The planes get smaller, the Antilles get lesser, the Carib beat gets more distinct, the further you fly into the Caribbean's Windward Islands.
Our jetted-in contingent of revelers gazed with awe at the Grand Carnival Parade from the balcony of the famous Bearden Art Gallery on Front Street. We had a box seat and could reach out and touch the visible vibration posing as steel band floats "gliding" down the narrow 17th Century avenue like one huge noteLOUDwith every steel drum on the island participating. Each float was followed by a choreographed bevy of island beauties, brightly costumed young female Carnival celebrants, with massive feathered headdresses, flags fluttering, shimmering bright mono colors, gilt and sparkle, rotating so spectators could pop a photo.
When the bands played, I knew why they called it a "Jump Up."
The Rolling Tones
The headline marquee one evening was the Caribbean group that was restarted in 1994 by well-known businessman Adolphus Richardson, an original member of the band's first generation, formed in 1964, with him as trumpeter and singer. The senior group dispersed in 1992 and reformed in 1994. Their 1999 Barbados produced album, "A Six for ah Nine," is their best yet. The band blends a mix of soca, reggae and calypso, as a united group of professional musicians. The band's musical journey landed it two USA-based 1997 Sunshine Award nominations for "Soca Man,"for the promotion of calypso and steel band music. The Rolling Tones CDs are very difficult to find, and are quite collector items, so it is probably best to rip your own in an MP3 file.
The string band started in 1969. At the Carnival bandshell they played calypso, tumba, bolero, waltz, pop, blues, polka, merengue, and mazurka. Yup, polka in the islands, with a lilting bent of a beat, carried across the crowd, but I didn't see anyone actually doing the polka. The next thing I know Lawrence Welk will walk by with dreadlocks!
My favorite carnival musical night was Latin Night, with Elvis Crespo. Latin Night brought a quasi romance to the scene, (Eddy squeezing Tikki onelove) because after all, Latin music is expected to be romantic. Crespo's Latin coronets and brass never missed a note, wailing into the cool but lucid, starry evening air. The dynamics of the audience seemed to change each night with the jambanders. It was wonderful to see live instruments mastered by live lovers of the element, rather than recreated by soulless techno. There wasn't much improvisation on Latin Night, like reggae, or even more trance like beats, but the high energy musicians knew their lines with an intensity and power trailing the blowing trade winds into seemless galactic night. I think Crepo's next album should be self- titled: "Latin Galactic."
Other 2002 Performers
Shaggy, an international superstar; Zouk Explosion; PID2; Dream Stars from Haiti; a local Jamorama; Youth Waves; Explosion Band; Impakt; WCK from Dominica; Mr. Cool's Calypso Show with MC Rachel Price; Shadow; Denyse Plummer and Sugar Aloe; Youth Extravaganza; Byron Lee and the Dragonnaires. Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.