Junkanoo Is My Carnival
Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, year one, was amazing. I had the time of my life. The music was fire, I enjoyed some amazing food, and I was living for Road Fever.
The event may have had a rocky start, and there were some very valid concerns expressed by the Bahamian people, but I can appreciate what is being built.
Logistical concerns aside, many Bahamians took exception to the word “Carnival” because it felt foreign to us. And, it didn’t help that there was some confusion, early on, that Carnival would replace our beloved Junkanoo. This was not, and is not, the case. Junkanoo is the ultimate Bahamian cultural expression, and it is here to stay. It is the soundtrack to every New Years and Boxing Day morning. The sweet kalik of the cowbells, and pound of that goatskin drum deep in your belly, is a feeling that can never be replaced. You only need to step inside any Junkanoo shack at the end of the year to witness the extreme level of passion and commitment that Bahamians have for Junkanoo, to understand.
Junkanooers don’t spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on their costumes because they like Junkanoo…..they do it because they LOVE Junkanoo. And, no one can change that.
Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is different, and comparing the two would be akin to comparing a lion to a tiger – they may be related, but they are not the same.
BJC pays homage to all facets of Bahamian entertainment, while showcasing the entertainment of our neighbors in the Caribbean. Last year, Music Masters headliner, Machal Montano, sang his praises, literally, for rake and scrape, and many of us became aware of how popular musicians like D-Mac are, outside of our Bahamaland.
Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival also spurred something amazing – a surge in Bahamian musicians churning out new music. For the first time, in a long time, it was exciting to turn on the radio and hear something new and fresh, yet still uniquely Bahamian. I love rake and scrape, and it was refreshing to hear the unique and distinctive sound of the ripsaw and scraper mixed in with new elements.
I enjoyed the meshing of cultures, and I was absolutely giddy with joy to see legends like Ronnie Butler, on the same stage as Machal Montano. Visage with Kerwin DuBois. D-Mac with Destra. Julien Believe with Bunji Garlin. And, Music Masters churned out a new crop of Bahamian classics and made some of our lesser know Bahamian artists into household names. The moment I heard my nephews singing Lady E’s Islands in the Sun, I knew something special was happening.
This year, the Bahamian fusion is more evident than ever. Last year’s Road Fever was a bit of an experiment, and many, like myself, weren’t certain what the event would look like, or if people would show up. But, they did, and I think we all had the time of our lives. This year, the costumes are even more Bahamian centric, with straw work and Androsian print taking center stage.
Junkanoo is Junkanoo, and that is ‘we tings.’ Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is more of a big welcoming melting pot, where the Bahamas is host. Our culture is front and center, but we can appreciate the talents of our neighbors.