Feathers, rum, revelers, spectators, trucks, and plenty of soca music: this is Carnival!
We heard the marching band leading the parade as we made our way to Hope Road at mid-morning on Sunday. As we neared the street, we caught glimpses of costumed marchers, called revelers, already dancing with rum drinks in their hands, alongside big rig trucks hauling speakers and mobile bars to keep the partiers going all day long.
Carnival is still relatively small in Jamaica, especially when compared to Brazil’s or Trinidad’s, but is growing. For the first time, four different “bands,” essentially groups that march together, took part in the Road March.
As they march, Carnivalers dance and wine op to blaring soca music, which is a sort of modern Caribbean calypso-meets-EDM. And, because this is Jamaica, we saw some incredibly impressive (and at times, shocking) dancing. One of my favorite parts was that women of all shapes and sizes were shamelessly decorated in skimpy costumes and feathers. In Jamaica, full-bodied women are celebrated as beautiful.
Their routes criss-crossed each other and eventually converged as they made their way toward Half Way Tree – a bustling region of Kingston. We spent the morning tracking down the different groups, stopping to dance with Revelers pon di ruod.
A few of my fellow PCVs took part in the March this year with Bacchanal Jamaica, the largest of the bands. We caught up with them that afternoon when the clouds parted and the day had grown hot. I was almost as impressed by their high energy dancing as I was by their $500 costumes.
After finally bearing witness, I understand the appeal. Perhaps next year I’ll head back to partake myself, preferably with a disposable income in tow.
If you ever find yourself in Jamaica on the Sunday after Easter, definitely don’t miss the opportunity to see this for yourself. We watched (and danced) for free from the Devon House lawn and kept hydrated thanks to the vendors capitalizing on the event. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to do a bit of walking once they block off the roads, and be sure to wear sunscreen so that your temporary tattoo doesn’t overstay its welcome.