Mas’ All over the Caribbean

Arley Gill

by Arley Gill

During the months of July and August each year, persons all over the world head off on holidays. It is summer time in the western world, with schools on holiday. Many families who can afford the financial burden take the children on tours to different countries.

Ibiza in Spain and Bali in Indonesia are 2 of the favourite places — other than the Caribbean and outside of the Caribbean — where holidaymakers go in droves. It is the Caribbean, though with warm weather, world-class beaches, friendly people, good food and rum, [alongside] Ibiza and Bali, remain among the world’s leading destinations.

As if that was not enough, during the months of July and August there is the staging of some of the greatest parties on earth, referred to as carnivals. From Vincy Mas’ — so dubbed by legendary Vincentian calypsonian Alston Cyrus, the ‘Beckett;’ and St Lucia carnival a few weeks later, both in July in the Caribbean, the pace is set with sweet soca music, great costumes, steelband music, strong rum, good food and lots of fun.

For the first weekend in August, Antigua and Barbados capture the attention of the universe; you can take your pick. Or, you can do as myself and other carnival aficionados and rotate, alternate your visit every other year. Trust me; it is well worth the experience.

Before resting, the next weekend the axis of world entertainment shifts to Grenada for Spicemas. That’s where thousands of Jab Jabs descend, and hordes of Vieux Corps and bands of Short Knee parade on the streets, ensuring the survival of one of our most heralded cultural heritage.

In all of these carnivals, though similar, there is something unique in each.

In Barbados Crop Over, there are the markets along the Spring Garden Highway. In St Lucia, one may enjoy country and western music on the radio all day on carnival Sunday. But, St Lucia can boast of the best band parades on carnival Tuesday.

St Vincent carnival, for a small island, has so many fetes that one wonders how Vincentians do it; there is a high quality of music on offer as well. Antigua is high energy as well with a strong representation of fancy mas’ and soca music. Their soca beat is somewhat faster than the pace in the southern Caribbean.

Of course, I am far more qualified to write about Spicemas, and I already alluded to the traditional mas’ portrayals that make Grenada’s carnival stand out.

All the carnivals represent the creativity and traditions of our Caribbean people. We have a good time, and we complain to the powers that be about the hard time we’re going through, using the lyrics in songs, or in our portrayals.

Our carnivals also represent a significant economic activity to the economies of the islands; although, most of the time, our governments are insensitive to that and never provide adequate funding for the festival. We quarrel over money and we boycott from time to time.

But, whether sun shine or rain, we playing a mas’.

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