What a weekend! Yes! What an absolutely magical long weekend for the 43rd West Indian American Day Carnival Association’s (WIADCA) five-day festival, which delivered in every area of its 2010 “Bridging Cultures” program. Everything was a dazzling dream. The artists were supreme. The steel orchestras were enchanting. The Carnival Mas players were superbly spectacular or sensationally scandalous. Your choice. And the weather–absolutely divine. The setting for all of this was Brooklyn, the center stage for the biggest, boldest, imaginative street theatre in the U.S.A.
The lead up to Carnival started on Thursday (September 2) with the “Caribbean Peoples Unite for Haiti” benefit concert, where headliners David Rudder and Freddie McGregor rocked the stage on the grounds behind the Brooklyn Museum at 900 Washington Avenue. It continued on Friday with the “Stay in School” Cultural Concert, with a new generation of Caribbean talent, and later at Brass Fest where headliner Machel Montano drove the crowd of 20- to 35-year-olds into a feverishly frenzied craze.
Next up, on Saturday, was the adorable Junior Carnival for the children, with various bands playing Mas, having fun and trying to win the coveted 2010 Junior Queen and King of the Band titles. On Saturday evening, a multi-generational crowd packed Panorama for the Steel Orchestra show of shows. Here the reigning Sonatas Steel Orchestra defended their 2009 title, with Adlib placing second and Casym third.
The colorful Dimanche Gras (Grand Sunday) opened with Eintou Pearl Springer, the Poet Laureate of Trinidad and Tobago, performing the opening Carnival Mas invocation by inviting “the ancestors of Mas” to be present. She appealed to the ancestors to speak to the Orishas: “Ask Eshu, opener of the road, to open doors for us to have a successful Carnival.” Then she asked for additional assistance from “the warrior power of the Egunguns to fight this Mas, to help to fight for justice for everyone in our lives.” In closing, Springer prayed to God, asking for “a safe and healthy Carnival, as we give praise for the health and talent of our revelers.” Again, Springer’s talented and adorable twin grandsons, Shomari and Ajani, accompanied her on the djembe drums.
Then the King and Queen of the band competitions took over the stage, turning it into a canvas of every color under the sky, as all the contestants displayed their costume while performing their choreographed shiff-shiff movement. Amongst the junior Mas bands were Royal Journey, God of Rainforest, Chutney Bacchanal, and Rivers of Life.
The adult bands included Colors of Season, Pieces of a Dream, Rivers of Life, Season Explosions, the Bird and the Mist of Winter. Along with specially arranged tunes for each band, the Rhythm Masters, a fierce rhythm section, turned it out.
Making its debut on the evening’s program was the theatrical production “Kambule,” which pays tribute to “the 1881 stick fighters and people from the communities in an around Port of Spain, Trinidad, who confronted the British militia to ensure the continuation of Carnival celebration.” Performed by the Positive Force dance ensemble, Michael Maxwell, artistic director, and the Omalay Dance Theatre, Valerie McLeod-Katz, founder/Artistic Director, their special guest for this segment was Eintou Pearl Springer. Her grandsons Shomari and Ajani on djembe drums were part of the percussionists who accompanied the theatrical group. The brilliant drummer Marcus Williams also did his thing ever so beautifully.
WIADCA Awards were presented by the organization’s president Yolanda Lezama Clark to five scholarship winners to attend a CUNY school. The acclaimed record producer Rawlston “Charlie” Charles also received an award for his contribution to Caribbean music. Caribbean Airlines also flew in with gifts–in this case, a round-trip ticket to Trinidad & Tobago, which was presented by the North America executive, Nazie Mohammed. Also on hand waving to the crowd was the beautiful Miss Haiti from Brooklyn, NY.
And then it was the hot, hot, hot calypso show, with the dynamic headliner, David Rudder. Hosted by the fantastic, bigger-than-life MC Wassey, the bill also included the pioneer Black Stallin, Ricky Jai and Ajala, all brilliant entertainers who wowed the crowd. Needless to say, when Rudder took to the stage, the audience went crazy. And when he sang his international favorite “Hammer,” a powerful all-time anthem, the capacity-packed space was on its feet, singing along to their much beloved David Rudder, beautifully, yet sadly bringing a climactic close to an unparalleled “Dimanche Gras” night that had turned into morning.
A few winks later it was Monday. Hundreds of mud-smeared, tattered, disheveled-looking joovay revelers took to the streets before dawn. Accompanied by steel pan music, they woke up Carnival Monday… The long awaited day. That’s when the surging ocean of colors–azure blue, lime green, orangey/mango red, sunshine yellow, Caribbean indigo–continued from early in the afternoon through 5:45 p.m. as wave after wave of Mas players tinted Eastern Parkway, dancing their way across oceans of ancestors who defied death to keep their culture to play Mas.
To contact the “Caribbean Lingo!” series, which pays tribute to Caribbean Diaspora artists and artforms of the highest caliber, please email our team at Caribbeanlingo@gmail.com.