Jazz and Creole in Dominica: a Musical High on the Nature Isle!

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CineJazz at Alliance Francaise was a wonderful event that formed part of the 2015 Jazz n Creole season on Dominica.

For the past six years, the season of Jazz ‘n Creole has made itself well-known on Dominica.  This fine fusion of traditional and contemporary musical styles can be seen and heard at various venues around the Nature Island and culminates with a feature event that takes place at the Cabrits National Park on the Pentecost Sunday of that annual long holiday weekend. You can read about my earlier enjoyment of  a fringe event at River Stone Bar & Grill here.

While I have yet to attend the main event, I have enjoyed the variety of shows in the evenings before the main event. They are referred to as Fringe Events.  These are smaller affairs, but no less entertaining than the big day!

This shot is taken from the movie, biguine, which vividly portrays the origins of  Creole Jazz - in dance and song.  Photo taken from Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Online, May 31, 2013.

This still appears in the French movie, Biguine (2004).  It vividly portrays the origins of Creole Jazz – in dance and song, during the late 19th/early 20th century in Martinique, FWI. Photo taken from Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Online, May 31, 2013.

As part of my 2015 selection, I got completely caught up in the first  session, called CINÉJAZZ, which was hosted by the Alliance Française de la Dominique.

Director of the Alliance Francaise de la Dominique, Stanislas Riener welcomed the audience to  the free CINEJAZZ fringe event of Jazz 'n Creole 2015.

Director of the Alliance Francaise de la Dominique, Stanislas Riener welcomed the audience to the free CINEJAZZ fringe event of Jazz ‘n Creole 2015.

Director Stanislas Riener  had organized a film showing of Biguine (in French, with English subtitles), which was directed by Guy Deslaurier and written by Martinican Patrick Chamoiseau (He is a prominent French Caribbean author who created Texaco, which won the notable Prix Concourt in 1992.  It is available in English at the Roseau Public Library. I highly recommend this historical novel for its fascinating details and insights into the plight of the people in this same-named shantytown near Fort-De-France Martinique in the 19th and 20th centuries).

I was particularly excited about viewing the Biguine movie, because I had studied the origins of French West Indian/Creole-Jazz music in my French language classes with Monsieur Stanislas around the time of Dominica’s  World Creole Music Festival 2014.   To see the film only added to my enjoyment and appreciation of Creole-Jazz music and its roots.

From the start, I was drawn into this visual/auditory tale, which was set in St. Pierre, Martinique, once known as the ‘Paris of the Antilles’ in the 19th century.  The imminent eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902, and its  massive destruction of all but one or  two (sources vary) of its inhabitants during that catastrophe only added to the intrigue of the story as it evolved on the screen.  After the abolition of slavery in the mid-19th century,  a musician couple  abandon their no-longer popular traditional African instruments, such as the wooden (bamboo) flute, which was originally accompanied by drums. With strong encouragement from his lady, the gentleman takes up the clarinet, and infuses the woodwind with a sound reminiscent of a mixture of traditional African and then-contemporary European-influenced styles.  Their music further evolves as a result of their experiences at the opera, and the lady (chanteuse) again incorporates classical ‘colonial’ styles with Creole lyrics that told stories of personal and current events through song. They formed a band that delighted large crowds in the nightclubs where they played.  The exchanges between the rich woody tones of the  clarinet and the darker brassy resonance of the trombone pleased my ears tremendously and I wished I could have heard more.

Of course, dance is part of the Biguine and the renowned Compagnie Pomme Cannelle  from Martinique vividly displayed this mix of African rhythms with  formal ballroom steps,bringing the movie to life.  The beautiful traditional Creole wear also complemented the musical action that took place in the bars and taverns of this once-famous French-Caribbean city.  I was on the edge of my seat as the music, song and dance hypnotized me.  I was increasingly jilted out of my revery when the rumblings of the background volcano became more prominent and persistent.  I won’t give away the earth-shattering conclusion (although you probably can guess some of what happened). But did the music die too?

After having seen Biguine, I have a better sense that the Caribbean origins of jazz have often been overlooked.  While Cole Porter did give this Creole genre some prominence in the 1930’s with his enduring ‘Begin the Beguine’, this movie will convince you that there is a magical, musical, mystery that originally unfolded on a French Caribbean island in the late 1800’s.  If one is lucky (as I feel I have been), it can still can be occasionally heard today in countries that honour their Creole heritage – and that includes Dominica!

The audience who stayed a little late on a Tuesday night to enjoy Dekalaj certainly thrilled to their wonderful sounds.

The audience who stayed a little late at Alliance Francaise on a Tuesday night to enjoy Dekalaj certainly loved their wonderful sounds.

Frantz Laurac and Jussi Paavola are a fabulous musical duo known as Dekalaj.

Frantz Laurac and Jussi Paavola are a fabulous musical duo known as Dekalaj.

After a break for some delicious refreshments, the evening continued with  another treat: entertainment from two superb musicians who call themselves Dékalaj. Saxophonist/flautist Jussi Paavola from Dominica was accompanied by keyboardist Frantz  Laurac   from Martinique. This dynamic musical duo has also performed in Paris and the Dominican audience was privileged to hear their wonderful Jazz-Creole offerings that night.

Frantz Laurac from Martinique is a well known international musician who has graced Dominica with his performance  talent recently.

Frantz Laurac from Martinique is a well-known international musician who has graced Dominica with his performance talent recently.

Again, I feel blessed to have experienced the tremendous artistry of both of these musicians before this evening, and because of their high standards, I appreciated the opportunity to hear them again.  I was initially ‘wowed’ by Frantz Laurac when I heard him accompany fellow Martinican, SLAM poet Black Kalagan in March at the Alliance Française de la Dominique.  The rhythmical mix between the beat of the poet’s  emphatic words, interspersed with  percussive electronic piano interludes impressed me to the max!

And then there is Jussi – I was ‘blown away’ the first time I ever heard him play a few years ago with BREVE, a very popular and versatile  local band of highly talented musicians. (More on them shortly). I am in awe of his ability to switch easily between flute and saxophone, add percussive accents with tambourine, cow bell, etc. and even sing!  At this writing, he draws an enthusiastic crowd every Thursday night at 8 Castle Street wine bar and café in Roseau for ‘Sax and the City’.

Jussi on flute at Allaince Francaise.  Apparently this is his first instrument, but he certainly plays sax just as well!

Jussi on flute at Alliance Francaise. Apparently this is his first instrument, but he certainly plays sax equally well!

Jussi on Alto Saxophone at the Alliance Francaise's Jazz 'n Creole fringe event 2015.

Jussi on Alto Saxophone at the Alliance Francaise’s Jazz ‘n Creole fringe event 2015.

As the two musicians offered up a variety of Creole-Jazz and even some Reggae fusions, the small crowd hung on to every note until 10 p.m.  I certainly left the Alliance Française with a huge smile on my face, as the high calibre film and superb live performance assured me that life on a small island is NOT void of cultural activities of an international standard.

Jenny and Gwendominica jazzed it up for Fort Young Hotel's Jazz 'n Creole 2015 fringe event.

Jenny and Gwendominica jazzed it up for Fort Young Hotel’s Jazz ‘n Creole 2015 fringe event.

Friday was a big night out for me.  I was eager to attend the ‘Tis the Season to be Jazzy’ Happy Hour at the Fort Young Hotel in Roseau.  Friend Jenny came along with me, and we arrived early to see the sunset and secure a table in the bar area.  While

Singer Asher Thomas and his band 'Mac & Cheese' offered up easy-listening R+B to the early crowd at the Fort Young Hotel's Jazz 'n Creole fringe event 2015.

Singer Asher Thomas and his band ‘Mac & Cheese’ offered up easy-listening R+B to the early crowd at the Fort Young Hotel’s Jazz ‘n Creole fringe event 2015.

Asher Thomas and his band ‘Mac & Cheese” serenaded the drinkers and diners with easy-listening tunes, Jenny and I made short work of our  substantial, reasonably priced, delicious fish dinners.  We appreciated the prompt and friendly service of the efficient wait-staff, which definitely added to our enjoyment of the evening.

I really did not know in advance about the featured band, but I can assure you when I heard the familiar sounds of the saxophone, well, it just had to be BREVE!  No more sitting at a table from that moment, as Jenny and I situated ourselves in close proximity to the music-makers.  While all the tables in that area were filled with keen patrons, we were content to stand and take in the abundant Jazz, Creole and Reggae tunes. Of course, I could not be still – impossible in that setting, so I moved my body to the beat.  This group really knows how to entertain a diverse crowd – they engaged the audience with every song.  It was also fun to watch them interact with each other through constant smiles and eye contact, as well as their delightful playing of improvised duets and solos ( it’s jazz!).   You can read a recent rave review about them right here.

There's Jussi on soprano sax with BREVE.  This man is musically amazing!

There’s Jussi on sax with BREVE. This man is musically amazing!

Part of the audience at the Fort Young Hotels' Jazz 'n Creole fringe event 2015 savor the sweet sounds of BREVE.

The audience at the Fort Young Hotel’s Jazz ‘n Creole fringe event 2015 savored the sweet sounds of BREVE.

BREVE in action - they definitely have great musical vibes!

BREVE in action – they definitely have great musical vibes!

Although all of these competent musicians sang well while playing their respective instruments, I was particularly impressed

BREVE vocalist Jade Leatham sang some roots Raggae with her acoustic guitar beautifully.

BREVE vocalist Jade Leatham beautifully  sang some roots Reggae with her acoustic guitar.

with a young lady named Jade Leatham.  Her rich, resonant contralto voice complemented the harmonious qualities of the other instruments.  I also enjoyed her stint on acoustic guitar, which brought back memories of my glory days on that six-stringed non-electronic instrument.

Dominican Music Icon Gordon Henderson graced the stage for one Cadence-lypso song at Fort Young's Hotel's Jazz 'n Creole fringe event 2015.  he is backed up by BREVE.

Dominican Music Icon Gordon Henderson graced the stage for one Cadence-lypso song at Fort Young’s Hotel’s Jazz ‘n Creole fringe event 2015. He is backed up by BREVE.

When the night was almost over, renowned Dominican music icon Gordon Henderson, the ‘God-Father’ of Cadence-lypso music graced the stage for one Creole song in the genre that he created.  The audience was ecstatic and I could tell that this particular tune took them down memory lane.

By the time we left, it was almost midnight.  BREVE had played a very long set – about 2 1/2 hours non-stop. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to get high on  fabulous Jazz and Creole on the Nature Isle!

The BREVE band is good at giving an audience a sensational musical high!

Dominica’s BREVE band is very good at giving an audience a sensational musical high!

A Celebration of Flowers in Giraudel, Dominica: Nature’s Finest on Display Indoors and Out!*

The Giraudel Youth Group organized a Flower Festival for the first time this year.

The Giraudel Youth Group organized a Flower Festival for the first time this year.

It was a relief to wake up on Saturday May 9th, 2015 to intermittent rain showers after days of unrelenting heat and high winds in Dominica.  This slight change in the weather was good news for everyone. It brought some relief to parched plants and quelled bush fires that had recently erupted on the west coast of the Nature Island.

Although the higher elevations were not as adversely affected by this hot weather, I was glad of slightly cooler

I wish I could have taken this bowl of Dahlias home with me from the Flower Festival!

I wish I could have taken this bowl of Dahlias home with me from the Flower Festival!

temperatures for a planned walk from the village of Eggleston to its nearby neighbour, Giraudel.  There, the Giraudel Youth Group had organized a weekend-long Flower Festival, as the usual Flower Growers’ Show, a very grand and longstanding annual event, would not be taking place this year.

My mountain chicken (crapaud) research friend Jenny, a keen nature enthusiast, was eager and able to explore this mountainous area near Roseau with me.  As well, we have Dutch/Dominican friends, Gijs and Georgie, who live in this lovely region. We intended to drop in for tea on our way to the Flower Festival, a short distance away from their home.

This time, Jenny drove, and I had the pleasure of taking my eyes off of the road and gazing at the gorgeous views below us.  When we reached the hamlet of  Eggleston, we turned in to a long lane that lead to the beautiful and secluded Holy Redeemer Retreat Center, which is run by Redemptorist missionaries. We parked  nearby with permission from the priests on the site, as we intended to walk along some of the peaceful trails on the property after our foray to Giraudel.

These lovely anthuriums graced the entrance-way to a home on the road to the Retreat Center.

These lovely anthuriums graced the entrance-way to a home on the road to the Retreat Center.

The view across the Roseau Valley from Eggleston is one to be admired!

The northerly view across the Roseau Valley from Eggleston is one to be admired!

We trekked back up the lane we had just driven down, but this time, we both could enjoy views overlooking residential areas, the Caribbean Sea and mountains to the south of the island. Then we were back on the main road. This time, we looked over the distant Roseau Valley, to the villages of Morne Prosper on its south side and  across to Cochrane on the north side.  Jenny and I remarked to each other that we had appreciated this view from the opposite side only last weekend, when we hiked from Springfield to Middleham Falls!

As we continued along, we admired lovely hedges of flowers,fertile gardens and gave thanks for the tall shade trees on either side of the road.

Even the disco in Eggleston is named after a flower! (although I imagine it is associated with a lady's name...)

Even the disco in Eggleston is named after a flower! (although I imagine it is associated with a lady’s name…)

The main road between Eggleston and Giraudel is well-shaded.

The main road between Eggleston and Giraudel is well-shaded.

Jenny told me that this plant is Pride of Barbados.  We admired this hedge along the main road.

Jenny told me that this plant is Pride of Barbados. We admired this hedge along the main road.

After about an hour and a quarter, we arrived at Gijs and Georgie’s beautiful home.  While we were a little late for our appointment, our friends greeted us  warmly and bade us enter and rest awhile on their pleasant porch, facing the Caribbean Sea. Georgie served us mixed mint tea, picked moments earlier from her  herb garden.  Then she offered tempting sweets: tamarind balls, coconut ‘cheese’, and sweetened local gooseberries.  While we chatted and covered a broad range of topics, including mountain chickens, boa constrictors and lizards, Jenny and I cooled off from the first ‘leg’ of our walk.  After we were refreshed, we toured their  lush, fertile grounds, admired distant views across the Roseau Valley and became introduced to two of the most beautiful hens I have ever seen: Rosie and Blanche.  These tame free-range ‘layers’  roamed the property at large, cheerily clucking away as they foraged for plentiful bugs and favourite grasses.  They certainly stole my heart!

Gwendominica admires one of Gijs and Georgie's beautiful hens.

Gwendominica admired one of Gijs and Georgie’s beautiful hens. Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.

Giraudel's history is explained here in a nutshell!

Giraudel Dominica’s  history is explained here in a nutshell!

When we heard loud music playing a short distance from our friends’ home,  probably signalling the start of the Flower Festival, we said our good-byes and continued along the main road. We passed the bandstand and stopped for a snack of tuna bakes (like a deep-fried biscuit).  Then we continued up the road until we noticed a tent, where we spied flower arrangements through its opening.  We crossed the street and discovered that we were indeed in the right place for the floral display.  We entered the site by paying $5.00 ECD, and took in the lovely arrangements.  We also admired a variety of paintings by renowned local artist, Caesar Catin. Then, one of his daughters engaged us in conversation and told us about the Giraudel Youth Group and their concerted efforts to organize this Flower Festival.  Jenny and I felt that  they had done a good job, on a small-scale, although I was concerned about the strength of the tent’s supports in the high winds! (Everything was still standing when we left about an hour later.)

Some images from the Giraudel Youth Group Flower Festival 2015:DSCF4967DSCF4976DSCF4980DSCF4968DSCF4987DSCF4982

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Jenny admired ginger lilies on the rack between Giraudel and Eggleston.

Jenny admired ginger lilies on the track between Giraudel and Eggleston.

From there, we walked back through the village and headed for a shortcut that Gijs had recommended that would take us through the forest, where we would exit just above the neighbouring village of Eggleston. It was a lovely

Heliconia plants grow prolifically in the rainforest -even when it's rather dry!

Heliconia plants grow prolifically in the rainforest – even when it’s rather dry!

downhill saunter, and we paused several times to admire wildflowers, tended plants and the occasional insect!  We exited the trail after about 30 minutes and continued along the main road, returning to our starting point at the Retreat Center. By now, the clouds had lifted and the afternoon was once again, very hot.  We looked up at Morne Anglais, towering over the village of Giraudel, and wished for a few moments that we were on its peak!  (It’s a two-hour trek to the summit of Morne Anglais.  Although it can be a very steep and muddy trip, the reward at the top is a 360 degree view of Dominica and beyond).

Morne Anglais towers above the mountain village of Giraudel.

Morne Anglais towers above the mountain village of Giraudel.

My legs were now feeling rather ‘wobbly’.  We wandered along a few of the trails, but we both gave in to hunger pangs so did not fully explore the lovely grounds of the Retreat Center that day.  We seated ourselves on a wooden bench, and would have appreciated the natural solitude of this meditative place, except that the Flower Festival was now in full swing, and their  music makers’ melodies carried long distances (including to my home far below, as I later discovered!).

Pretty plants are seen along the Retreat Center Road.

Pretty plants are seen along the Retreat Center Road.

Poinsettias seem to be scarce right now, but we found this one along the Retreat Center road.

Poinsettias seem to be scarce now, but we found this one along the Retreat Center road.

The Retreat Center has plenty of places for quiet contemplation, prayer or meditation.

The Retreat Center has plenty of places for quiet contemplation, prayer or meditation.

The Retreat Center is adorned with beautiful plants and shrubs in this tranquil setting.

The Retreat Center is adorned with beautiful plants and shrubs in a tranquil setting.

These bright flowers captured our attention along the Giraudel main road.

These bright flowers captured our attention along the Giraudel main road.

Time to go home!  The drive out of the Retreat Center is peaceful and pastoral.

Time to go home! The drive out of the Retreat Center is peaceful and pastoral.

As we had been several hours ‘on the road’, Jenny and I felt content with our varied exposures to numerous

varieties of beautiful flowers that grow prolifically in the Giraudel-Eggleston area.  We also agreed that plentiful pure, clean mountain air, a good, long walk and  time well-spent with lovely  friends contributed to another wonderful day on the Nature Island!

*This piece is dedicated on Mother’s Day to my late mother, Vesta.  She truly loved nature and its beautiful offerings. She really liked hens too!

 

‘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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English Immersion on the Nature Island: French Students Learn about Dominica’s Cuisine and Culture*

I love a Creole lunch! Watercress and a slice of avocado make up the greens, fried plantains and dasheen puffs and farine balls make up the starches, and grilled local tuna in a mild Creole sauce gives the protne that makes a hearty, wholesome and healthy meal!

I love a Creole lunch! Watercress and a slice of avocado make up the greens, fried plantains, dasheen puffs and farine  (from cassava flour and avocado) balls make up the starches, and grilled local tuna in a mildly seasoned Creole sauce gives the protein for a hearty, wholesome and healthy meal!

After the English immersion students from Ludicademi in Martinique spent a busy June weekend touring major sites in Dominica: Indian River; Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley; Emerald Pool; The Carib Territory and its Kalinago Barana Aute ( Carib Model Village), they dragged themselves into the classroom on Monday morning looking collectively exhausted! We were concentrating on Creole foods that day.  Fortunately, there are many of the same and similar recipes  in the ‘French Islands’, so the vocabulary lesson was not especially difficult!

Because we were not in a cooking class, I offered the students the following video clips about Dominican cooking:

Pepper sauce (r) is a prolific product on the Nature Island.  Sorrel juice (l) is a spiced drink made from the red sepals of the hibiscus flower.  It is delicious and is a Yule-tide favourite beverage.

Pepper sauce (r) is a prolific product on the Nature Island. Sorrel juice (l) is a spiced drink made from the red sepals of the hibiscus flower. It is delicious and is a Yule-tide favourite beverage.

1. How to Cook – Dominica Style

2. Tropical Vegetable and Fruit Garden Dominica

3. Cassava Bread Making in Dominica

4. Dominica Food for the Soul

I could not emphasize enough the proliferation of crops that thrive in Dominica’s fertile volcanic soil.  Some people say that you can plant practically anything on the Nature Island; You just have to stick it in the soil and watch it grow! Some farmers may disagree with me, but I suspect there are numerous places to till the soil!  There is no need to artificially season one’s recipe when cooking on Dominica:  celery, chives, green onions, peppers, parsley and thyme are a few of the herbs that thrive here.  There are also many starchy root vegetables which are traditionally called provisions : tannias, dasheen, cassava, cush-cush, sweet potatoes, yams.  There are others that grow on trees and are considered essential staples: green bananas, plantains, breadfruits, to name a few.,

We went through all the standard cooking terminology, but the class was definitely more drawn to the similarities in meals with their own country, Martinique.  We talked about callaloo soup, which is made from the leaves of the dasheen plant. It’s a popular dish around the Independence season in October and November. Some people like to add crab to their soup when they can be hunted at that time of year.  Sancoche is another tasty dish, if you like  the smoked flavour of codfish or chicken.  It is sometimes available at Cartwheel Cafe  on the Bayfront in Roseau during the year .Souse (pickled pig, cow or chicken)  delights many Dominicans.  There is also black (blood) pudding (like sausage) which can be found in Roseau and villages, largely  on weekends. On Friday nights, many little snackettes and little shops offer customers goat, fish or chattoo (octopus) water, which is a tasty seasoned broth containing these meats. Titiri are little river fish that are seasoned and fried in a batter for a filling snack called accras.  They can be found in various smaller establishments, such as Marvo’s Snackette on Independence Street (near King George V Street intersection).  There is so much more: fig pie is actually a small banana which is cooked, mashed and then baked with a fish such as tuna in a cheesy or creamy sauce.  I love it! Everyone has their own version of Creole sauce, which frequently adorns fish and chicken plates.  It contains many of the above-mentioned seasonings and usually has a tomato base.

And there are so many fruits. I wonder if anyone has an exact count of the different types.  Some of the more exotic/unfamiliar (to my hearing and/or taste) are; sapadilla; apricot (it’s huge!); carambola; pommerac; pomme citaine (golden apple); gooseberry; fwaise ( like a strawberry); canip;  tamarind;guava; papaya; cherry; passionfruit; pineapple; banana; all the citrus varieties; and that’s only naming a few! (Please excuse any incorrect Creole spellings!)

I didn’t get a chance to talk about sweets in the class – but I’ll save that fort another post!  The students made it through that day and were rewarded with a soothing soak at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs that afternoon to regain their vitality!

Dominica and Martinique share a number of cultural customs, including this type of Creole wear. The hat (tete mawe) and the jupe (overskirt) are made from madras cloth. The underskirt (jupon) and blouse (chemise decollotee) are created from white cloth, often with lace adornments.

Dominica and Martinique share a number of cultural customs, including this type of Creole wear. The hat (tete mawe) and the jupe (overskirt) are made from madras cloth. The underskirt (jupon) and blouse (chemise decollotee) are created from white cloth, often with lace adornments.

On the last morning of class, the students looked much more refreshed, and as this was the day we would cover vocabulary about Dominica’s culture, I offered them a surprise when I asked them to stand  up straight away.  Their eyes opened wide when I sang the first verse of Dominica’s National Anthem for them.  Then they performed a few songs for me, such as Frère Jacques, which we sang as a traditional round.  What a great way to start this day!

We then jumped into having a look at Dominica’s motto, Apres bondie, c’est la ter (After God, it’s the land).  The students were most intrigued that Dominica’s endangered Sisserou Parrot is a national symbol which features prominently on both the Flag and the Coat of Arms.  They were further awed when they observed that Dominica’s critically endangered Crapaud (mountain chicken) frog has a place of honour on the Coat of Arms as well.  They had just been learning about these creatures in the previous class on Flora and Fauna.

Again,  as with foods, there were many similarities in terms of traditional dress and language, as the mix of European and West African cultural practises are also evident on the French islands.   As well,  Dominica is home to the Kalinago people, who paddled up to Dominica over 1,000 years ago from South America and called the  mountainous island ‘Waitukubuli’, which means “tall is her body.”  It was Christopher Columbus who named her Dominica, as he sighted her on a Sunday  on his second voyage in 1493.

The Creole language does reflect the influence of English, French and Kalinago words, mixed with African grammatical speech syntax.  The Martiniquais students could easily understand Dominican Creole, so they were cautioned by me to only speak English when out and about on the Nature Island, as that was the point of their visit.  They assured me that they stuck to their immersion experience except when they were really confused.  I hope that wasn’t too often!

Creole wear is sometimes worn in the French islands too.  I have seen ladies at the produce markets in both Guadeloupe and Martinique sporting the colourful

Contemporary desingers such as Dora (l) create modern versions of Creole wear. She is also wearing a 'chapeau paix' (straw hat) which is a traditional head wear in Dominica.

Contemporary designers such as Dora (l) create modern versions of Creole wear. She is also wearing a ‘chapeau de paille’ (straw hat) which is a traditional head wear on Dominica.

madras cloth in traditional styles as such as the Wob Douillette, which is fashioned after French styles of the 17 and 18th centuries.  Heavy gold jewelry frequently complements the outfit, and is said to

A type of "Wob' (dress) which is worn by Madame Wob during the Independence season in 2012.

A type of “Wob’ (dress) which was worn by the ‘Madame Wob’ competition winner during Dominica’s Independence season in 2012.

have  been inspired by African traditions. The same thing can be said for dance styles of old on the Nature Island.  There are competitions all over the country that acknowledge this art form during the Independence season. As examples, the French inspired Mazouk looks like this.  A very African type of dance, called the Bélé, looks like this.  And there were English types of dance too, such as the ‘heel and toe’!

Beauty Pageants and Calypso Shows are  big part of Carnival celebrations. Miss Dominica 2012 Nadira Lando and now 6 time Calypso Monarch Dennison 'Dice' Joseph lead the Opening Parade for Carnival 2013.

Beauty Pageants and Calypso Shows are big parts of Carnival celebrations. Miss Dominica 2012 Nadira Lando and now 6 time Calypso Monarch Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph lead the Opening Parade for Carnival 2013.

Carnival is another area of Dominica’s culture with strong ties to African and European traditions.  The students said that while they do celebrate Carnival in Martinique, it didn’t seem to be anything like what Dominica has to offer.  I hope they will come back to find out during the next one! I have always described Mas Domnik as being original, traditional and fun!   I am certain that most Dominicans will agree with me.  It is celebrated in Dominica and the French Islands on the two days preceding Lent in the Catholic faith.

We also talked about the other festivities that draw large crowds from near and far –  around the time of Independence in November and the World Creole Music Festival in October.  It seems to me that there are always celebrations on the Nature Island – be

Dominica's friendly, informal Carnival means that it is possible to have photos taken with popular participants, such as Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford. She is also a repeat regional winner now too.  You go, girl! XO

Dominica’s friendly, informal Carnival means that it is possible to have photos taken with popular participants wearing their traditional costumes, such as Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford. This exceptionally talented young lady is a repeat regional winner now too. You go, girl!

Sensay costumes, seen during Carnival are rooted in African traditions.

Sensay costumes, seen during Carnival parades are rooted in African traditions.

it Hike Fest, Nature Island Literary Festival, DOMFESTA, Dive Fest, Emancipation and more.  Further details about these events can be found here.

Internationally-renowned Dominican divas Michele Henderson (l) and Ophelia Marie performed at the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival in 2012.

Internationally renowned Dominican divas Michele Henderson (l) and Ophelia Marie performed at the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival in 2012.

The last hour of the  class was given over to a special guest, who knows culture through and through.  The Cultural

The French students were very attentive to Gregory Rabess's instruction about culture in Dominica

The French students were very attentive to Gregory Rabess’s instruction about culture in Dominica.

Division’s Gregory Rabess   is a Creole specialist, poet and musician.  He elaborated dramatically on the bits and pieces of cultural history and subsequent  vocabulary that I had offered the group.  They hung on to his every word!

Cultural Division Officer Gregory Rabess emphatically demonstrates a point to the class.

Cultural Division Officer Gregory Rabess emphatically demonstrates a point to the class.

We were all especially delighted when he closed the session with one of his own Creole compositions that required active class participation in the refrain.  It was in Creole language of course, so the only person who perhaps missed some of its meaning was me!

Although I was extremely tired after the four English immersion classes, I did thoroughly enjoy my short and sweet teaching stint.  I wish the students of Ludicademi in Martinique the best of luck with their continuing studies of the English language and their English-speaking neighbour , Dominica.  I hope I will see them again sometime on the Nature Island.

Reference: Africa and Dominica by Lennox Honychurch, PhD.

*This mini English immersion course was organized by Tina Alexander of Lifeline Ministries, Roseau Dominica.  Thanks for having me along, Tina!

A Few Notes about Jazz ‘n Creole Music in May on the Nature Island

As you know by now, Dominica’s annual Hike Fest definitely has a grip on me.  But this year, I decided to sample some of the Jazz ‘n Creole offerings as well.  Sweets sounds did abound during the week of May 15th -19th, which formed part of the numerous activities during Tourism Awareness Month on the Nature Island.

While I didn’t do any of the special hikes  that were offered during that midweek time period, I did attend the Pan ‘n Jazz Soireé at the Evergreen Hotel on the evening of May 15th. When I arrived just after 7 p.m., I was surprised to see that the hotel’s dining room and bar area were packed with enthusiastic guests who were all engaged in conversation.  Because the room was so full, I remained close to the exit door.  After I few minutes, I detected beautiful sounds of steel pan, piano and saxophone drifting in from the outside patio.  I followed the melody to its source and was one of a

Dominican musiciansJulie Martin on piano (l) and his brother Athie on steel pan (l) perfectly complemented the sweet sax sounds  of Luther Francois from St. Lucia.

Dominican musicians Julie Martin on piano (l) and his brother Athie on steel pan (r) perfectly complemented the sweet sax sounds of Luther Francois from St. Lucia.

very few who stood in front of this intimate group of amazing musicians, two of whom are well-known to me.  The man playing the cool tunes on the saxophone was complete mystery.  After a couple of quick enquiries, I found out that these mellow tones were emanating from the instrument of none other than Luther Francois, St. Lucia’s acclaimed jazz saxophonist!  While the performance was low-key and the spectators were few, I delighted in the smooth music of these exquisite artistes.

Tiffany Maynes really has a presence that holds that crowd. Saxophonist Marivn Marie (r) smooth sounds blend well with her voice.  On background keyboard is Peter Letang of the Swinging Stars band.

Tiffany Mayne really has a presence that holds that crowd. Saxophonist Marvin Marie`s (r) smooth sounds blend well with her alto voice.

When their set was complete, the music moved to the seaside terrace, where the  Shades of Green band entertained with their Creole-Jazz fusion sounds.  They collected a crowd, and everyone was tapping their toes to the beat.  After their pleasing renditions, emerging jazz songstress Tiffany Mayne and popular local saxophonist  Marvin Marie of the renowned Swinging Stars  band really got the  entire gathering into the groove.  By the time I left around 10 p.m., I noticed smiles on the faces of everyone in the room.  The opening Fringe Event of Jazz ‘n Creole met with resounding success.

Tiffany really gets into the song and Marvin on sax knows how to complement her sound.

Tiffany really gets into the song and Marvin on sax knows how to complement her sound. On background keyboard (l) is Peter Letang of the Swinging Stars band.

While there was lots more to hear that week, it wasn’t until after the Jaco Flats and Jaco Steps  hike on Saturday that I got a bigger taste of  Fringe Event Jazz ‘n Creole fusion sounds. While we dined post-hike at the RiverStone Bar ‘n’ Grill near the village of Bells in the heart of Dominica, we got to relax and unwind from the morning’s exertions over some exceptional sounds.  On the patio overlooking the River Laurent, we watched cultural guru Gregory Rabess and his band bring Creole stories  to life through some of his original compositions.  With experienced back-up musicians such as the bass player  from Swinging Stars and the keyboardist from Shades of Green, the sound was tight and well rehearsed. Rabess and soprano back-up Miriam blended their voices well.  He also expressed musical sentiments through traditional drums, steel pan and guitar.  Towards the end of this Creole-Jazz Segment, a number of the  Hike Festers were on the floor moving their hips to the beat.   This was our cool-down in the mid-afternoon!  We had by then worked out any muscle soreness and stiffness that was setting in!

If you`ve read my previous post about our morning foray to Jaco Flats and Jaco Steps, you will know that my camera met the mighty Layou River and was out of commission (permanently, I think!).  Therefore, I have no photos to offer you, but I assume you might find some elsewhere online!

Most of the hikers had left by the time the hot sounds of one of Dominica`s newer bands took the stage. BREVE  is a group of young men with  a very musical, melodious,  rhythmically tight, well-rehearsed, jazzy sound that is quickly earning them top marks in Dominica and around the region.   I first saw and heard them  at the World Creole Music Festival last October.  I`ve been hooked ever since.  While they didn`t have their horn section with them  this time (saxophone and trumpet), they did not disappoint with their vibrant performance.

A big surprise of the late afternoon was a guest performance by Maxine, proprietress of RiverStone .  She is a well-known Dominican chanteuse, but I had not heard her sing for some time.  When she suddenly appeared on stage where she sang `Misty`, she had the audience in the palm of her hand!  Her 1950`s  vocal performance style, subtle gestures and expressive face absolutely captured the mood of this sultry song.  I was completely blown away by her interpretation.  Maxine, you go girl!

The second big treat of the afternoon was the song or two I heard from Golda James of Salisbury, a village on the west coast of Dominica. Her powerful, gutsy, versatile voice perfectly suited the accomplished style of all the musicians in the BREVE band.  I wish them well and can`t wait to hear them again.

Although the night was young, the remaining few  tired and bedraggled hikers departed at 5:30 p.m., as we all had places to go and things to do after our long day .

`Can`t we stay a little longer,“ pleaded Abigail.  Unfortunately not, but I reminded her that she would be heading to the main stage event at Cabrits National Park  at Portsmouth the following day. There, an assembly of superb Jazz `n Creole music makers, such as Dominica`s incomparable  Michele Henderson would entertain thousands on the grounds of restored Fort Shirley.

Abigail, I hope you had a great time!  I have no doubt that you were surrounded in mellow sounds at Dominica`s 4th annual Jazz `n Creole.  I`ll see you there next year!