Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the carnival experience.

sometimes in life you just have to give yourself permission to be ridiculous. that's what was swimming around in my head during much of last weeks carnival. as i danced throughout the streets of gouyave. as i danced. and danced. and danced some more.

there's much excitement leading up to carnival. but the official holiday was celebrated last monday and tuesday. the 11th and 12th of august. i attended a few weekend events before the festivities.

at panorama our little steel pan band performed after months of practice. we came in last again in the competition. but only lost to the top band by 23ish points. i didn't mind so much. i was in it more for the experience and the experience was quite fun. playing a challenging song up on stage in front of so many people. amidst balloons and fellow pan players i've come to really appreciate.

sunday evening i got the opportunity to go to dimanche gras. in which some of the elaborate queen and king costumes were paraded. and then the calypso finals were held. i've developed so much admiration for the art form of calypso. its a musical genre that is centered around social and political commentary. an avenue for artists to speak out about local and global issues. a beautiful means of expression. each artist shared two songs. about such subjects as political division and corruption. poverty. youth violence. child abuse. environmentalism. hiv-aids. embracing heritage. revitalizing calypso. etc. etc. although the concert was rather lengthy, it was quite insightful and refreshing to hear music used as an instrument of social change. the voices of the people being freely expressed. being heard.

dimanche gras spilled over into monday morning j'ouvert. pronounced joo-vay. its a french term meaning day open. street festivities beginning in the wee hours of the morning. i decided to try j'ouvert in gouyave as most people i knew that were going would be there. met up with glenda's daughters and caught a bus with them. people had already been fetting for quite some time by our arrival. folks were dancing up and down the road behind dj's playing the season's popular carnival songs. many people were already covered with black oil or different colors of paint. which is tradition known as jab jab. monday morning i mostly observed from the side. taking in the crazy participants. i danced a little. and in the amount of time i danced down the street i did manage to get a little oil smeared on me. no worries. i had worn old clothes and put baby oil on my skin. i had been forewarned. one of my favorite parts was recognizing people from grand roy and gouyave amidst the crowds. carnival seems to be one of those things that brings out a different side of people. a ridiculous side. but a side that's in them, waiting for the right occasion to emerge.

bathed in the sea to wash off the oil with some dishwashing liquid that ednora gave me when i reached back to grand roy. which has become tradition for the jab jabbers. and then headed home for a much needed nap. that afternoon, we played a little steel pan there by the junction in grand roy. and then i got ready for monday night mas.

monday night mas was back in gouyave. similar street dancing. but none of the paint or oil from the morning. more organized as people gathered in specific bands. i had purchased a red jersey to "play mas" with a band of folks. the streets were glowing with light up swords and resounding with whistles and carnival music. it was freeing to dance up and down the street. to laugh. and allow myself to just be silly.

by tuesday morning i was feeling quite tired. but i saw lornette. the wild murray daughter from across the street as she was leaving for a next morning of j'ouvert. she encouraged me to join her. so i decided to try to soak in another j'ouvert morning. and did i soak it in. literally as i was covered with oil and paint early on in the festivities. it was an exercise in letting go. and accepting my own ridiculousness. and having fun with it.

lornette and i and her friends bathed our oil off in the sea and the river after all the excitement. my apologies to mama earth. it was probably not a friendly gesture. but carnival seems to be one of those things where grace is sought afterwards anyways.

tuesday evening there were parades with different colorful costumes through gouyave. had i ventured to st. george's more, i would have seen more costumes probably. but i'm thankful to experienced things from the gouyave side. after the parades, there was more pan playing. as people pushed us up and down the road on our chassie and we developed a small band of followers. it always brings me joy to see the pan music bringing someone else joy. to know you contributed just a little bit to the inspiration of their dance or smile or head bobbing.

"you well enjoyed your carnival, abby." i hear that a lot these days. and i did enjoy it. it wasn't my most meaningful set of moments in grenada. but there's a time and season for everything. even for dancing through the streets dressed in oil and clothed in ridiculousness.