Monday, December 20, 2010

Junior Junkanoo

Judy gave a gloss of the festivities which I’ll try to fill in here. 
Although  we have been able to wear shorts ever since we crossed the Gulf Stream a month ago, the weather was surely cooling off, and our vague plan was to be heading south by now.  The water, as clear as it was was a little too cool to be inviting, though fit for a dip.  Now word of Junkanoo was in the air, but we were not prepared to be parked in a city harbor waiting for December 26, Boxing Day. Junior Junkanoo was our chance to get some of the flavor.
Now let’s get real.  I anticipated this to be like a high school play vs. the real thing on Broadway.  This was pretty much on point, but it was great fun and we did get a sense of what we will miss. Most of the schools on NP present a program, and some of the out islands participate as well sending well rehearsed and costumed contingents to compete.  After all, this is the place to do Junkanoo. As I see it, the schools’ program is divided into age groups. As Judy alluded, there is a theme, represented by a colorful wheeled float pulled or pushed by students.  Flag twirlers and dancers follow, driven on by the blare, clang and beat of the band.  Stupendous costumes fashioned of corrugated cardboard dwarf the wearers, covered with Jewels, feathers, mirrors and bright paint jobs, each more towering and complex than the next. The visual affect, as spectacular as it was, lit up under bright stage lighting was insignificant compared to the music which was of another dimension.
Cut off as I am from my normal sources of research, much of my commentary is conjecture.  The band is made up of three primary parts; brass, kaliks and drums. The brass section appears to dress in orange and yellow shades, which may include shaggy leggings, proto-primitive head dress, tabard and apron. The kaliks (cow bells) are in similar garb in shades of sky and sea. Like drummers everywhere, these seem to dress as they like in t-shirts and jeans.  The kaliks seem to also be the regular whistle blowers, although any one not blowing something else can play whistle.  Even some judges and folks in the stands chimed in.
Trumpets, coronets, flugelhorns and sousaphones (my own marching tuba at New Utrecht H.S.) played more or less together, and as loud and bright as they could, stirred up by the deep throbbing of the goat skin or clear plastic headed drum. Wikipedia suggests a possible West African derivation of the festival. In olden days, the British colonial powers were so afraid of uprisings and the use of drums to spread the fever and the word, they outlawed drums.  The melodic steel band was created using recycled oil drums.  Some of the stronger marchers here also use oil drums for a powerful heart pumping beat.  The drum syncopations and count-offs followed up by the whistles and bells cannot be ignored. The effect is primal and stupefying, and this is the just the junior version.  As much as we dislike long range plans, we could very easily find ourselves in the Bahamas again next year.  If so, you can be sure we will have Boxing Day, and / or New Year’s in Nassau as a don’t miss.
I should also mention the crowds.  We stood on the sidelines with lots of folks unwilling or unable to shell out $40 for Ground Zero bleacher seats--families rooting for the home team, kids scarfing conch fritters and teens dressed a la mode, to see and be seen. Again everyone was laid back and shoulder to shoulder. An enormous number of “officials” vied for street space with the performers; Judges, bleacher marshals, group marshals, costume straighteners, dance masters and stage moms and dads.  Hooray for Junior Junkanoo!
Please enjoy the pictures taken under difficult circumstances.  I have posted a short video clip on my facebook home page.  If we ever get high speed broad band we will share more with you.

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