The day was Caribbean hot in downtown Brooklyn and the pre-Carnival kick-off last week began with youth. Young people modeled glittery-feathered carnival costumes in bright shades of orange, purple, gold, peacock blue and lime green. They were from the mas camps, Sesame Flyers, New Generation, Ramajay, and Flanks New York.
Notes from the steel orchestra CASYM danced down the steps of Borough Hall, adding to the festive spirit.
Juquan Phillip, turning 15 years old, was one of the pan musicians entertaining the lunchtime crowd. For 10 years, he has played with CASYM (Caribbean American Sports & Cultural Youth Movement, for youth ages 7-21).
Phillip, a sophomore at Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre, explained how steel pans, also known as steel drums–referring to the oil drums the instruments were originally made from–come in different pitches: tenor, double tenor, guitar, bass and cello.
Among the 100 young players with CASYM, the beginners learn basic techniques, class two learns more songs, and about 25 are the “Starside” performing musicians who even travel out-of–state for gigs.
Phillip related, “We played to about 200 college students at Penn State. They didn’t know what pan was.” An explanation was given.
“CASYM (whose students’ heritage is mostly from Trinidad and Tobago but also, Guyana, St. Vincent, and a couple from Haiti) is celebrating its 30th anniversary,” Phillip proudly shared.
West Indian Day Parade organizers, supporters, sponsors and local politicians gathered for the mid-day Carnival launch. This is the 46th year of New York’s Carnival celebration.
For the first year, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce will partner with the West Indian American Day Carnival Association- WIADCA, to help raise money and encourage local businesses to help sponsor activities.
Among the many who spoke at the kick-off were Thomas Bailey, head of WIADCA and Borough President Marty Markowitz, (who called himself a Trinidadian) and nostalgically mentioned that this is his last year at the Parade as Borough President.
A new addition this year is Caribbean Woodstock–Mas and Music, the assemblage of all the islands’ cultures. On the Brooklyn Museum grounds, vendors will provide tastes of the various islands and live performances will showcase musical genres from the different islands.
The annual Caribbean Day Parade takes place on Labor Day (Sept. 2, this year) starting at 11:00 a.m. at Schenectady Ave. following Eastern Parkway to the judging area at Grand Army Plaza.
The parade culminates five days, starting Aug. 29, of related events.
On Aug. 30, the Friday afternoon “Stay in School” free Youth Talent Show will be followed by Brass Fest, at 8:00 p.m. that evening.
As usual, the Junior Carnival for those under 16 will be on Saturday, Aug. 31. The Steelpan Panorama competition will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7:00 p.m. Dimache Gras (Big Sunday) will offer a taste of traditional Caribbean music–Soca, Chutney, Calypso and World Music.
Participants for the Parade on Labor Day must register. A comprehensive list of rules and regulations for participation can be found at the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, 718-467-1797.