Although carnival, soca and calypso are not an integral festivity on Jamaica’s annual, calendar of events, nationals represented recently to join revelers at the popularly referred to West Indian Day Parade where Caribbean exhibition of pride along Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights closed out a weeklong, amalgam of showcases that hails the culture of CARICOM countries just south of the U.S. border.
With home-grown reggae the dominant music form in Jamaica, carnival only made its premiere in the last decade with a post-Lent presentation beginning on Easter Sunday.
In addition, soca and calypso finds temporary presence at festivals and could be considered a secondary or even tertiary form of musical expression following ska and mento.
Throughout the decades, Byron Lee & The Dragonaires were the sole, successful proponents of the genre. In recordings and live performances at private parties, Lee promoted the revelry he enjoyed attending T&T’s carnival.
After years of hosting a Jamaican “tent” in Trinidad, he introduced the jump-up phenomenon to segments of the Kingston capital.
Gradually, Jamaicans are beginning to embrace aspects of the celebrations -- which is far from an island-wide activity.
Like the pre-Lenten revelry held annually in Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago and New Orleans, New York’s largest street gathering capped summer with Labor Day masquerading and unrivalled pageantry in Brooklyn that united immigrants, tourists and cultural celebrants.
Nightly showcases began in calypso “tents” throughout the borough.
At one hosted by Everybody’s Magazine, the first two nations – Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago -- to first declare independence from their colonial captors – Great Britain -- were regaled.
Performances by Jamaica’s Dancemaster proudly applauded his island’s Olympic victories in a song dedicated to the nation’s super-sprinter “Usain Bolt.”
Prior to his energetic performance Dancemaster handed out flags, motivated the predominant eastern Caribbean crowd to share in the merriment and raced around the “tent” as if mimicking the gold medal winning athlete.
His performance represented the only Jamaican billed for the week-long, nightly, calypso showcase.
However, one would be hard-pressed to challenge Dancemaster during his banner-waving performance. The ambassador maintained a high standard and professional stage presence delivering stellar appearances alongside, T&T’s Singing Sandra, Calypso Rose, Lord Nelson, Shadow, St. Vincent & the Grenadine’s Becket, Antigua & Barbuda’s Swallow and other popular carnival and calypso veterans.
“I had a great time,” Dancemaster said, “I knew I couldn’t win the monarch competition, not with all the Trinis in the place but I am sure they had fun and enjoyed my performance.”
Jamaica’s four-time festival winner, Zach “Astronaut” Henry shared the same experience performing at pre-Labor Day World Show at the Three Star Juice Lounge.
The visiting mento satirist noted the under-representation of Jamaicans in the Brooklyn annual but cheered on his island representative, waved the black, gold and green and promised to add his performance to next year’s roster of Jamaicans billed for the nightly “tent” showcases.
While he overwhelmingly endorsed Dancemaster’s performance, he said the highlight on the evening he attended was watching Tobagonian Calypso Rose singing “Fire In Mi Wya.”
“This is my first time seeing her and she is as energetic as when I first heard her on the radio, years ago at home.”
Revered as the first winner of the monarch title in T&T contests of calypsonians, Rose roused the crowd to dance and echo the chorus to her winning hit.
Paul “Jah Paul” Haughton, another Jamaican to support the sparse showing of nationals from his island shared the same sentiments.
On Monday when a reported millions packed onto the Brooklyn thoroughfare, actor, singer, activist and cultural ambassador Harry Belafonte represented his mother’s birth-island as grand marshall of the parade.
Belafonte’s presence exemplified the theme which acknowledged “unity, history and culture.”
While the celebrated, star of stage, screen and the Civil Rights movement walked the route alongside other distinguished guests of the day, Astronaut and Haughton joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly for a slow stroll to the Brooklyn Museum.
After attending the traditional breakfast gathering, Kelly joined the NYPD band to play drums as the officers rendered Jamaican Bob Marley’s reggae anthem, “One Love.”
Both Astronaut and Haughton chorused the reggae anthem to instrumentation from police brass.
Catch You On The Inside!