Carnival of Guadeloupe: take a break with the “skin group”, Akiyo

We know Akiyo parade where you have to be physically fit to participate but do you know Akiyo break ? On Sunday, January 6, the opening day of the carnival season which will end on March 6 (Ash Wednesday), the oldest “skin group” in Guadeloupe took its first break in the district of Assainissement in Pointe-à-Pitre. Hundreds of people including many young people were there.

Akiyo pause 57A
Jean-Claude Moutoussamy, the President of Akiyo

After they left the headquarters in the district of Chauvel, Les Abymes, around 6:00 pm, the group Akiyo – and its supporters – arrived in the district of Assainissement, more precisely opposite to the post office in Pointe-à-Pitre, at 6:45 pm. At this location, the group had decided to have its first break. “Before taking the start in front of our headquarters in Chauvel, we define the route we will use. When we take a break, there is no expected duration, the Mas decides and we do not have an exact number of hours to parade. The Mas leads us but, usually, midnight or half past midnight is the time when the parade ends”, said Jean-Claude Moutoussamy, the president of Mouvman Kiltirèl Akiyo, who was sitting on his bass drum and in a middle of a conversation with two members of the association nicknamed “Bokit” and “Kòk-la”.

However, before silencing their instruments (drums, “chachas”, conches and even a flute !), the more than 100 musicians who composed this “great orchestra” continued to play for another a whole twenty minutes, as for gradually lower the pressure. Everyone was sweating, some even seemed in a trance, many young people were making videos and selfies with their mobile phones. Dressed in brown clothes and wearing the sun helmet (the disguise of the day) without forgetting running shoes, the carnival lovers danced a lot, the inhabitants of the neighborhood who were on the balcony of their apartment too.

Akiyo pause 47B

40 years of parade

“During carnival, we always parade in Les Abymes and Pointe-à-Pitre conurbation, every Sunday. If we are invited to another town, we ask the organizers to support transport costs, it must be said that we need 6 buses even if some members can take their cars. Now, we have 450 members who have paid their contributions and memberships will continue throughout the carnival period. In the event of an accident, they will be covered by our insurance. Akiyo never closed the door to people who wanted to parade with it but who had not yet paid their membership.We allow these people to join us but if anything is happened to them, they will be taken care of by their own insurance”, explained the president of Akiyo.

In fact, for some people, you have to participate at least once in your lifetime in an Akiyo‘s parade. There is only one obligation: to be in excellent physical condition because the walk of the group is very fast… Founded in 1978, the Mouvman Kiltirèl Akiyo celebrated last year its 40 years of existence. Generations of Guadeloupeans were members of this association or had the opportunity to join one of its parades.

In spite of its old age, the carnival group that launched what they name “skin groups” (a po, in Creole) – because the drum used to make the Mas is covered with a goat skin, what differentiates it from the snare drum – continues to attract many young people. “There are still many young people in Akiyo, they are the future. The average age is 30. Our most senior member, Mamie, is 92 years old; the oldest member is Viviane Dagonia, she is in her sixties”, said Jean-Claude Moutoussamy.

During this long break that will last, in fact, an hour, the crowd was scattered: some were leaning against the walls of buildings, others were sitting on the pavements or on their drums; they talked, they laughed, they stayed quiet, they thought, they smoked, they sent sms, they bought something to eat or drink in the car’s Akiyo whose interior is fitted out like a bar; carnival is an organization and it is also necessary to bring some money into the coffers of the association…

Akiyo pause 62C

Carnival and safety

The president of Akiyo had an opinion on the topical issue: safety in carnival. “Lately, we hear a lot about safety in carnival, they even want the groups to pay 250,00 euros per gendarme during the parades. The towns even want to discharge themselves of safety, they want the carnival groups are in charge of safety as organizers… We decided to attend these meetings to inform us. We also invited the Sub-Prefect of Pointe-à-Pitre, Jean-Michel Jumez, to participate in a meeting at our local on Tuesday, January 8 in the evening so that he gives us information on the subject. One thing is certain: we have our safety service which is composed of 52 people and we ask those who are responsible for safety on public roads to take their responsibilities”, said Jean-Claude Moutoussamy.

When the group arrived at Assainissement, we saw the “fouettards”, these boys who crack their whip to announce the parade, but strangely enough, we did not hear much the roar of the many two-wheeled vehicules driven by young people who follow Akiyo‘s parade, every Sunday. “We cannot prevent boosters and motorbikes from following Akiyo’s parade. If we do not see them too much tonight, maybe there are buses of gendarmes or policemen around here. That’s not our role. The authorities must go and see the stores that sell these vehicules (…)”, said the president of Akiyo.

7:45 pm, a whistle rang, it was time to leave. Everyone was on the pavement and five minutes later, the group went in music and with great strides towards the Miquel roundabout to parade for another four hours. Akiyo‘s car closed the parade and, suddenly, the engine of scooters, boosters and motorbikes was heard…