Monthly Archives: August 2015

Play and Making of National Society

140527 GalvanWe play carnival: Play plays meaning. And play discloses both power and potential. Carnival has the power to create Nations.
Indeed, Carnival is an eloquent response to Governor Lord George Harris..
Ten years following the abolition of slavery Lord Harris,  then Governor of Trinidad, wrote:
“As the question now stands a race has been freed but a society has not been formed”.
Carnival is a society-making play.

Let’s play to Nationhood.
Caldwell Taylor


Carnival Proclamations [Mighty Zebra]

Carnival, Trinidad, early 1950s

Carnival, Trinidad, early 1950s

Mighty Zebra also sang a calypso titled “Carnival Proclamation“. Indeed, Zebra’s “Carnival Proclamation” came four or so years prior to Melody’s. Calypso historians are still debating as  to whether Zebra was Grenadian or Vincentian.
By the way, the “Zebra” was just one  of many creatures from calypso’s zoo:   Think of  “Lion”, “Tiger”, “Jaguar”, “Panther”.
Back in the early days calypsonians assumed names that conveyed ferocity: Ferocity was necessary at a time when calypsonians fought lyrical  and other wars.
The sang without mercy/sans humanite!!!


Bakhtin wrote: “Carnival is a pageant without floodlights and without a division into performers and spectators.”



Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) Russian philosopher, literary critic, semiotician, and the putative “father of Carnival Studies.”


“Carnival Proclamation”, the title of a Lord Melody composition. Melody [aka Fitzroy Alexander] was born in Trinidad to a Grenadian mother.

A handful of Melody’s calypsoes were performed and recorded by Harry Belafonte. Harry Belafonte Calypso
Belafonte’s likeness is featured on a Grenadian postage stamp.

Melody’s “Carnival Proclamation”

THE public is hereby warned that the following acts constitute offences against the law:-
(a) Celebrating the Carnival before 6.00 a.m.on the Monday preceding Shrove Tuesday or after midnight on Shrove Tuesday;
(b) Lighting or keeping light any bonfire in any public place on the Sunday preceding the Carnival or on the night of the Monday preceding Shrove Tuesday commonly known as CANNES BRULEE
(c) Singing of indecent , immoral or libelous songs;
(d) Carrying of whips , sticks , or other offensive weapons;
(e) Dressing or disguising as a person of the opposite sex;
(f) Blowing of any noisy instruments (including conch shells) BETWEEN MIDNIGHT  on the Saturday preceding the Carnival and 6.00 a.m. on the Monday of Carnival.
Government Office
St. George’s

27th February, 1957

Grenada’s Carnival Tradition (Hudson George) Pt. 2

Grenada’s Carnival Tradition (Hudson George)
Presently,  the government is getting more involved in our carnival celebration. However, I personally believe that government involvement in the festival is not in the interest of culture but in the interest of getting  financial revenue from the events.  I am saying so because our government officials are trying their best to commit cultural genocide within the rural communities within our tri-island state  by limiting the carnival activities in the villages and trying to influence rural citizens to come to St. George’s and play mas.
I believe the government will fail with such an agenda. Carnival celebration has its roots in the rural communities. Government has not done any thing positive in the rural communities to elevate culture.  It is insane on the government part to ask rural people to  come to the city and play mas.  St. George parish has the largest population, due to urbanisation. If the government is interested in carnival rather than the money from the events, the officials should try and influence villagers in St. George, to play mas in the city of St. George’s. The long history of exploiting outer parish citizens must stop.
In the past, the importation of fundamentalists Christian religions from the United States and the Rastafarian movement from Jamaica had  intention to destroy our carnival celebration culture, yet still the celebration survive because it has strong roots in our African spirituality that our ancestors came with from Africa. Grenada-Jab-Jab-1024x682
Presently,  our calypsonians find themselves caught up in party politics.  Those who sing for the government or refused to sing against the government gets  personal treatment. Those who sing against the government and those who  will fully disrespect government officials for spite, will never be winners of competitions because government control our carnival events.
In conclusion, I believe that faces in government will always change, but August carnival will always remain.  This is the reason why we continue to play carnival. Therefore, it is very important for rural citizens to take back carnival from those who trying to steal it from them.

Grenada’s Carnival Tradition (Hudson George) pt. 1

The tradition of carnival will always remain, but the big question is: Why do we still play mas, even though the festival has become corrupted with domestic politics, foreign influence,  and some artistes always fighting among themselves for money and prestige during national competition events?
A Grenada Short Knee mas

A Grenada Short Knee mas

During the colonial era, carnival had a vibrant rural influence. Villagers came together and organised themselves;  and play mas. The songs composed by the masqueraders were as political as they are today, but there were less repercussions from the authorities against the artistes, who sung those anti government songs.
Today our political leaders are local citizens and unfortunately, some of them become very thin-skinned and paranoid when they hear songs with lyrics that criticise their authority. However, yet still we play mas in the annual carnival because it is a tradition that has it’s roots within the  people and, as long as the people hold on to the tradition, the show must go on.
It is not by accident that our  carnival celebration is now held in the month of August.  Those among us who do not know our history will say that our August carnival is only  for economic reasons , due to the fact that Trinidad & Tobago has a bigger carnival  on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash-Wednesday and we cannot compete with  the Trinbagoians, based on numbers participation, so we shift carnival to August. This is not the real fact.
However, our senior Grenadians know that we always have two carnivals. My parents told me that Grenada always had two carnivals: the Pre-Lent Carnival  and  the August 1st, Emancipation Carnival that celebrates the freedom of our African ancestors from the slave plantation.

It is obvious that those of us who are interested in our history know fully well that the our  colonial rulers during the post slavery period were not interested in the August Emancipation Day celebration.  However, the influence of the Roman Catholic church and its Ash-Wednesday ritual sort of kept the pre-lent carnival influence, due to the fact that Roman Catholics are the largest religious group in our tri-island state.

Grenada Carnival (c) Toronto Sun

Grenada Carnival
(c) Toronto Sun

Those followers of the Roman Catholic faith who played mas usually attended church service on Ash-Wednesday, with the belief that they will be purified if they remain obedient during the Lenten period after receiving ashes on their forehead from the priest. [part 2]

From Freedom to Emancipation



In the post-emancipation cauldron we must invent or perish.


We cherish life so we invent.


The Caribbean soul runs with the insistence of the sea.
The sea ploughs the imagination.


In the Caribbean we invent and reinvent societies from the wreckage of slavery and colonialism.