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originally made from goat skin),with modern and traditional percussive instruments and horns of all types kept everyone ‘chipping’ (a fast walk) to the beat on the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

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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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Dominica’s Carnival Opening Parade 2014: Plentiful Beauties, Scary Beasts, Bountiful Smiles!

It's Carnival Time in Dominica!  This scary mask formed part of the decor on the float carrying contestants for the Miss Teen Dominica 2014. pageant.

It’s Carnival Time in Dominica! This scary mask formed part of the decor on the float promoting the Miss Teen Dominica 2014 pageant.

Mademoiselle Francophonie 2013, who represented Lebanon looked very regal in her authentic costume.

Mademoiselle Francophonie 2013, who represented Lebanon looked very regal in her authentic costume.

It seemed as if the weather had finally turned for the brighter: brilliant sunshine, blue skies and a pleasant breeze blew in off of the Caribbean Sea as hundreds took to the streets of Roseau  on February 8th to watch the Carnival Opening Parade of Mas Domnik 2014.  I was  feeling a little ‘under the weather’, but I knew that if I made the effort to get out and watch the parade, it would be an ideal tonic for what ailed me.

With  the  innumerable spontaneous smiles  from lovely pageant participants and the contagious joy emanating from those who

In regal splendour, the exemplary Carnival Queen Leslassa Armour-Shillingford and the indominatable Calypso King Dennison 'Dice' Joseph lead the Opening Parade to cheers of adoring fans.

With royal splendour, the exemplary Carnival Queen  2013Leslassa Armour-Shillingford and the indomitable Calypso King 2013 Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph lead the Opening Parade and waved to adoring fans.

‘played mas’ (dressed up in costume), I could not help but feel better!

I was very pleased for the participants and I know that the crowd was contented with all the sights and sounds in the Carnival Opening Parade 2014.  Beauties were typically followed by beasts – and smiles were definitely the order of the day.  You can see for yourself in the photos below!

A young boy  pushes his hand-made toy truck, which is called a Kabouwe in the parade.  This creative contribution is a Dominican tradition.

A boy pushes his hand-made toy truck, called a Kabouwe in Creole. This creative contribution is a Dominican tradition.

This pretty little Princess show contestant hasa lovely smile!

This pretty little Princess Show contestant has a lovely smile!

Creole Culture is represented by Madam Wob Dwiyet 2013 in her magnificent traditional dress.  It must have been very hot - but as a Queen, she did not display any discomfort!

Creole Culture is represented by Madam Wob Dwiyet 2013 in her magnificent traditional dress. It must have been very hot – but as a Queen, she did not display any discomfort!

A lovely Teen contestant from one of the high schools - Dominica Grammar School.

A lovely Teen contestant from one of the high schools – Dominica Grammar School.

The Miss Teen Dominica pageant will have tight competition with all the beautfiul young ladies from around the island - this one is from the Grand Bay area.

The Miss Teen Dominica pageant will have tight competition with all the beautiful young ladies from around the island – this one is from the Grand Bay area.

Competitors in the Junior Monarch Competition were out in full force, indicating that young people take this special art form seriously from a young age!

 Junior Calypso Monarch Competitors were out in full force, indicating that young people take this special art form seriously from a young age!

This Queen  contestant, Royette Laurent may have what it takes to follow the exceptional Leslassa, the reigning Miss Dominica. THis young lady, who represents Portsmouth has my vote!

Carnival Queen 2014 contestant, Royette Laurent may have what it takes to follow the exceptional Leslassa, the reigning Miss Dominica. This young lady, who represents Portsmouth has my vote!

Other young people entertained the crowd on the Bay Front with their melodious steel pan renditions.

Other young people entertained the crowd on the Bay Front with their melodious steel pan renditions.

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 Opening Parade.

Energetic young ladies captivated the crowd with their well rehearsed 'flag-waving' routines.

Energetic young ladies captivated the crowd with their well rehearsed ‘flag-waving’ routines.

The Kalinago Carnival band was well represented with  indigenous people of all ages participating in their group.

The Kalinago Carnival Band was well represented with indigenous people of all ages participating in their group.

Traditional lapo kabwit (goat-skin) drummers were a prominent presence in the parade route.

Traditional lapo kabwit (goat-skin) drummers were a prominent presence in the parade route.

The sensational Sensay revellers from teh village of St. Joseph held everyone's attention with their incredible costumes!

The sensational Sensay revellers from the village of St. Joseph held everyone’s attention with their incredible costumes!

Sensay costumes have traditional African origins.

Sensay costumes have traditional African origins.

Stilt-walkers ,called Bwa-Bwa in Creole looked very sinister in the late afternoon light.  They were also portraying 'darkies' with their whips and complete coverage in black body paint.

Stilt-walkers ,called Bwa-Bwa in Creole looked very sinister in the late afternoon light. They were also portraying ‘darkies’ with their whips and complete coverage in black body paint.

Fierce 'darkies' on the road cracked their whips and created fun-loving fear in those who stood too close to them.

Fierce ‘darkies’ on the road cracked their whips and created fun-loving fear in those who stood too close to them.

Perhaps the 'darkies' aren't as scary as one might think; this one cast a spell on pretty Kim that brought forth a beautiful smile!

Perhaps the ‘darkies’ aren’t as scary as one might think; this one cast a spell on pretty Kim that brought forth a beautiful smile!

Splendour, Creativity and Pageantry: Dominica’s Carnival Tuesday Costume Parade 2013

Dominica’s Carnival Tuesday Parade 2013 was, without a doubt, spectacular.  Brilliant costumes, organized bands of all ages, sensational stiltwalkers (bwa bwa), flag wavers and hundreds of people  in disguise: playing mas.  It was a sight to behold.  Two  visiting friends   from Canada (Jean and Pam) were completely spell-bound by this feast of creativity and pageantry. Joy and merriment overflowed in the streets of Roseau.  It was definitely a supremely festive occasion.

Here –  you can see for yourself!

The delightful Flag Wavers opened the parade, just ahead of the Carnival Queen and Calypso King.

The delightful Flag Wavers opened the parade, just ahead of the Carnival Queen and Calypso King.

Vibrant Miss Dominica Leslassa Armour Shillingford exudes a queenly demeanor in her traditional costume.

Vibrant Miss Dominica Leslassa Armour-Shillingford exudes a queenly demeanor in her traditional costume.  Other contestants’ costumes can be viewed here.

Dominica's King and Queen easily captured everyone's attention.

Dominica’s King and Queen easily captured everyone’s attention.

Calypso Monarch Dennison 'Dice" Joseph is a force to cotend with as a six-time champion.

Calypso Monarch Dennison ‘Dice” Joseph is a force to contend with as a six-time champion.

The popular band called FANATIK provided the music on the road for the groups near the start of the parade.  The incomparable Cornell 'Fingers' Phillip (right) is in teh keyboards.

The popular band called FANATIK provided the music on the road for the groups near the start of the parade. The incomparable Cornell ‘Fingers’ Phillip (right) is on the keyboards.

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Lovely Little Carnival Princess.

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Miss Teen Dominica Kaymaya Bertrand has a smile as brilliant as her costume!

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Even the Dominica State College had its own pageant!

Amidst the bold colours, a band adorned in white outfits and balloons provided a serene contrast within the gaiety around it.

Amidst the bold colours, a band adorned in white outfits and balloons provided a serene contrast within the gaiety that surrounded  it.

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The stiltwalkers (bwa bwa) were greeted by onlookers with awe and amazement.

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Some of the stiltwalkers become proficient at an early age!

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You can see why Carnival Corner won the 'King of the Band' award.

You can see why Carnival Corner won the ‘King of the Band’ award.

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The Kalinago indigenous people formed a segment of the Thunderbirds “Viva South America’ band.

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The 'Thunderbirds' won the Band of the Year Award with their 'Viva South America' theme.

The ‘Thunderbirds’ won the Band of the Year Award with their ‘Viva South America’ theme.

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This was my favourite Thunderbirds Costume. I expect it was very hot! Hats off to the ladies who represented this aspect of South American culture!

Yu never know who will be 'playing mas on de road'.  Guess who?

You never know who you might meet ‘playing mas on de road’. Guess who?

My Carnival Tuesday Grand Finale - a photo op with Carnival Queen Leslassa as she pauses for about a thousand (!) pictures on her 2nd lap ofthe parade route!

My Carnival Tuesday Grand Finale – a photo op with Carnival Queen Leslassa Armour-Shillingford as she pauses for about a thousand (!) pictures on her 2nd lap of the parade route! Photo taken by Cecily Lees.

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!