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.

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Natural Beauties: the Gorgeous Ladies of the Miss Dominica 2013 Pageant in Costumes and Gowns

Dominica's Carnival Queen 2013 Leslassa Armour Shillingford models her beautiful evening gown during the Miss Dominica pageant on Feb. 8, 2013.

Dominica’s Carnival Queen 2013 Leslassa Armour Shillingford models her beautiful evening gown during the Miss Dominica pageant on Feb. 8, 2013.

In Dominica, another Carnival and its annual Queen Show have come and gone.  By now, the results of the Miss Dominica pageant are old news.  Nevertheless, I am posting some of my photos of evening gowns worn by contestants during the show, as well as their traditional costumes, which could be more clearly photographed on the streets of Roseau during the Carnival Tuesday Costume Parade.

It was challenging to take photos on the evening of the Queen Show, as it was very rainy and the lighting on stage was less than desirable for clear photos, at least on my camera.  However, the show was entertaining and spectacular.  Seven beautiful young ladies vied for the hotly contested crown.  They all did a splendid job and I commend them for their hard work and tremendous efforts in preparing for this very popular show.

Heartfelt congratulations are extended to  our new ‘Queen’,  the very lovely Leslassa Armour Shillingford, who captured the crown with her consistent

Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour Shillingford displays her winning traditional costume in Carnival Tuesday's Street Parade.

Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour Shillingford displays her winning traditional costume in Carnival Tuesday’s Street Parade. It was designed by her aunt, Carla Armour and former high school classmate Amala Sorhaindo. It was called ‘Spirit of Real Mas’.  She dedicated this unique creation to the memory of the three men who lost their lives in the 1963 Carnival fire.

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Miss Dominica Leslassa Armour Shillingford is very poised and graceful in her attractive gown.  She also won awards for Best Talent, Best Swimwear and Best-in-Swimwear.

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Miss Dominica Leslassa Armour Shillingford was most gracious in permitting the enthusiastic crowd to take hundreds (probably thousands!) of pictures of her at the Carnival Tuesday Costume Parade.

performances throughout the evening.  She was sponsored by the Anchorage Hotel, Whale Watch and Dive Centreand Auto Trade Limited.  I was delighted with her win, as I had already predicted it in my review of the Carnival Opening Parade, which you can refer to here.  I think she will represent Dominica very well at regional competitions and other international events.  I’ll keep you posted and tell you more about her in due course

As the pictures do speak for themselves, I will include minimal text in the captions and will refrain from other commentary in this post. I hope you will appreciate the plethora of natural beauties on the Nature Isle!  Many thanks to the Dominica Festivals Committee for providing me with a media pass for the Miss Dominica pageant.

Kelshia Breezie was first runner up.  She also won the awards for Miss Amity and Best-in-Costume.

Kelshia Breezie was first runner-up. She also won the awards for Miss Amity and Best-in-Costume.

Kelshia Breezie's Costume was entitled "Breath of Fresh Air'.  She is seen here on the stage behind the TV cmaera crews.  Her outfit actually showed up well on the dark stage!

Kelshia Breezie’s costume really did resemble the wings of a hummingbird. She is seen here on the stage behind the TV camera crews. Her outfit actually showed up well on the dark stage!

Nikisha Philbert won the Best Response to a Question Award

Nikisha Philbert won the Best Response to a Question Award.  She says that she supports geo-thermal energy as long as proper procedures are followed.

Jeanne Royer's costume also showed well on the dark stage.

Jeanne Royer’s costume also showed well on the dark stage.  Unfortunately I did not get a shot of her evening gown. She was the first contestant on the stage and the insufficient lighting unfortunately posed a huge problem.

Jeanne Royer won the Miss Photogenic Award.

Jeanne Royer won the Miss Photogenic Award.

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Daina Matthew was second runner-up. She won the awards for best evening gown and best-in-evening gown.

Daina Matthew was second runner up.  Her traditional costume is entitled 'Carnival Ball'!

Daina Matthew’s traditional costume was entitled ‘Carnival Ball’!

Kelshia Breezie's traditional costume certainly was 'A Breath of Fresh Air'!

Kelshia Breezie’s traditional costume certainly was ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ on the streets of Roseau!

Melindaa Ulysses looks lovely in her blue gown.  I just love the clour and design of it!

Melinda Ulysses looked elegant in her blue gown. I just love the colour and design of it!

Fatima Noel is striking in her shimmering gown!

Fatima Noel was striking in her shimmering gown!

Nikisha Philbert's volcano-themed costume represents the geo-thermal energy potential that is abundant around her village of Laudat. It was designed by Dominican cultural guru Alwin Bully.

Nikisha Philbert’s volcano-themed costume represented the geo-thermal energy potential that is abundant around her village of Laudat. It was designed by Dominican cultural guru Alwin Bully.

Fatima Noel's costume is reflective of the pan tropical dolphins that ply the waters around Dominica.

Fatima Noel’s costume was  reflective of the pan tropical dolphins that ply the waters around Dominica.

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!