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!

 

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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

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!

Ti Domnik Tales is One Year Old!: the top 12 posts of the past 12 months

Gwendominica is abundantly thankful to her readers and supporters of Ti Domnik Tales.  Photo taken by Laasting Images Photo Studio, Roseau Dominica on Creole Day, October 26, 2012.

Gwendominica is abundantly thankful to her readers and supporters of Ti Domnik Tales. Photo taken by Lasting Images Photo Studio, Roseau Dominica on Creole Day, October 26, 2012.

March marks the first anniversary of my blog about Dominica, called Ti Domnik Tales. Coincidentally, this month also means that I am beginning the 16th year that I have lived on the Nature Isle. I am delighted to have published 50 posts and to have received more than 10,000 visits during the first year of this blog’s existence.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has referred to this website for information, curiosity or interest in some of my published experiences about Dominica. I am especially grateful to author Susan Toy for her encouragement, as well as website designers Carrie Mumford and Wendy Walsh for their technical assistance in getting the blog “up and running.”  My loyal family and friends, as well as faithful “followers” and those who “like” me make this literary experience even more rewarding and gratifying.

I will definitely “keep ’em coming,” with an aim for  a total of 100 posts over the next year.

Thanks again for checking into some of  the places, adventures and personalities that have enriched my life on the Nature Isle! I hope you will continue to enjoy Ti Domnik Tales.

Apart from a heavily consulted archives, here are the top twelve posts of the past year:

1. Spending a Spa Day at Papillote Wilderness Retreat

2. Dominica’s Antony Agar : Australian Ringer, Caribbean Sea-Captain, Schooner Builder, Author

3. Dominica’s Hike Fest: It’s “the best!”

4. Dominica’s Carnival Celebrations: Original, Traditional, Fun!

5. The Voice of Ti Domnik Tales

6. Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital: Part 1

7. A Morning on Mero Beach

8. ‘Ma Pampo’ and the Centenarians of Dominica

9. Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital; Part 2

10. Celebrating ‘Canada Day’ in Dominica with Yoga, Friends and Snakes!

11. Colour, Tradition and Spectacle: Dominica’s Carnival Monday ‘Ole Mas’ and Youth Parade 2013

12. The Voice of Ti Domnik Tales

If you have a moment and/or a thought to spare: PLEASE TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT TI DOMNIK TALES. 

Thanks for your interest in Ti Domnik Tales!

Thanks for your interest in Ti Domnik Tales!

My burning question is:

SHOULD I TURN TI DOMNIK TALES INTO AN E-BOOK AFTER I HAVE REACHED 100 POSTS?

Your input would be most appreciated, dear reader!  Please leave your comment in the reply box below.

Sincerely,

Gwendominica

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.

Colour, Tradition and Spectacle: Dominica’s Carnival Monday ‘Ole Mas’ and Youth Parade 2013

Carnival Monday in Dominica starts very early.  I could hear the lapo kabwit (goat skin drum) band  passing through Newtown en route to Roseau in the cool pre-dawn hours as I lay snuggled up in my warm bed.  This year, I decided to pass on  J’ouvert ,Mas Domnik’s pre-daybreak street-jump-up.  Instead, I drove into the city for the 11 a.m. start of what is considered  the “traditional” parade festivities on the streets.  As well, as number of schools would be displaying their costumes and floats with special themes for this celebratory occasion.

Miss Dominica and Carnival Queen Leslassa Armour Shillingford plays 'mas' in a regal sensay costume.  She was part of the  band from Grand Bay.

Miss Dominica 2013,  Carnival Queen Leslassa Armour Shillingford ‘plays mas’ in a regal sensay costume. She was part of the Thunderbirds band from Grand Bay.

Despite some drizzle, the skies were mainly clear, although perhaps a little grey from time to time.  The  dull weather provided the perfect backdrop for the spectacular costumes, floats and revellers who took to the streets in festive style and good cheer.  Here are some photos that I believe speak volumes about the wonderful atmosphere at the Carnival Monday 2013 Parade in Roseau.

Calypso Monarch 2013 'King Dice" Dennison Joseph plays mas at his little bar on Great George Street.  I gave the six time champion a congratulatory hug.

Calypso Monarch 2013 ‘King Dice’ Dennison Joseph ‘plays mas’ at his carnival bar on Great George Street. I gave the six-time champion a congratulatory hug. Photo taken by Wendy Walsh.

Frances, one of my favourite Saturday market vendors 'plays mas' at her food stall by the Old Market.

Frances, one of my favourite Saturday market vendors ‘plays mas’ at her food stall by the Old Market.

Some J'ouvert  jumpers stayed on for the Ole Mas Parade.

Some sexily attired J’ouvert revellers stayed on for the Ole Mas Parade.

The hangers-on from the pre-dawn jump-up  included this man, who was dressed like the opposite sex.  This type of costume is common in J'ouvert festivities.

The hangers-on from the pre-dawn jump-up included this man, who was dressed like the opposite sex. This type of costume is common in J’ouvert festivities.

The Kalinago band was out in full force.

The Kalinago band was a prominent presence at the start of the parade..

Traditional"darkies', who adorn themselves in black paint from head to toe do look very scary.

Traditional”darkies’, who adorn themselves in black paint from head to toe do look very scary.

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DSCF5660Sensays of all kinds and  designs were out in full force.  This year marked the 50th anniversary of the deaths of 3 men whose sensay costumes caught fire on the parade route. The bands honoured their memory by participating in large numbers.

This little girl is a member of a visiting carnival band from Martinique.

This little girl is a member of a visiting carnival band from Martinique.

The brilliantly adorned band from Martinique added additional colour and interest on the parade route.

The brilliantly adorned band from Martinique added extra colour and interest on the parade route.

Schools were well represented in the Carnival Monday parade.  I was very impressed with the creativity in the design of their costumes and floats.  I enjoyed watching the students, teachers and parents ‘playing mas‘ together!  DSCF5629 DSCF5642 DSCF5604 DSCF5606 DSCF5633At about  1 p.m., the parade began to wind down.  It was time for lunch.  And then hundreds of people would come back on the streets by mid-afternoon as members of different ‘T-Shirt’ bands.  They would jump-up to the latest calypsos and other new carnival tunes with their favourite local group(set up on hi-fi trucks) until about 10 p.m.  I opted out of this form of fun this year.  But I’ll be back on the streets for the Carnival Tuesday Costume Parade tomorrow morning, with two newly arrived Canadian friends in tow!

This sentiment is very popular during Carnival season.  The phrase also formed part of a  popularcalypso this year.

This sentiment rings true for some people during Carnival season. The catchy phrase also formed part of a popular calypso this year.

The Triple Kay T-Shirt band is very popular with the young crowd.

The Triple Kay T-Shirt band is very popular with the young crowd.

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!