This is one of my favourite things I have ever had the opportunity to work on. It was released as a newspaper supplement. I wish it had taken more permanent form (a book or CD) but I’m glad that I got to do it at all. It was a publication I pitched for the 50th anniversary of Carnival and got the go-ahead to produce. The rollout was such that it was less impactful than I would have liked but still I was happy with the product. Happy because it collected the cross section of arts that contributes to Carnival – a reminder that Carnival is art…correction, arts.
There was Carnival-themed visual art by cover artist Heather Doram, Carol Gordon, Mark Brown, Marie Kinsella, Denise Li, E. T. Henry, Jan Farara, Debbie Eckert, David Cadogan, Muerah ‘Artist’ Boddie, Jennifer Meranto; photography by Allan Aflax, Bernard Richardson, Alexis Andrews, Jermaine Simpson; Carnival designs (dresses and costumes) by Calvin S., Errol ‘Bumpy’ Nanton, Colin ‘Wanga’ Martin, and others; lyrics, short fiction, novel excerpts by writers like D. Gisele Isaac, Tameka Jarvis-George, Marie Elena John, Jermilla Kirwan, Shelly Tobitt, Marcus Christopher, Selvyn Walter, S E James, Leonard ‘Tim’ Hector, Brenda Lee Browne, Arthur ‘Bum’ Jardine, Edgar Lake, Sylvanus Barnes, Aziza Lake, Althea Prince, and others.
I called this collection Carnival is all We Know as a nod to a soca song that I felt captured the all consuming energy of Carnival and the exclamatory nature of it. And also, music.
I can’t share anything from the collection (although if you’ve read my book Oh Gad! you’ve read some of it since it was first excerpted in it and one of the stories found in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings was first published here). If you’re interested in reading a more recent lit journal dedicated to Carnival, remember to check out the latest issue of Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters. Also in the spirit of #throwbackThursday here’s a Carnival inspired article I wrote back in 2011.
Bridging the Musical Gap
An anecdote from the launch of Carnival 2011
By Joanne C. Hillhouse
“Is all old people dancing,” she said.
Pull up. Let’s start at the beginning.
Like hundreds of islanders – and a fair amount of visitors – I ventured to the Carnival street party at the Dockyard Saturday night. Truth be told, my niece and I left home intent on attending the Wadadli Music Fest as we’ve done in recent years but en route, plans changed, and there we were sitting on the grassy mound while below us CP swung her fire engine red locks and wined in sinfully short shorts backed by an energetic and athletic chorus line as she segued from track to track – Carnival is All We Know, Go Claudette, Something’s Got a Hold On Me. Well, I sat and swayed; Niecey disappeared for a while with a friend, reminding me that I was less liming partner, more chauffeur; reminding me that she was growing up and away from me. Sure, we both loved Claudette but she loved her down in the thick of it while me, I loved her, from a distance.
The distance was about to get wider; they don’t call it the generation gap for nothing.
Just as she returned, the emcees announced that Burning Flames was up next and that no, Tian Winter would not be performing. “No Tian Winter” it was almost too much for her pre-teen heart but she was still looking forward to Burning Flames. Me, less so. As I proceeded to explain to her, she hasn’t heard Flames like I’ve heard Flames. After all, I grew up on their music and still dream of the awesome foursome coming together for one grand finale, or, at any rate, to make me feel like they did then. They spell youth to me, my youth, and, ageless as they themselves seem, who could blame me. So, what we were about to hear was for me a poor facsimile of the original.
Then that voice we swooned over as teens at jam pond started up, the familiar and infectious beat behind it, and, on my feet now, my body remembered it all. Good music is good music, and the Flames of the mid-80s to mid-90s was the best; and as Onyan and Krokuss teased at the memory of those songs, that time, what could we do but dance. No, I wasn’t the only one. All around me, in the parking lot outside of the Dockyard gates, feet remembered, hips swayed and couples rocked. For some it was the end of Sailing Week, for us it was Carnival.
Here comes little Miss, right in the middle of the Go, Go, Go riff. “Let’s go”. Now I knew she had to be kidding; not when things had finally come alive. Don’t get me wrong, CP rocked it and if I had seen only her, it would have been enough. But this was just too much: Iron Band, Swinging Engine, Ride Yuh Bicycle, Go on wan kinda how…all the classics. But of course that was the problem. Excited as she’d been to hear Flames, she didn’t know the Flames I knew. Flames, for her, is Bull Bud, a ditty I didn’t particularly care for having missed Carnival, for the first time ever, in 2010. She’s of the era of Ok Papi, while I remember going crazy to Ah Rudeness Mek Me. And if I had to choose between the twin Flames we’ve got going these days, I suppose I’ve been more Red Hott. But none of that mattered now, Onyan’s falsetto still had that delicious tremble and the music still had that intoxicating effect; and she would just have to wait – and choke on the irony – as I danced to the band she’d been salivating to see while she stood there in the stereotypical bored teenage pose (never mind that she has a few weeks to go before making teenager).
“Look,” I teased, “you don’t see people dancing?”
This is where we began. “Is all old people dancing,” she pouted. This amused me no end, as I looked around at these primarily twenty and thirty somethings – maybe one or two forty and fifty somethings – and shook my head at what surely must be an exaggeration. But then, when I was 12 everyone over 25 likely looked old to me too, I suppose.
What struck me then – or later, I was too busy dancing then – was I was exactly her age the first time I heard Flames; I remember how they had this Pied Piper effect luring the dancing posse to Potter and beyond all the while jigging Left to Right.
I remember though that I also appreciated my parents’ music – Short Shirt, Swallow, Latumba, Obstinate – because, to me, while each generation has its defining music, one generation’s Madonna is another generation’s Gaga, good music transcends generations. After all, didn’t I begin the day listening to Billie Holiday, and later cleaning to Aretha Franklin, didn’t I move to the dancehall and hip hop beat of the DJ battle before Sassy shifted the mood back to Carnival, and wasn’t I now dancing to Flames? I never could understand people who only listened to this or that genre or period of music; music is music, I say, and if it makes me feel, gi me more.
Alas, my niece was still stuck in a generational box and Flames was showing their age as far as she was concerned. She’ll grow out of it. After all, who can resist good music of any time or place, and, who can resist the band who – by any configuration – has a name that’s synonymous with Carnival.
So by the time Onyan and company teased Obeah and Brown Girl in a Ring we were both dancing; and by the time Bull Bud came on, well, for her, they could once again do no wrong. All was once again well with Carnival.
As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.