Carnival: Grenada’s Spice Mas

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This is the 28th year of August Mas in the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique. Grenada’s Carnival celebrations, renowned for their color, creativity, and unique cultural character, are held during the second week in August, just one week after Emancipation Day festivities. This year, the 2009 Grenada Spice Mas culminates on August 10 and 11.

The festivities are presently in full swing. They begin in July with the opening of various Calypso Tents where local calypso bards sing to vie for a chance to compete on the big stage of the National Calypso Monarch Competition. July 24 and 26, for example, are the dates for the Soca Monarch and the Calypso Semi-finals, respectively.

The Carnival celebration gains momentum in early August with cultural presentations and calypso shows almost every night of the week and the night air is filled with the sound of steel bands rehearsing their unique musical arrangements for the upcoming Panorama competition. Other events are the Ole Mas, Rainbow City Festival (a craft and cultural fair), National Carnival Queen Show, the Soca and Calypso Monarch Finals, and the Panorama Steel Band competition, among others.

Carnival Sunday brings the final countdown to Carnival with the Dimanche Gras Show, featuring the Kings and Queens of the Fancy Mas Bands in competition for King and Queen of Carnival. Many revelers begin their Carnival marathon at the Dimanche Gras Show and continue straight into the J’Ouvert celebrations, where in the early hours of Monday morning, the traditional jab-jab or Devil Mas bands emerge from the darkness of the night to parade freely through the town. The carnival devils disappear with the rising of the sun, making way for the traditional and Fancy Mas bands in the Monday parade or Pageant. Each parish has its own brand of traditional mas usually represented by Short Knees, Vekou, and Wild Indians. With Arab-like head coverings, jumbo collars, batwing sleeves, and three-quarter (short knee) baggy trousers, the Short knee Bands are now the most prevalent of the traditional masqueraders.

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In the past, the revelers (or Jab-Molassi) blackened their bodies with stale molasses, tar, grease, creosote, or mud to play tricks and “frighten” onlookers. In modern times, the traditional Jab-Molassis have mutated into other creatures of color, with blue, yellow and green devils joining in the early morning parade. Carnival Monday ends with the Monday Night Mas’ street jump-up, where party-goers dance through the streets into the wee hours of the Tuesday morning. Tuesday is the final attraction, the Parade of the Bands.

For more information, see http://www.grenadagrenadines.com/fest.html?id=51 and http://www.spicemasgrenada.com/

For full schedule of events, see http://www.spicemasgrenada.com/

Photos, courtesy of the Grenada Board of Tourism from http://www.concierge.com/travelguide/grenada/photos/photoview/66616 and http://merengueundersail.blogspot.com/2008/08/grenada-carnival-spice-mas-2008.html

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