Labor Day highlights

Devan bann-nan
  • Overall, Haitians should have nothing to complain about as FOUR prominent Haitian bands delivered all the gouyad I needed for the year: Sweet Micky in a flurry of familiar pink flags but surprisingly not in drag, T-Vice, Djakout Mizik in partnership with the Haitian Times and Koudjay a rasin band who delivered great kanaval music and the most original of the 4 floats. (Unfortunately for Koudjay, they were right behind Sweet Micky and although they were no doubt well followed, I would have chosen a different spot.)
  • I personally followed the Sweet Micky float on the street and past the library into the park!!! I got to do in Brooklyn what I haven't really done in Haiti: mret nan bann-nan net ale. Bann-nan te cho!
  • For once, no complaints from my Haitians friends (hyphenated or not) who all seemed way too busy getting their groove on. I lost Jenny my carnival-crazed sibling early in the game but when she finally caught up to me, she'd already spent several hours with Micky and T-Vice and inspired my own venture into the sea of whining bodies following Micky. A little late in the game (it was past 6, the official closing time) but worth every last second.
Junior Gong
  • The youngest Marley showed up in a float prominently featuring his American "Welcome to Jamrock" release date. He apparently delivered 90 minutes of a blazing concert in Jamaica last month. Not quite on the parkway. Although his band was hard at work rousing the crowd, by the time I caught him Mr. Marley seemed more interested in looking as stern and studly as his album cover than in actually singing. It was great to see his manly stature in person but it would've been nice to actually h-e-a-r him. When his float reached the end of the parade, I looked for him again but he'd literally jumped ship with half his entourage leaving his deejay alone to rock the crowd. Poor thing is probably on tour and may have had a plane to catch. Whatever the worth of his performance, "Jamrock"s release date--Sept 13-- is now etched in my brain.
Steel pan shmeel pan
  • My friend Sarah --decked out in an outfit made of Grenadian flags--spent all week at steel pan rehearsals that culminated into the steel pan contest I missed Saturday. Little did I know then that I wouldn't see any on the Parkway. She and I lost each other after I decided to follow Micky but who knows, maybe she got luckier after I left?
  • Trinis did grace us as usual with the most flamboyant costumes. Pictures will trickle in as the week unfolds so come back for snapshots.
T-shirt drama
  • Apparently costumes were to be mandatory this year in order to play mas (i.e. follow bands in the street). After protracted negotiations, t-shirts with your band's colors were declared enough for mas goers, mostly a concession to Haitians and Jamaicans apparently. While the t-shirts were universal on the actual floats, the rule was not enforced on the ground and many played mas without them. The costumeless may not be as lucky next year as those who negotiated the t-shirt compromise promised to deliver sequins and artifice in 2006. (Thank god I played mas this year!)


wayne&wax said...

thanks for the recap! wish i could have been there myself. a friend of mine, visiting BK from JA, was pretty amazed by the whole thing. he described it as "overwhelming" and noted that his favorite part of the day was seeing (and hearing from) different islands than he was familiar with. he told me that he was impressed, in particular, by all the haitian music (which he had never heard before). it truly is a wonderful day in/for NY. such a rich celebration.

Alice B. said...

Thanks Wayne,

Hope you make it out next year. I've been going for the past 3 years. It's a big music lab but for everybody. So many people who wouldn't normally venture out of their musical comfort zones get challenged.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Alice
May I quote you:
"many people who wouldn't normally venture out of their musical comfort zones get challenged. "

Challenged ? how? whom? when? where?
Certainly not on the Pkway, the music is simply lousy! Do you think Markey , yes Bob would have been on a float ? the requiremment is simply a big float and a loud ..very loud..did I say LOUD sound system!
btw no one ever xplained to MOI why the "Jamais Dodos" (Dominican Republic ) are not part of the Pkway celebration. I know they have their own summer parade on 5th Ave (Manhattan) I wonder if the jamais dodos think of themselves as whites and are scared of 2 million plus negroes fulfilling thier gouyad requirement!

Alice B. said...

Hey MOI,

You have a point. And Labor day is not about high brow music. It's about whining music.

About Dominicans, well as you know there is very little integration between Spanish speaking Caribbeans -who may identify more with south and central america- and West Indians. In fact Haitians themselves as non-english speakers are not exactly integrated with "West Indians" i.e. English-speaking Caribbeans. (This despite Haiti's rather recent and symbolic membership in CARICOM.) For example, I think the T-shirt episode illustrates some of the tension between Haitians and some West Indians about the aesthetics of carnival. If any event forces cross-caribbean cultural exposure, it is the Labor Day Parade. Hence my sense that people get "challenged" there.


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