Some of us do not know that Jamaica also has its carnival like almost every island in the Caribbean…and it’s a beautiful Carnival ! Why this ignorance? Certainly, because the Jamaican carnival is quite recent. Indeed, in 2016, it celebrated its 28th anniversary while some carnivals in our region celebrate their 60th anniversary or more.
In the past, the carnival lovers left Jamaica and went to dress up, to dance and to sing in the streets of Port-of-Spain, capital of Trinidad & Tobago. But in 1988, Gilbert encouraged them to change their plans. Who was this powerful Gilbert who was able to prevent the revellers from going to Trinidad & Tobago? No, he was not a very strict religious preacher. Gilbert was this violent cyclone that passed through the West Indies in 1988, killed almost 300 people and caused more than US$5 billion of damages. The following year, there were political elections in Jamaica. So, in 1990, after two missed appointments, a fan of the Trinidadian carnival called Byron Lee decided to organize a carnival on his island, Jamaica, and it was an immediate success. The big parade in the streets of Kingston – The Road March – with groups in fancy dress became a major event in Jamaica’s cultural calendar.
Among the first famous bands, there were “The Oackrige Boys”, “The Revellers” which won many trophies, “The Raiders” which launched J’Ouvert on the island and the “The Frenchmen”.
A calendar for only one Bacchanal
Little by little, a schedule, dedicated to carnival and starting in January, was prepared because each group created events. The main meetings are Bacchanal Fridays, Socacise courses, Beach J’Ouvert, Bacchanal J’Ouvert and the Road March which is the grand finale.
To avoid competition with the Trinidadian carnival or other traditional carnivals in the Caribbean that end on Ash Wednesday and to respect the period of Lent, Jamaicans decided to organize their main carnival week from Easter Sunday to the following weekend. The carnival for children (kiddies carnival) takes place Saturday before Sunday of March Road that was held this year 2016, on Sunday, April 3.
A few years later, some groups like “The Revellers”, “The Raiders” and “The Oakridge Boys” joined forces and founded “Bacchanal Jamaica”. The new band is located in Oxford Street and its headquarters was called the “Mas Camp” where people came to listen to soca music, to learn “the music of the year”, to buy their costume and to prepare the final parade. Since February, 2012, “Bacchanal Jamaica” has set up its “Mas Camp” at Independence Park near the National Stadium and its success is more important every year.
During the big parade, music (soca, calypso, dance hall etc.) resonates on large trucks. Women wear beautiful, coloured and sexy costumes and do the show in the streets of Kingston. As for men, they look at this show, “touch” the women but with their eyes…
3 000 “bacchanalists” on the street
anklin, the director of “Bacchanal Jamaica” says (with a pride I can understand) :“We are the only Mas Band in Charmaine FrJamaica providing a “pretty mas” road parade (…) We have a carnival of 3000 people on the road”. When I ask Charmaine where are the men, if they do not like Bacchanal because they do not parade with the women, she answers me with a smile : “The men don’t wear costumes and are “watchers”, they wear t-shirts”.
But with such an atmosphere, the men do not know where to look, some of them become completely crazy by seeing hundreds of gorgeous creatures who are bewitched by Caribbean musics, they cannot resist so, they go into the parade to dance with them…for a short time.
Several soca artists like Machel Montano or Destra contributed to the fame of this cultural event.
The success of “Bacchanal Jamaica” is due to an intense and rigorous preparation that begins several months before the opening of the festivities. “Bacchanal Jamaica” is also a business which has sponsors, the participants or “bacchanalists” are also customers who must be satisfied if the organizers want they come back the following year.
In 2017, Charmaine Franklin and her team issue an invitation to us on April 23 for the hot Road March.