With booming speakers the Soca, Chutney and Calypso resound through roadways and neighbourhoods. From fetes, to parties, to limes, waistline gyrations never cease as liquor bottles clink to meets and greets. The excitement and celebration saturate the air as we throw our troubles to the wayside to enjoy a time of ancestral and self-emancipation. Arising in the wee hours of early morn to beat Crix tins, buckets and bottle and spoon, jamming behind music trucks and rhythm sections, splashing paint and smearing mud on each other’s bodies, revelling in a freedom and oneness felt mainly once a year.
From the Grand Stand to Calypso tents, artistes chant their lavway competing against one another with eyes on the prize. Embedded in our historicity, the Canboulay riots are re-enacted, while in other parts of the land, the sticks of Kalinda fights clash. As Ole Mas’ begins, the towering Moko Jumbie lords of African mysticism emerge. The Dame Lorraine with stuffed bosom and buttocks fans herself while parading her assets, as the Burrokeet rides the beast of burden, “Whoa Donkey!” From the crack of the Jabs’ whips to the blue devils breathing fire from pitch oil between horrifying screams; the dance of the swanky sailors to the mighty speeches of the Midnight Robber; and the lavish fanfare of the Fancy Indian swinging his chiefly headdress from side to side, we know where we’ve come from, we know what our ancestors gave and what they took. The Ole Mas’ is more than a mas’ but a time capsule of eras gone by that still pervades the lifeline of the nation.
The bacchanal of Mardi Gras is here where beads and bikinis sway under the shadow of masquerades’ coloured ostrich feathers. The vibrations of the Soca within our veins, wining in the midday blistering sun, glittering the streets with blinding embellishments, we groove to the rhythm of our people. The sweat, the tears, the joy, the pomp and gaiety move our spirits as we cross the stage and dingolay on pavements and main streets with merriment, comradery and liberty. No word, no form, no text nor visual could truly capture the essence, beauty, power, ritual and extravagance of our Carnival. A time when the lines between orthodoxy and taboo are blurred, when roles are inversed, when the king can become a pauper and the pauper a king. The climax of which descends with reverence and reconciliation as Lenten ashes are smeared by padre the following day and cool-down held as we dreevay to the holy sea.
Will we ever be able to enjoy such a time again? We’ll make it do as we cast our eyes upon the dawn of a new day, a new era.
“Awake! Warriors Awake! J’ouvert morning come. J’ouvert!” – Ella Andall