great review of many things Domincan.

Now there is a spectator who really has the spirit of Carnival. Giselle is the Editor of Domnitjen Magazine, a great review of many things Dominican.

Tana has a laugh while her son takes in all the action on de road.

Tana had a laugh while her son took in all the action on de road.

 Carnival Princess 2014 Kitana Joseph, had poise and posed well for the photographers.

Carnival Princess 2014 Kitana Joseph, had poise and posed well for the photographers.

Simon is always 'there' turning out fabulous photos of every event in Dominica.  You can see some of his wonderful work on his site, Images Dominica

Simon is always ‘there’ turning out fabulous photos of every event in Dominica. You can see some of his wonderful work on  Images Dominica.

His Excellency, President Charles Savarin enjoyed greeting parade participants.

His Excellency, President Charles Savarin enjoyed greeting parade participants.

By the time 2 o’clock rolled around, over 200 of this brightly adorned band, consisting of mainly (but not entirely) members of the 50+ club had been around the expansive parade route a few times.  The hi-fi truck stopped for a break, so I headed up to the Public Service Union building, where a substantial Dominican lunch was being served.  I devoured a big bowl of pelau, which is made up of rice, chicken and lentils.

Kathleen Trotter, one of the main organizers of the Old Time Sake Band surveys the proximity of our group to the band ahead of us.

Kathleen Trotter, one of the main organizers of the Old Time Sake Band surveyed the close proximity of our group to the one ahead of us as we approached a tight corner.

The Old Time Sake Band members lined up in orderly fashion in order to refuel with a big Dominican lunch.

The Old Time Sake Band members lined up in orderly fashion to refuel with a big Dominican lunch.

Others were planning to go back for a ‘last lap’ before sundown.  As it was after 3 p.m., I was content to return to the parade

I always admire the Queen of the Carnival Corner Band.

I always admire the Queen of the Carnival Corner Band.

route area in search of an ice cream cone.  I cooled down with a refreshing scoop of the coconut variety from Island Ice Cream  and chatted with a returning Dominican, who was accompanying his  resident granddaughter to watch the  remnants of the parade.

As I walked through the sizzling streets, I could see that the real Bacchanal was about to begin.  With only a few hours of Carnival 2014 remaining, the action on the road was set to get even “hotter.”  I chuckled to myself and admired the risqué ( but hopefully harmless) antics of some of the revellers.

Some costumes were simply awesome!

Some costumes were simply awesome!

As Carnival Tuesday wore on, the streets were certainly getting very 'hot'!

As Carnival Tuesday wore on, the streets of Roseau were certainly getting very ‘hot’!

(It was very peaceful, by all official reports).  I headed home to put up my sore feet, review fun-filled photos and remind myself that playing ‘Mas’ in Dominica’s Carnival is definitely great, for old time’s sake!

* With special thanks to the organizers of the Old Time Sake Carnival Band for their efficient management, colourful costumes  and delicious lunch.  I had loads of fun and certainly recommend that others take a `jump`with this notable Carnival band.

For more information about Dominica’s Carnival activities, refer to:  http://www.dominica.dm; http://www.avirtualdominica.com; www.facebook.com/DominicaFests