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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Planning for Carnival 2014

Band launching is usually an indication that you need to start planning for the upcoming Carnival season. For people outside of T&T, we don't have the luxury of waiting and need to make decisions quickly.  If you are in Jamaica, you may find this post useful.  So where should you be in your plans?

If you intend to play with one of the popular bikini and feathers bands (Tribe, Bliss, Fantasy, YUMA or Island People etc), you should have already registered for a costume and paid a deposit**. You should note that many of these bands have already reported sold out sections.  I've heard people in Ja, either boasting about having a "link" or asking about a potential "link" in the more popular Tribe/Bliss or Fantasy. Please be careful. Don't let your desperation cause you to hand over hundreds of US dollars to a "costume scammer".  Trust me, they do exist.  They masquerade as a friend of a friend's cousin-neighbor-colleague-girlfriend-uncle-niece....

I've also realized that there is a popular perception here in Ja, that if you go to Trinidad Carnival, you MUST play mas with Tribe, Bliss, or Fantasy.   I always urge persons to check out other options.  There are bands that offer a great costume and experience for less.  I am tired of telling people that Trinidad Carnival is not defined by these 3 bands...

****Saying that you are playing in a certain section of a band does not mean that you are.  When you have a receipt for your deposit, then you can update your social media status.

If you have not been offered free accommodation at a Trini friend's house by now, you should secure your own.  Hotel rooms are limited and expensive, and the more affordable guest houses tend to be booked by the end of the previous Carnival.  At this point, if you can't get a hotel or guest house, it may be best to contact a real estate agent.  You can also consider accommodation outside of Port of Spain.

At this point if you do the Thursday-Thursday, a ticket can cost around US$500 on Caribbean Airlines. Finalize your airfare as soon as possible especially with the current ridiculous exchange rate.  A cheaper alternative is Copa Airlines (through Panama).

Fete Tickets
I don't think you need to worry too much about fetes before the new year.  You should at least have some idea which fetes you want to attend, determine how much of your budget will go towards feteing, and how do you plan to get these tickets once they go on sale.  Also keep in mind that it will be necessary to get tickets very early for some events like Vale Breakfast and Beach House.

Diet and Exercise
Once you have registered for your costume, you basically should stop eating.

For first timers, it is important that you understand that Trinidad Carnival is expensive. Try not to get carried away with the hype. Carnival can easily cost you US$3000.  Decide what aspect is important to you- don't have Frontline taste with a Backline budget...or VIP taste with a general budget

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Emancipation and Indulge

In the Anglo Caribbean, Emancipation from slavery is commemorated on August 1 which marked the full abolition of slavery in 1838.  Today the celebration embraces our African heritage paying homage to cultural retentions.  For most, it's just a public holiday or a day of rest.  This year, the holiday fell on a Thursday which was confusing.  Wednesday felt like a Friday and Friday felt like a lazy Monday, but like a true Trinbagonian, that meant nothing to me; a holiday is a holiday.

I opted to attend the Indulge party on Thursday at the Mona Hockey Field.  Indulge was put on by the I Love Soca and Wata Party team, Andrew Bellamy and Ian Bourne, along with Staci Smith.  It was advertised as inclusive of food and drink and would run from 4:00-10:00pm.  For JA$2000, it seemed like a steal.  Luckily, I was able to purchase a JA$1500 ticket which was an even bigger steal.

After my experience at the Tailwind fete, I made sure that I got there early enough because if a party was advertised as ending at 10pm, most likely, it will end at that time.  There was sufficient and accessible parking at a nearby field.  Upon entry, I immediately headed for the food because I didn't think it would last considering the cost of the party.  I enjoyed the barbecue pigtail, chicken pasta, and the roast pork and beef.  To my surprise, there was food left at the end and I then had the soup which was sobering, but the shrimp was awful.

Johnnie Walker was one of the main sponsors so the drinks were flowing (probably too much in my case).  My only complaint was about the bartender who insisted that I could not get a cup of straight coconut water which was only being served as a chaser.  The problem was solved easily by going to another bartender.

Just me and my Johnnie

The music was provided by DJs Richie Ras, Cruise, and Selecta Renegade.  The music was a good mix of different genres and the patrons seemed to enjoy it.  At one point a friend commented that he was appalled that uptown people didn't dance.  I mean this was no passa passa session but there were vibes.  I really didn't see this as a pose only party; it was just a different party scene.

Crowd shot

For JA$1500 or JA$2000, Indulge was well worth it. I can't remember when last I got so much value for money.  I am now left to wonder why the hell I've been paying JA$5000 and JA$6000 for other parties??? So I really can't see how some people are easily handing over up to JA$7500 for one party this weekend, but fear not, I heard that there are loans...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kingston's Summer Soca Scene

A couple years ago, I never would have thought that there would be so many soca parties in Jamaica outside of its carnival season. With the many summer parties, I assumed that it would be hard to get enough patrons for a successful fete.  The truth is that there is a die-hard soca group who don't mind partying to soca all year which ensures a successful soca event.

I missed Carnival Rewine and the SOS cooler fete last month, but was able to attend Soca vs Dancehall and the Tailwind Blocko Cooler fete.

Soca vs Dancehall
July 13, 2013
Hope Gardens

This was my second time at a Soca vs Dancehall event.  It could just be my bias, but for me, it was just okay. I kept reminding myself that it was not an exclusive soca event so I shouldn't expect too much.  One of the shortcomings of being a Trini in Jamaica is that we tend to expect soca themed events to be similar those in T&T which is probably why I didn't love this party. I was also told that I got to the event too late (which I did), so I didn't get to appreciate the earlier soca sets.  I really didn't mind the dancehall; it's just that the mix of the dancehall and the soca wasn't my thing...

the best crowd shot I got (still can't master my camera)
But all was not bad.  Hope Gardens was an appropriate venue for these fetes- it's not too big and not too small.  In addition, there was easy access to the drinks at the bar and the Johnnie was flowing. More importantly, patrons didn't have to settle for cheap liquor.  Also, the restrooms were clean which is always important when chasing alcohol with coconut water...

The organizers of Soca vs Dancehall have established loyal followers which include those Jamaicans who are not 100% into soca.  Ultimately, I do see it as a staple even for the summer soca scene...

Tailwind Blocko Cooler Fete
July 20th, 2013
Norbrook Acres Rd and XS club

Now this was a strange event and I'm not sure what happened.  Much of it can be attributed to the current noise abatement laws and its effects on parties held in residential areas in Kingston. 

The cooler fete was advertised as a blocko on Norbrook Acres Rd which looked like a very posh area to me. Not to upset the residents, parking was accommodated at a nearby school and we were shuttled to the venue.  Although I was grateful for the shuttle, it was inconvenient to carry the cooler in the bus...

Once in the venue, it was clear that DJ Richie Ras had set the tone and the soca was pumping.  For about an hour, I was enjoying my drinks and the music until a little after 10pm when it was announced that the police had instructed the organizers to end the fete.  They also said that the fete would continue at XS club in Liguanea Post Mall.  What???? This announcement was confusing because my ticket indicated that the fete time was 4pm-12am....

I really didn't want to go to this new venue because I had lost all interest and vibes, but I left for XS anyway.  Honestly, the hour I spent there wasn't bad, but this event wasn't an indoor one and I felt like I was in a club and not at a fete, and I don't like clubs. Thank goodness the music was still great and people were enjoying themselves...

The lesson here was clear- end your fete at 10:00pm...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Soca in Sabina

I would admit that I am one of those West Indians who loves the party aspect of a cricket match.  I mean how could I not when a "fete match" was probably the only sport I took part in while growing up in sweet T&T.  For those who don't know, with a fete match the actually sport (cricket) is secondary and food, alcoholic beverages, and lime are the main elements.  Most times, it doesn't matter who wins because the celebration goes on from start to finish.  In fact, I believe that Trinbagonians carry this fete match mentality to every sport which is probably why we don't do as well in international sporting events.  But don't get me wrong, no one can enjoy themselves more at a sporting event like Trinis. True or False?

the actual cricket

For the first time, I visited the famous Sabina Park for the India vs West Indies match which was a part of the Tri-nation cricket series. Like a good Trini, I opted for the Appleton mound, which is the all-inclusive party stand equivalent to the Trini Posse stand at the Oval in Port of Spain. To my surprise, the Trinbagonian posse was out in their numbers. Despite an unforgiving heat that could be compared to a Carnival Tuesday, the atmosphere was filled with vibes from morning to afternoon which reached its peak with a win for the West Indies team.

the victory dance (feet are covered in beach sand btw)
It was soca, wining, Appleton rum, and hot sun.  Sounds familiar?  The line between fete and cricket was blurred in the mound.  I was elated that the DJs played some soca along with popular dancehall tunes. The Trinis were grateful and used every opportunity to wine to show their support for the Windies.  I couldn't tell if the rest of Sabina had such a great time, but boy was I glad I was in the mound.  Some argue that the party atmosphere was commercial and lacked true support for the game. But which of our cultural spaces aren't commercial and lack its traditional elements?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

And the Cows Woke Up...

Here I was thinking what to blog about and thanks to Bunji's video for Differentology, I am now freed of that block....

If you follow Bunji on the social media, you would know that there was a big hype over the filming and release of the video which was basically a huge disappointment. How can such an epic song end up with such a weak video? Now I am no expert in videography, but I am pretty sure that Bunji hired the wrong creative team for this project.

The Video in a Nutshell:
  • Bunji in a viking outfit
  • An orgy of a sort in the mud volcano
  • Bunji with an axe
  • Tribe costumes
  • A roman soldier on a horse
  • Flashback video of a Roman mas band
  • Bunji in a viking outfit
  • The sexy chick in the yellow costume
  • A spartacus type fight
  • More Tribe and Bliss costumes
  • A midnight robber
  • Bunji in a viking outfit
  • K2K Costumes (Screams!)
  • People in costumes and regular clothes dancing together with the K2K onlookers in the background
  • Bunji in a viking outfit
  • Back to the old video and so on
  • Nigel Rojas who missed an opportunity for the Matrix appears at certain points
I had hoped that it wouldn't be the regular tell 10 people to show up in their Carnival costumes type of video, but sadly it was. I think I know where Bunji wanted to go with this.  He wanted to capture the spiritual journey of Carnival which begins or opens with J'ouvert and mud which represents the dark side of human nature.  And by Monday and Tuesday, it reaches a climax with a washing away of the sins represented by the pretty costumes.  However, a concept and execution are 2 different things. This video was all over the place with no thread.  We know that Bunji is all into the Viking theme and obvioulsy a fan of the NatGeo series, but there was absloutely no place for it in the video (even though I did enjoy these half naked sweaty men all over each other).

The quality of the video was also a bit off.  As I said I am no videographer but maybe the experts can comment on the color correction, HD quality and scene transitioning.

If Bunji had hoped to capture the meeting of the traditional and modern aspects of the Trinidad Carnival, he should have called on people who are proficient in it.  I am thinking about Walt Lovelace who did 3 Canal's Mud Madness video, Damian Marcano or even Cowin Thorpe.  Personally, I would have kept the concept strictly to mud and J'ouvert, using clips to capture the mix of dutty, orgasmic, release, and cleansing that we associate with the opening of the Carnival. (Am I the only one who thought that Fay Ann would have emerged from the mud semi nude? damn that would have been hot).

I am not attacking Bunji but just the video.  I LUV Differentology; it is hands down one of my fave songs ever.  I even wrote about it here. If we want our music to match international standards, then its composition, production, performance, and presentation must be of the best quality...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What I Spent on Carnival in Jamaica!!!!

It's been a rough economic time for Jamaica and I really thought that Carnival would have felt the backlash.  But boy was I wrong.  Even with the increased costume and t-shirt prices, Bacchanal Jamaica did not suffer any major losses and fetes saw increased patronage yet people complained that "they had no money".  I admit that I was one of those who cursed the government/IMF for my frozen wages, but still went on to party hard.  However, I didn't play mas (believe it or not) and saved some money in that aspect, but at the end of the season, I felt that I had spent too much (which was further exacerbated when 2 persons are involved).

Last year at the end of the Ja Carnival season, I did a post on how much you could have spent if you went to all events.  This year I have decided to specifically look at how much I spent. (Let's work with an exchange rate of JA$99 = US$1):

Mas Camp with Bunji and Faye Ann
VIP ticket: JA$3000

Leh Go Fridays (2)
Food and Drinks: JA$2500

Mas Camp with Kes the Band
VIP Ticket: JA$3000
Food: JA$300

French Lyme
Drinks: JA$1000

Beach J'ouvert
General Ticket: JA$4500
Food: JA$450
Acccommodation: JA$9000
Parking: JA$500

Ticket: JA$1500
Food: JA$650

I Love Soca
Ticket: JA$1500
Drinks & Ice for Cooler: JA$1500
Food: JA$400

Sunrise Breakfast Party
Ticket: JA$4500

Outfits and Accessories


Total= JA$51,300

You may think this is a lot but I significantly reduced the number of events I would usually go to.  For instance, I only went to mas camp twice and I didn't go to any Frenchmen events which would have been another JA$10000 for Blocko and Bazodee. I also bought less outfits choosing to recycle those I wore for Trinidad Carnival.

The figure could also be more if I considered miscellaneous costs like the pan chicken, and the soup or hot dogs we would purchase after an event"to soak up de alcohol". Because we are in Jamaica, don't ignore the cost of gas especially when you have to pick up and drop off friends and then get to the event.

Most importantly I think I saved between JA$45000 and JA$50000 by not playing mas. How did I come up with such a huge figure? In addition to the cost of a Frenchmen costume, consider the upgrades, make up, tights, boots etc.

If you look at my breakdown, I'm sure that it's quite obvious that there are other ways that I can spend less like with the food and drinks, do general instead of vip or play mas in a cheaper section. I do agree that these would be more practical choices but this is how I do Carnival.  Yes, it sounds superficial to complain that I don't have much money and then do VIP at a fete on a general budget...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Love Soca and Sunrise Breakfast Party

I Love Soca
Wednesday 3 April, 2013
Hope Gardens, Kingston

I Love Soca has become a permanent fixture on the last week of carnival in Jamaica.  This year the organizers opted to do a cooler fete which is becoming more popular in the local fete scene.  With a full cooler, I got there around midnight which was a little late since it was supposed to end at 2am.

Like Dusk, DJ Riche Ras and Dei Musicale from T&T provided the music.  As I said in a previous post, this has definitely been Richie's year.  He's on point with his selections and does not play a standard 7 songs.  Richie is clearly in tune with how to play soca and is far ahead of those who are still stuck in the mas camp vibe. Dei Musicale is always consistent and brings that piece of Trini to the Jamaican fete scene that we Trinbagonians miss. I also like that they know what to play for a Jamaican audience.

Hope Gardens was an adequate venue for this size crowd. There was sufficient parking and and just enough space for the patrons. The fete consisted of the usual Kingston soca crowd. I think at this point I can identify almost everyone who attends these sessions.

Pic taken from Sleek's fb page

I had a great time with my friends and enjoyed the vibe so much that I didn't realize when 2am came upon us. At that point I regretted arriving so late because I needed like  another hour or so. But it was over and sadly I left.

Although I didn't see that many coolers as it seemed that persons opted for bags or to share coolers, the concept is clearly doing well in Jamaica....

Sunrise Breakfast Party
Saturday 6 April, 2013
Constant Spring Golf  Club

At 5:30am on Saturday, I was on my way to the Sunrise Breakfast fete at Constant Spring Golf Club. I did not attend this fete last year but had heard great reviews so like most people, I knew that the crew had to check it out this year....

I‘m glad I got there early enough to get parking at the tax office near the venue.  We got in quickly and immediately went for the food because at this point I was starving.  On our way to the stations we gladly stopped for photo opps with Double M and JW.  We were then quickly brought off the gladdist train when we saw the long line for the food stations. After an almost 25 minute wait, we were greeted with stewed chicken, potatoes, provisions, corned pork, bacon, vienna sausage and beans, festival, eggs, samosas, and doubles. Nothing about these dishes really stood out for me. There was also a bad dawg hot dog stand which was the easier option. The thing about a breakfast fete is that food is important. You have to remember that because of the early start, patrons would have usually left home without a meal so after a while, we tend to be starving...

Unlike the food station, it was very easy to get drinks from the bar and they kept flowing.  To my dismay there was no Johnnie Walker but Dewars (blasphemy!), so I had to settle for Grey Goose and some shots of Cafe Patron...damn what a morning it was...

The Constant Spring Golf Club was an ideal choice for the venue.  I liked the outdoor atmosphere and the layout. Although it is a huge space, the promoters narrowed it down to accommodate the medium sized crowd...

Another pic taken from Sleek's fb page

For Ja$4500, we were treated to performances from Blaxx, JW and Machel. I love Blaxx's songs but he is not the best performer especially without his band.  I couldn't believe he did the exact thing word for word that he did at all the fetes I saw him at earlier this year.  Oh gosh man Blaxx, change it up a little bit nah...

Sunrise lived up to all the hype that was made about it.  It had all the elements of a good breakfast fete although the food aspect wasn't that impressive.  Kudos must be given to the patrons, especially those who came straight from J'ouvert with their paint and powder. It was evident that everyone had a great time.  Who would have imagined that somewhere in uptown Kingston, mid morning on a Saturday, there would be a group of people, drinking, wining, and just feteing away...

For more pics check out Sleek

Monday, April 8, 2013

Easter Weekend Jamaica style

Beach J'ouvert
Saturday March 30, 2013
James Bond Beach, St Mary

This was officially my 10th Beach J'ouvert and I really thought it would be epic; instead, I was left disappointed and sober. It could be that I had already made up my mind that any show with Shur-lame Winchester as the headline act for Ja$4500 would be a yawn fest and a rip off. I knew that Shurwayne would have been bad but I didn't know he would have been that horrible. His performance was lackluster and messy. And to make it worse, who was that guy in the yellow jeggings walking up and down the stage with an ipad? In addition to sunshine pants, the dancers were weak, and the band was out of of synch a lot of the times.  Shurwayne needs to get a stage director or choreographer along with a musical director to tighten up his act. Don't get me wrong; Shurwayne has one of the best voices in soca especially for groovy, but he was a much better performer when he was with Traffik. You may have noticed that since he left Traffik in 2008, his popularity has declined even with good songs. In some cases, it may be better for an artiste to stay with an established and experienced band than venture on their own. I mean not everyone can be a Machel or Kees....

But what baffles me even more is why would Bacchanal Jamaica hire Shurwayne as their headline act? Clearly the organizers are out of touch with what's happening in the soca  world because Shurwayne and You would be close to the bottom of the soca band hierarchy. The most obvious reason to me is that his price was right. I also heard that they wanted Machel but he had not been sentenced yet so they weren't sure if he would have been available, so in addition to Shurwayne, they took the HD what left-Patrice and Nappy...

I'm not sure what arrangement Bacchanal Jamaica had with James Bond beach but parking spaces were limited. Unlike last year, parking was not accommodated on the open field. Rather, it was on the entrance road and on the main road which were insufficient.  The police officers then instructed us to park at the police station and take the shuttle to the venue. This would have been great if we knew where this police station was.  Eventually we had to squeeze into a small lot where everyone had to block each other for the going rate of ja$500.

Once we got inside, I wanted to start my drinking. For the whopping ja$4500 entrance cost, the drinks were generic and below the shelf.  The best option at that point was Smirnoff, if you drank that.  I'm not sure what was served in the VIP, but I suspect it wasn't much better. And while we are on VIP, what a waste of money. There was no need for a VIP at Beach J'ouvert, but I guess Bacchanal just needed to squeeze out every dollar they can from patrons.

I'm just going to say that Bambino can't play soca to save his life. He claimed that he went to Trinidad Carnival, but did he go to a fete, bar or listen to the radio, walk down the street or something? Bambino is the worse soca dj in Jamaica. He speaks too much and his soca playlist consists of 7 songs. Dj Smoke played a little better, but overall the dj music lacked variety and was poorly mixed.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you would know that I usually have nothing but praises for Beach J'ouvert which was one of my fave events not just in Jamaica, but generally. I've fallen out of love with this fete which has gotten more expensive and weak in quality. Unless Machel is at the next Beach J'ouvert,  I am almost sure that I won't be there next year...

Monday April 1,2013
Beverly Hills, Kingston
JA$1500+ a bottle

I came back to Kingston on Easter Monday and almost did not attend Dusk.  But I had liked the idea of a poolside bottle party and wanted to check it out.  Dusk is a new fete for the Jamaican Carnival season and will definitely be on my list next year.
It was cool that we could have walked with our own expensive liquor and not give it to the bar.  The only complaint here was that it was difficult to get sufficient ice and chasers when you held on to your own alcohol.  But eventually we convinced the bartender that his night would have been much easier if he just gave us give us bottles of ginger ale and cranberry juice instead of those tiny cups.

The other attraction to the fete was the the doubles. Now if you know a real Trinbagonian, you are aware that doubles are our sustenance, and if you are a Trinbagonian in Jamaica, doubles is like gold. So with my yellow belly in hand, the first thing I did was seek out my curried gold. It was so funny that the first Trini I saw pointed me in the direction of the doubles. I was surprised that this wasn't the Mrs Khan doubles, but one made by a Jamaican. I must give her props for presentation and trying to keep it legit by offering pepper, cucumber chutney, and shadow/chandon beni sauce. But sadly, it ended there. Even Trinis know that making doubles is no easy task, so i rate this chick for effort but hands down it was the worse attempt at doubles i have ever tasted. I mean a doubles is really bad when the pepper cannot even mask the taste. Even though she got the texture right, the barra was bland.  One of the biggest mistakes people make with doubles channa (chick peas) is that they curry it the same way they would do it for roti; no, it is not the same and it‘s worse when you use the wrong curry. Any way, let me stop because this post is about the fete and not the doubles...

The best part of Dusk for me was the music which was provided by Dei Musicale from T&T and Richie Ras from Jamaica. The playlist was current and extensive. Trust me, this was no Mas Camp vibe and i don't even remember if Palance was played.  The congo line around the pool was also a major highlight and showed how nice the vibe was.

Pic stolenfrom Trini Jungle Juice
The Dusk promoters are definitely on to something here. The bottle party concept, intimacy, good music and a fuss free event made this one of my favorite fetes of the Jamaica carnival season. It was also a great way to end the weekend and help me forget about that mess that was Beach J'ouvert....

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bunji and Fay Ann in Jamaica 2013

Although I wasn't too keen on Bacchanal Jamaica's events this year, I had to go to see Bunji and Fay Ann.  This was my first time at the new mas camp venue which I really appreciated, especially the parking, so there was no hassle to park on the streets.  On another note, I wonder what happened to the guys who made money off of parking near the old mas camp?

I always opt for VIP if I'm going to a performance night.  The area was big enough with an adequate view of the stage. VIP included drinks and food.  I got enough drinks, but I had to wait too long because the bar service was way too slow. I also didn't get any food which didn't seem like enough in the first place. 

Bunji and Fay Ann's performance was on point as expected.  I really like that the Jamaican audience is in love with Bunji's Differentology.  Fay Ann also got love from the audience.  Her voice was powerful as ever without much help from backing tracks. It seems now that it's hard to get artistes who cannot sing on their own.  Bunji delivered his major tunes and did a little freestyle.  After almost 2 hours of non stop performing, the crowd was not ready for the show to end.  And the funny thing is that they still had songs they hadn't even performed yet. 

After the performance, I limed for about another hour while DJ Richie Ras played. Richie is up to date with his play list and his mixing skills are impressive.  Finally, a Jamaican DJ that gets it!

This was a great show and I really enjoyed it especially with my Trinbagonian posse.  I just hope that Bacchanal can do more about the food and drink in VIP.

**pic is from the Sleek fb page.  Check them out for more pics

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jamaica Carnival 2013 Schedule

Well Trinidad Carnival is officially over *tears*, so it's all about Jamaica.  The good thing about Carnival in Jamaica is that it takes up right where Trinidad left off and cures some of the Carnival tabanca.  It is useless to compare Carnival in Jamaica to Carnival in Trinidad simply but there is a vibe in the Jamaica Carnival that makes it enjoyable for Trinbagonians who live here.  For Jamaicans, a series of socio- cultural and class conflicts play itself out in the Carnival which cannot be ignored but I'll save that discussion for another day.

But the gap that Carnival here fills is noteable.  What I've noticed over the last few years is the emergence of events that are not hosted by Bacchanal Jamaica.  I've said it too many times- Bacchanal Jamaica needs to move with the times....too much of the same old.  In the costume department, I am very disappointed with the prices and the "holding" of costumes for friends and family. The day when another organization can gain top corporate sponsors and contemporary costumes, will be the last day of Bacchanal Jamaica's dominance of the street parade.

Anyway, back to the major events for the this season which will be updated as the information comes in:

Bacchanal Jamaica Mas Camp Fridays
Venue: Stadium North
Cost: General- JA$1500 (presold) and JA$2000 (at the gate)- with performances
          VIP- JA$3000 (presold) and JA$3500 (at the gate)
          General- JA$1200 (presold) and JA$1500 (at the gate)- No performances
          VIP-JA$2500 (presold) and JA$3000 (at the gate)

Island Mas Soca Village
February 23, March 2
Venue: Village Blues bar
Cost: JA$1200

Soca in the City
February 9 and every Saturday throughout the season
Venue: Pulse Compound, 38A Trafalgar Rd
Cost: No cover

DJ Smoke and Jojo's Carnival Central Lyme Sundays
Every Sunday from March 3 to March 24
Venue: Jojo's Jerk Pit on Waterloo Rd
Cost: JA$500

Bellamy's Leh Go Fridays
Every Friday starting March 8
Venue: Manhattan Bar
Cost: No cover

Soca Vs Dancehall
March 9
Venue: Devon House
Cost: JA$1900 (early bird) and JA$2500

Passion: The Real Soca Experience
March 9
Venue: Village Blues Bar
Cost: JA$800; Ladies are free before midnight

French Lyme
March 13 and every Wednesday during the carnival season
Venue: The White House- 7 Seymour Ave
Cost: JA$500

UWI Mona Carnival
March 16
Venue: Ring road, Mona campus
Cost: Varies according to band

Enamel Cooler Fete and Powdah
March 17
Venue: Mona Hockey Complex
Cost: JA$1000

Sundown Cooler fete
March 23
Venue Hope Gardens
Cost: JA$2000

Appleton Fantastic Friday
March 29
Venue: Ocho Rios
Cost: JA$1500 (women) JA$2000 (men)

Beach Jouvert
March 30
Venue: James Bond Beach
Cost: JA$4500 (presold) JA$5000 (at the gate)

April 1
Venue: Shenstone Drive, Beverly Hills
Cost: JA$1500+ bottle (presold only)

I Love Soca
April 3
Venue: Hope Botanical Gardens
Cost: JA$1500 (presold)

Frenchmen Blocko
April 4
Venue: Jacks Hill

April 5
Venue: Golf Academy
Cost: JA$4000

Bacchanal Jamaica Jouvert
April 5
Venue: Stadium North
Cost: JA$1700 (early bird special) JA$2000 (general )

SunRise Breakfast Party
April 6
Venue: Constant Spring Golf Club
Cost: JA$4500

Frenchmen Bazodee
April 6
Venue: Cherry Gardens
Cost TBA

Road March
April 7

Tailwind Frolic Wrap up Fete
April 13
Venue: TBA
Cost: JA$2500 (presold) JA$3000 (at the gate)

I will keep updating the information as quickly as I can, so keep checking.  I will also try to review each event I attend.  What are your top picks for the 2013 season?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 Mas Essentials

Every year I assess my mas essentials to determine which items worked best.  Since this year I decided to simplify my preparations and just focus on the basics, it was a simple task.

For a band like K2K, makeup is extremely important even on Monday.  I stuck to who I was comfortable with and made my appointments with Makeda from Shades of Sugar.  I was very happy with her results on both days and it held up well..  This year, I also used the No Sweat but along with the milk of magnesia and Smashbox's anti shine.  I assumed that my pores just simply closed up because there was no shine at all...

Although I decided to cut back my spending overall, I wanted to purchase a pair of really comfortable boots.  Consequently, I purchased a Clarks boots for about US$100 on Amazon and they were worth it.  I usually wear a size 7 but I got a 7.5. To my relief, it fit really well even with the insoles and toe protectors.  Throughout the day I felt no discomfort and when I got home, although my toes were a little swollen, I had no serious foot pain.  The pain free day could also be atrributed to a short time actually moving on the road and a lot more time just standing and waiting near the savannah. On Monday, I opted to wear a Clarks sandals that didn't give me the toe constriction and were extremely comfortable for the road and made it easier for Tuesday.  I didn't decorate these boots simply because I love them too much and I want to wear them again...

Okay, just ignore the other stuff and focus on the boots :)

I wanted to try something different this year and go with fishnet stockings...well that was me and everybody else.  I got a pair at Micles for TT$99.  They fit well and I liked that they were thick and therefore didn't rip easily.  The thing about K2K costumes is that you don't have to worry about any beads snagging your stockings so I can wear these again...

I know that nails are not a priority but with K2K, these details matter and it's just nice to have pretty nails.  Thanks to Solange from Sole Nails, I did a mix of gel polish and minx which held up for 2 weeks.  You should definitely check her out...

"preppy" Minx and black gel polish

Reuse and Recycle
I used a cross body bag that I already owned which matched fine and held all of my necessities.  The same went for my earrings.  I wear my hair in a ponytail everyday, so I just stuck to that; no fuss...which was the order of Carnival 2013...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Carnival Tuesday with K2K

As I said in the previous post, K2K definitely delivered for 2013. Their presentation, The Human Race was well executed, and there was a clear improvement in their management.  It was a brillant idea for them to begin on the Avenue, move to downtown, then to Picadilly greens (yes, we went to the Greens), and end at the QPS. Although our wait at the savannah was almost 3 hours, it was not as bad as some of the big bands. The blame here should solely rest on the NCC and NCBA.  Band congestion is a longstanding problem which has been getting worse. There's an entire year to plan for Carnival and you would swear they only began the week before. Lots of money was spent on retreats, consultants, breakfast meetings, staff, big salaries, consultations with stakeholders, and engineers and NOBODY came up with a solution? It is clear that all bands cannot cross the QPS stage on both days- let's start there....My solution is simply to let some bands cross on Monday and some on Tuesday...

Another issue on Tuesday was the internal overlapping of K2K's music which was extremely annoying.  Again, we only needed 1 music truck for a couple hundred people. Overall, I give big kudos to the Normans (and Peter) for going at it another year and ignoring naysayers like myself.  If you were looking for a band to get on bad and party the whole day, K2K was not that band, but if you were serious about parading a fabulous costume, yes, K2K is that band.  I had a great time and I loved that only one other masquerader and I wore the same costume.  What about next year? I hope so because I know it's going to keep getting better. I am especially considering doing a bigger costume in 2014 or the following year; it's about time right...

Since this goody bag is so important, I'm going to begin there.  I know I've been sounding "older" these days but I don't get what's the big deal with the goody bag. Poison never gave me any goody bag and all Legends ever gave me was the costume. Seriously, how many of these goodies do you actually use? Anyways, the goody bag was nice- cher mere samples, degree deodorant, sacha gift voucher, k2k mug, messenger bag, 2 local magazines, and a mini picnic set .  Good heavens! there was no soldanza plantain chips or digicel rags...dammit I want a refund. Oh and just for clarification- no one actually brought the picnic set on the road....

The costume for Skeptic was really nice but I thought it would have stood out more. Looking back at my pics, I looked a little like I was wearing a pink big bird outfit. In retrospect, I should have chosen something more slimming.  Yet, it held up really well even though some persons complained that the corset's zipper broke.  Luckily there was the option to lace it up. Unlike the Monday blazer, I was not hot in the the Tuesday costume.  Earlier that morning, I found the top hat and shoulder piece to be uncomfortable so I ditched them.  To my dismay, I was probably the only person in the section without these pieces, but bless the masqueraders who figured out how to attach that shoulder piece.  The one thing about K2K maqueraders is that they are very serious about their costumes.   Honestly, K2k's strength will always be their costume design and quality.  And yes, we were one of those bands wearing burkas on the stage. I want a refund for so much cloth....

Another improvement this year was the security. The band was pretty small so keeping masqueraders within the ropes was not too challenging.  But what I'm most uspset about is the lack of personal bodyguards.  I mean I paid over tt$5000 and no personal security?  I want a refund...

Like Monday, the drinks were not an issue.  The hubby who drank Hennessy was pleased that he was able to get it throughout the day.  This is in no way directed to any specific band, but the coconut water was flowing like it came from the skies...The disappointment was in the lack of an actual coconut vendor chopping nuts and scooping jelly...Please address this K2K...

We got the same chinese lunch on Tuesday from Wok and Roll and Church's chicken in the later afternoon.  However, we should be upset over the lack of snacks.  Every blasted band got soldanza plantain chips, and we got nada.  How can we play mas with only breakfast, lunch and a second lunch?  You are lucky some of us didn't pass out from starvation.  You need to do better. In fact next year we need a truck solely dedicated to snacks...

K2K chose not to have a rest stop. I mean how dare they torture us by having us on the road playing mas for the entire day with only a rest bus and a mobile spa.  How dare they didn't provide blankets for us to lounge.  Where were the makeup stations K2k? Shame on you. And why did our foot and shoulder massages in the mobile spa only last for 15 minutes? No facials? No body scrubs? We need answers or a refund...

The cher mere mobile spa

Okay, I guess by now you can sense my sarcasm.  I admit I was one of those masqueraders who obsessed over every little mas detail (just read my earlier posts), but is that what playing mas is really about? I don't get this paying for "an experience".  Besides an artistic costume, drinks, music, and good road management, what else do we want?  I think some masqueraders are getting carried away and missing the spirit of Carnival- what about that complete feeling of abandonment for those 2 days? The feeling that nothing else matters- just dancing, wining, and chipping to one of the best music in the world; there's no concern about work, school, bills, family issues or any other personal problems...Mas is also a performance- an embodiment of a character on the streets which becomes our stage while making powerful statements.  The legendary Peter Minshall put it best when he said that it's not about the literal costumes but creating ways to express human energy...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Carnival Monday with K2K

Carnival Monday 2013 will be one of my most memorable as it has been a while since I was so satisfied with a Monday experience.

I know that I swore up and down that I would never play with K2K ever again, but guess what, I changed my mind and I'm glad that I did. I was so wrong about K2K and I'm proud to admit it. The important lesson for me was learning that I stress too much and what a stress free carnival Monday it was.

Anywho, after getting my makeup done quite early by Makeda from Shades of Sugar, I was ready to meet the band on Ariapita Ave.  I was glad that K2K chose to start here and end at the QPS.  It just made sense because we never got caught up in band traffic.

Kudos to K2K for bringing mas back to Monday.  I really don't like this trend of individual Monday wear with masqueraders in the same band wearing their own outfit.  It just seems like an ole mas band because there's no consistency.  And even better, K2K didn't give us a tshirt or hot shorts, but a well tailored blazer to be worn with our own black shorts, bikini bottom or leggings.

You know when you were with serious masqueraders when most persons refused to take off the blazer even when we felt like we were baking.  At some points especially on Ariapita Ave, it could have well been a winter coat that I was wearing, but for the greater look of the band I ignored the river of sweat on my back and chest.

It was also a really smart idea to eat along the route without an official rest stop which ensured that the band kept moving.  Some persons found this to be strange and harsh, but I would remind them that rest stops are a relatively new phenomenon.  Back in the day (and yes I am old enough to use terms like "back in day"), we ate and rested while waiting.  I really don't mind this since the band doesn't lose much parade time and sometimes the long rest makes you more tired.

Our lunch was a large Chinese chicken or fish meal from Wok and Roll.  There was also pizza from Pizza boys.  Both options were good.  For me, the drinks weren't a problem as I only drank water and lucozade.

There was a huge improvement with security which I have to applaud.  There was even an extraction team.  As far as I know, there weren't any incidents.

My major complaints about K2K on Monday were firstly, the upkeep of the restrooms which weren't very clean and lacked toilet paper.  This was especially important in a band made up of mostly women.  I also felt that there should have been handsoap, which is not really a big deal to provide. My second complaint was the music.  I didn't like that the DJs played very few songs. In addition, at times when the trucks were too close, there was an overlap of the sounds which was just a mess.  For a small band we only needed one DJ truck.

Overall, the positives far outweighed the negatives.  I had a great time on Monday, and I maintain that for me, a small band provides a better experience especially when the band is serious about their costumes.  Again, I'm glad that I was so wrong about K2K.....

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Soca and the Spiritual

I really have been wanting to comment on the Machel-Blue tie for the Soca Monarch but I feel that enough has been said and the real winner will always be and always have been William Monro.  Talk done.

I must admit that it was a while before  Machel's Float  grew on me but I'm upset that it took me so long to get on board.  At the time I was caught up with Superblue's Fantastic Friday which seemed early in the game a clear winner, but I really love both songs. It was only on further examination I came to the conclusion that like many other tunes, they connect us spiritually.  I've said this before about Bunji's Differentology, but these songs focus more on physical and emotional movement.

Spirituality is often linked to the "the sacred" meaning that it is "set apart from the ordinary".  In this sense, these songs "take us closer to a larger reality" or connect us with a "divine realm".  But this is not new.  Superblue has been bringing this experience to his songs since Get Something and Wave in 1991 which called for us to lift our hands to the skies.  For many, the heavens, spirits and ancestors are all located above us and exist outside of our reality. The wave that Blue, a spiritual Baptist and self proclaimed high priest of soca, demanded, encouraged us to reach to this divine place.  It didn't end there as the jump that accompanied the wave became an essential movement that took us off the earth and temporarily into the air.  The dance movements for the Shadow, the Iwer, Ronnie McIntosh's Ent, footsteps, jumbie and palance took the individual into the air, closer to the skies.  This movement is also common among the African Masai warrior tribe which is known for their jumping dance and shows the "strength and stamina" of the males from the village. Similarly, the constant jumping that we so expertly demonstrate at fetes, night after night does require exceptional endurance.

In Machel's Float, he speaks about levitating, hovering, drinking helium- all actions to come off the ground, to connect with the sacred above. This sentiment was also present in Higher than High and Jumbie.   For a true fan of soca, it's more than just simply liking a song, but attaining an emotional connection that takes away from the customary. The job of the artiste is then to take the listener to this level.  Like Super Blue says: for every soca that was written to inform, educate, entertain and feel .  When you can really feel a soca tune, it is no longer tangible, it is no longer ordinary, it's a sacred form....

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Guess What? De Bouncin start!

I know that some of you didn't believe that I was actually not going to play mas this year.  I was actually believing this myself until New Years after the harsh reality hit me.  How was I going to actually miss this? And no, I wasn't waiting on my friends to beg me to play or to gain the sympathy vote which seems to be the norm these days. So after much reflection, I decided on a new approach:

1. I am not stressing over getting into the perfect band.  I'm going with my fave costume, Skeptical in K2K (featured in the pic) and expecting nothing more than a gorgeous costume.

2. I am trying new low cost fetes and keeping one must go expensive fete on my list. The point is that I don't have to go everywhere.

3. I am cutting down on all unnecessary fluff such as matching costume bag, monday wear, hairstyles and any other supposed "carnival necessity".  I am definitely reusing things I already have.

4. I am going to keep the focus on my must haves- fab makeup on both days and comfortable footwear.

4. I am keeping in mind that Carnival is also about having fun with my with my friends, family an hubby and not to get carried away on the superficial stuff.

 I know I said that I wasn't going to torture myself and play with K2K again after being disappointed last year, but I love the costume and just want to embody it on the 2 days.  After all this reflecting, my most important conclusion was that even though I planned everything late this year, the Carnival gods didn't set wrath upon me...

What about you? Have you made any changes this year???

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Di Bouncin Start? Fave 2013 Soca Tunes so Far...

Some people mentioned to me that they felt that the soca offerings for 2013 were lacklustre. But I think that it is more a problem of quantity over quality. It seems that every time, I listen to the radio, I am introduced to a new song, but not all are good. I wish the radio Djs would stop mamaguying the artistes and stop playing some of these crap tunes. Even one local newspaper estimated that 400 songs have been released so far. Based on what I've heard, these are my faves:

1. Differentology- Bunji Garlin
If you read my previous post, you would understand why I absolutely love this song. Its lyrics and music are unlike anything I've heard in a long time. If it were up to me, this would be hands down my Road March pick.

2. Manager- Nadia Batson
No, I don't love this one because I have a controlling man and would secretly like to end the contract...I like it because it reminds me that female artistes can use the music to empower other women similar to what Denyse Plummer and Singing Sandra had done.

3. No Getaway- Blaxx
I know that we are afraid to love this since we don't want to be disappointed by his Soca Monarch performance which will be just as bad as we predict it to be. The tune itself is a tribute to all the sexy women of Carnival.  Blaxx's voice does not disappoint on the track while proving why he's a veteran in this business.

4. We doing this owah- Fay-Ann Lyons
This song didn't need to grow on me. It was an instant hit like many of her songs. I do however, prefer this one over De Stage Open, which she will be performing at the Power Soca Monarch.

5. Indian Gyal- Drupatee and Machel Montano
Yes, Drupatee still has the power to cross over with her authentic chutney soca sound... I really do want to hear this song performed live and hope she can place higher in the chutney soca monarch.

6. The Fog- Machel Montano
What i get the most about Fog is that it just sets the tone for the J'ouvert vibes. For me, it's not a strong Soca Monarch or even a Road March contender. In fact I haven't yet heard a Machel tune that can be clearly labelled a winning tune.

7. Wining Queen- Denise Belfon
Can we just say that the original wining queen is back with her own personal anthem...This is the official bruk out tune of Carnival 2013 especially when she gets to her signature song breaks, "eh eh eh eh..."

8. Wine back- K. Rich
K. Rich released this one by Precision  Productions early and it easily became one of my favourite groovy songs. The line "the way how yuh wine yuh waist is a real force of nature so every time you wine on me I does thank the creator" just gets me any time i hear it...

9. 25/8- Lyrikal
"All we need is one extra hour and one extra day..."...well wouldn't that be a perfect world for Carnival lovers...

10. Prescription- Ravi B
I really really didn't want to like this since I'm not a fan of the rum songs, but Ravi this is what a rum song is supposed to sound like, and not something made up by some stale drunk uncles in a rum shop on  a Tuesday night.

Songs I just don't like:
1. Friends with Benefits- Ravi b feat Konshens
Chutney Soca and dancehall are not a match made in heaven or anywhere...

2. No Lokani- Prophet Benjamin

3. Unfinished Business- Iwer George
Spell check anyone?

4. Any song about a partier or feter

5. Any song by All Rounder

I know that some of you would like Superblue's Fantastic Friday to be on this list, but I don't love this song yet. I can see him mashing up Soca Monarch with just the line, "De bouncin start" and the crowd going crazy over "water and powder", yet I just like it...Probably by Soca Monarch finals ( if he qualifies), I will change my mind...