Carnival is always  the People’s Festival
Bassy - Love Vine
June 30, 2023
Carnival is always the People’s Festival

Pardon me if ah sound braggadocious but actually ah was flattered after reading fellow Columnist Renwick Rose’s article last week entitled: “Carnival ’77- The First Changeover” way he highlighted de “Folklore Pageant Show” in which de late John Horne and I did some work.

Dat Folklore Pageant was initiated in 1976, when Calypsonian Kenneth “Vibrating Scakes” Alleyne sang “ Revive Carnival” ah masterpiece. De following year when Vincy July Mas changeover date was approved, John and I were given de exciting task by CDC chairman, Molly Arthur, to produce ah Back in Time Folklore Pageant, showcasing whatever bits and pieces of Ole Time Carnival was still around. We physically visited just about every village thru-out SVG wherever dey was “Traditional Cultural Material.” We were thrilled when de folks in Sandy Bay told us dat de Quadrille Dance was laid to rest during de 1902 Volcanic Eruption, until one afternoon, high day-time, “Mary Baptiste” ah lickle 12 year ole girl from Sandy Bay, was passing thru Overland Village and saw de Jumbies (Spirits) practising de Quadrille Dance.

Dey taught Mary all de steps and drills. When she got home she immediately passed it on to de villagers. I actually verified de story wid an 80+ year ole Mary before she died. Den in Shatto, Mr Louie, de gentleman in charge of de Maypole Dancers told us dat in order to properly prepare de lickle girls to dance, he goes hunting foh Congo Snake in de bush to extract de fat from de snake’s intestines, melt it wid coconut oil and “Rou-Cou” a red powdered pod, to lubricate de children joints and mek dem supple.

Mac Robertson and I stayed till mid-night at Elex Village shop and Bar in Rose Hall, watching six ole couples practice Quadrille in ah tiny back room. Tah Bute de flutist in de Bum Drum, told me: “Sin Lucia looking clear tonight, ah going visit dem after practice.” Den Mac explained dat Tah Bute imitates ah “Jack-o-Lantern,” de wandering evil spirit dat flies around like ah ball of fire at nights. He ties ah flambeau on ah bamboo rod, wheels it around ah few times and den let it fly towards St Lucia. After practice, true to form all eyes were fixed on Bute’s house in de distance, Flambeau wheeling round and round, and den it was gone, and de crowd shouted: “Tah gone Sin Lucia”. Tremendous Folklore dat!.

John and I saw May Pole, String Band and Folk Choir in Georgetown. Bum Drum, Dragon and Donkey Dancers in Stubbs, George Trimmigham Bum Drum wid Monkey Man Kong from Murray’s Village. What was fascinating was de wide variety of Folk material dat was available, and nearly all ah dem folks were senior citizens, all willing to come to town to show de young people what Carnival was like Yester-year. Renwick is correct, De crowd was massive and appreciative.


Now de above story was almost fifty years ago. Several Ole Guards would have given way to several new CDC’s. Ole Mas has given way to de Hottest Summer Festival in de region. So ah asked Lie-Za how Hot is dis Hottest, she said de Best is Hot nuff foh her. And right now CDC members are either paid employees or volunteers to listen as Facilitator of de People’s Festival and not Dictator. Carnival, de People’s Festival includes de Components: Mas, Pan and Calypso.

Calypso wid its many Genres is de Message. Again CDC yuh must Listen to de Messages in de Calypsoes. Listen to Ninja’s Calypso, “ De Power belongs to de People not de Party, not CDC.”

Lie-Za is always tuned to de Radio, de Talk Shows, reading News Papers and on Social Media.
She feels dat CDC is controlled by ah force, ah Power dat is not de People, and therein lies de problem. De Power, de Carnival belongs to de People. And when CDC acts differently, tells us it has outlived its usefulness, and should do de honourable thing and Resign gracefully.

And wid dat is gone ah gone again.

One Love Bassy

  • Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.