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
originally made from goat skin),with modern and traditional percussive instruments and horns of all types kept everyone ‘chipping’ (a fast walk) to the beat on the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’.
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
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.
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
magic of J’ouvert in Dominica.
Many 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:
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: