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Monday, March 30, 2015

Jamaica Carnival 2015: Where All Dem Fetes Come from Daadddyyy???

Jamaica Carnival fete list for the next 2 weeks:

Jamaica Carnival really begins this week with more events to choose from and to budget for...but I can say that it is finally a Carnival season here in the land of reggae and dancehall.  For many of us, it is a welcomed change to the years of just Mas Camp Fridays, Beach Jouvert, and Bacchanal Jouvert.  I am happy to see that so many promoters are introducing new concepts and challenging the old school Bacchanal Jamaica model.  Yet, this comes with a hefty price tag.

Have some of these promoters lost their minds??? I know that Jamaica Carnival belongs to the middle and upper income groups and there is this unbelievable need to keep certain groups out (don't debate me on this), but jeezus, ease up on the ticket prices!!! These promoters will keep trying to exclude people until they are successful in keeping everyone out making it truly exclusive with not one patron in attendance (if only).

And promoters, please don't try to justify these prices with the "but it's cheaper than fetes in Trinidad" nonsense. Trinidad and Tobago has a stronger economy and stable foreign exchange.  In essence, the Trinbagonian middle income group has more to spend. I'm not saying that fetes shouldn't make a profit but damn, how can you double the price in the space of one year? But I guess this works because people are still going, especially the kind who needs to make an appearance for the various Facebook pages and has little or no interest in Carnival.  Let's call them the feters en blanc....

All is not lost, there are some affordable options that are still trying to keep us regular folk in.  For instance, the weekly fetes such as Tabanca Tuesdays, French Lyme, and Karnival Countdown are great for their no or low cost.  They don't go too late and you can get to work on time the following day.  You also get to enjoy the same DJs as the bigger more expensive fetes.

My personal favorite is the I Love Soca cooler fete which I have been to every year since its inception.  It has managed to keep the price low with good DJs and guest performers.  But then again, why should I pay any more to bring my own drinks, cups, ice etc ?

Another best bet for your money is Dusk that is drinks inclusive for $3500 (approx. JMD$116=US$1).  But my top pick has to be Glow, another drinks inclusive, but only for $1500! And the best part is that ladies dressed in white get in at a 2 for 1 price before 11pm.  At this price I am questioning why would a cooler fete charge $3000 *side eyes Sundown*...

In terms of the all inclusives, I can't believe that Frenchmen is actually the best choice.  Yes, they have increased their price but they have not reached the $9000 that one fete is asking (I see you Marbana).

For breakfast fetes, there is Frenchmen Rise Up for $6500, Canboulay for $5000, Sunrise for $8000 or $9000...and Vale Breakfast for $3500 ( no drinks)...you decide....

Now for the Jouvert fetes....I am confused that Cocoa Jouvert was $4500 (same price as last year), but Ambush is $8000 ($7000 if you got the early bird).  Although Bacchanal's Jouvert is the cheapest at $2000 with performances by Destra and Kerwin Du Bois, I am still not a fan of their events....

Who am I to complain?...this is just the ranting of someone trying to stay afloat in a struggling Jamaican economic situation but still trying to enjoy its best time of the year....while I can.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why Trinis Should Do Jamaica Carnival

Now that Trinidad Carnival is over and the tabanca has fully set in, don't fear my Trini friends, you can always do Jamaica Carnival.

The Jamaica Carnival season is in it's early stages now, but things really pick up around Easter weekend with the Road March being held on April 12.

BUT... I am warning you to not compare Jamaica Carnival to Trinidad's because it's no where on the same scale.  Jamaica Carnival is a very small event (that is growing) and not a national festival.  The road march and costumes are managed by Bacchanal Jamaica, a private entity, and the fetes and J'ouvert are put on by Bacchanal and other promoters.  Even so, it is worth the experience.

Photo credit: Eloquence.com
1.  It is cheap(er).
Because of the exchange rate (about J$116 to US$1), Trinis can get more for their money in Jamaica  as it relates to fetes and costumes.  And since Trinis are feteing like oil is US$200 a barrel, then why not?  For instance, a cooler fete can range from US$20-25 and an all inclusive can start from US$70. In addition, you can get a BL costume from US$300 and a FL from US$400. However, keep in mind that the airfare from Trinidad on CAL is pricey with a cost of about US$500-600. If you don't mind a longer route, Copa airlines are sometimes cheaper than CAL (but through Panama).

2. You may not have to pay for accommodation.
Everyone knows a Trini in Jamaica.  I mean there are literally hundreds of Trinis living here.  You must know one who would be willing to put you up for at least a week (not me of course). But please, if you do go this route, offer to pay for groceries or contribute to the light bill because those aren't cheap. If you can't find someone to put you up (Jamaican or Trini), hotel rooms in Kingston can range from US$140-250 per night. You can check out Knutsford Court Hotel, Jamaica Pegasus, Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, and Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston.

If you plan to get here for the Easter weekend fetes, keep in mind that these do not take place in Kingston and you may have to get accommodation in either Ocho Rios or Portland where basic rooms can cost about US$60-100.

3. You can recycle your costume from Trinidad Carnival.
There is one band for Jamaica Carnival (yes, it's that small) and the costumes are okay and reasonably priced.  But if you want more, you can wear your own costume and simply pay for the t-shirt option (US$240) to get the armband. The prices are all-inclusive and come with drinks, meals, and snacks.  There is also a cool down area and restroom facilities.

Photo credit: Dwayne Watkins

4. The J'ouvert is awesome.
During the season there is Cocoa J'ouvert (March 7) and Beach J'ouvert (on Easter weekend), but on the Friday before the Road March, there are about 3 major J'ouvert events.  The 2 major events are Caesar's Army AM Bush and Bacchanal Jamaica's J'ouvert with my pick being Caesar's Army. Last year, AM Bush only catered to 300 patrons, but I'm sure it will be bigger this year.

Caesar's Army Ambush 2014 Photo Credit: Jamaica Gleaner
5. Machel will be here.
I'm not sure when and where, but Machel will be here; he's always here.  He usually does the Pandemonium fete on the Thursday before Carnival, so he might be here for that. And it's not just Machel, but a lot of local soca artistes and DJs are booked for the season.

Photo credit: Skkan
But even more importantly, Trinis should do Jamaica Carnival simply because nobody loves a Carnival more than a Trini.  Trinis be like: "aye, I hear it have ah Carnival in Space"..."Eh heh? When is dat?"