We can hardly wait. After a two-year hiatus, we will be able to exhale in a big way for Carnival 2022. We can feel the vibe. There is a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. This year promises to be grand, as the years past, with few exceptions, have always been.
As far back as the early 1980’s, King Short Shirt, Sir McLean Emanuel, called our annual orgy of mas’ and music, “De Caribbean’s most colorful summer festival.” Even earlier than that, the late, great Calypso Joe sang an encomium to our Carnival in his classic, ANTIGUA ON FIRE: “Well, last Canaval was a gala fete / Is one ting in meh life I will never forget / Man de steel band sweet, sweet, sweet, thousands jumpin to de beat / A Yankee woman hold on to me / And she bawl out, leh we play mas’, Joey / [Chorus]We go move all day in de heat / Man, we go groove peacefully to de steelband beat / Eighty thousand people like a mighty choir / Carnival time, good lawd, Antigua on fire / [Fourth verse]From Sunday evening man, we go start it rough / And we go fete right through, and that ain’t no bluff / Man, we go hold on to any creature, could be de Governor daughter / No mind de colour or class, dis is Canaval and we playin’ mas’.” Indeed!
Of course, Calypso Joe set the tone early for us here in Antigua and Barbuda when he burst on the scene in 1969 with the aforementioned ANTIGUA ON FIRE and WE SHALL OVERCOME. He was a sensation in that year, and he went on the following year (1970) to snag the road march title with BUM BUM – a song that is still compelling and sweet, to this day. In it, he declares, “Ella leggo meh hand / Lemme jump in de band / Don’t tell me is a band so sweet, jammin up Market Street / Yuh know she hold on to me, had meh wriggling up like a coon / Dis time she started movin’ well to dis popular tune / Ah tink ah hear a bum bum / Lemme go lemme bum bum / All around is bum bum / Now fire in meh bum bum / Now ah wheel meh hand roun’ she waist, and ah wipe de sweat from she face / She doin’ she ting for worse, she tearin’ off all she clothes / Man she wheel she hands on she waist, and she start to wind like a beast / Well what ah see ah so frighten, ah had to call for police.” (Smile) Be assured, folks, that whatever we see this year, we will not be calling for the police. Nay, I believe that we will want to see more. In the spirit of Carnival, that is.
Yes, in the spirit of carnival, folks will DANCE ANY STYLE, as the late great King Swallow exhorted us. Even the tourists will be doing their thing, as so wondrously sung by King Short Shirt in his 1976 road march hit, TOURIST LEGGO. What a thing of beauty – “Canaval jouvert morning just as steelband start paradin’, and in Scott’s Row, jammin’ tight wid a leggo!” In fact, the Mighty Lion elaborated on the ‘leggo’ theme with his equally enjoyable hit, BAD GYAL. Sings Lion, “Look at dem, dey walkin up and dong in tong / Lookin man to have some fun / Dey don’t care if people talkin bout dem / Dey like to carry on / I know is goin to be baccahanal, when I call out dey name / One done tell me already, dat she don’t have no shame / Gretna is a bad gyal / Girlie is a bad gyal / Don’t talk about Sylvie, she’s a bad gyal / Even Malvie, dem is bad girls / But I want a bad gyal for Canaval / We go love-up and make bacchanal / We go party all night for party sake / We go party all night until daybreak.” Yes, indeed! Many men have been known to leave their significant others at home so that they can ‘wink-up and wine-up’ with a bad girl. And vice versa. Some women leave their husbands at home so that they can ‘let go,’ albeit for a moment.
Even our iconic Tian Winter and Boogy Rankss weigh in this year with a great tune they call, BADDEST. Sing the duo, “She ah de baddest, de baddest, de baddest, ah spendin meh money on dat, spendin meh money on dat /Gyal, you are de baddest, de baddest, de baddest my money on dat / Gyal, you are de baddest ting on earth, how yuh fit in de tight-up skirt . . . / Tek my money cause yuh bad, just fling-up dah big ting dat yuh have . . .” Good grief! For this writer, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Tian and Boogy can handle the bad girls, but not so much, us older folks. Many of us will simply enjoy watching the young uns have a go at the action, thinking back to the days when we did our thing! Remember what happened to King Obstinate in MONICA. He had to beg Frankie Macintosh to “Tek she back over, Frankie, tek she back over. Meh want foo sidding, meh foot swell. Meh nuh able wid you, gyal.” Actually, this might be a good time to warn our Managing Director, Algernon ‘Serpent’ Watts, and our Station Manager, Dave Lester Payne, to proceed with caution for this Carnival. After all, they are not as young as they used to be. Let it never be said that they were seen or heard ‘begging pardon’, as was the aforementioned King Obstinate.
Seems, Carnival is the perfect time for letting one’s hair down and setting aside all the inhibitions and fears and misgivings. Our inner ‘badness’ comes to the fore, and I believe that this year will be no different.
Consider, if you will, what the Red Hot Flames had to to say in RAW SOLE: “All barefoot people, is time to start de trouble . . . . Canaval, meh must jump up / O lawd, aryou look yah, murdah, look how meh foot raw / Coal bun meh pon meh left foot (Ayie! Ayie!), coal bun meh pon meh right foot (Aiye! Ayie!) / Though meh sole an-dem raw, meh nar miss dis Canaval yah / Ah goin jump up in meh raw sole, dance in meh raw sole, kick-up in meh raw sole, wail inna meh raw sole, jump in meh raw sole, push in meh raw sole, bounce inna meh raw sole, Canaval in meh raw sole.” What a thing, to see young and old, jammin in dey raw sole! (See front page photo, as well as others on the inside, of the huge crowds this past Saturday).
King Obstinate describes the mood at Carnival time quite nicely in HUNGRY. According to him, at this time of year, the people of Antigua and Barbuda are “Hungry to get a taste, hungry to shake dey waist.” Indeed, we are. The Red Hot Flames strikes a similar theme in PIG TAIL AND PIG MOUT. It is little wonder therefore that, much like Tian Winter, we find ourselves IN DE MIDDLE and of course, DE PARTY TUN UP. And why not, with entertainers in the the mold of the great La Tumba as the HITMAN, revelers will be “breaking away,” dancing deep into the night and the early hours with beautiful women like King Progress’ SWEET BROWN SUGAR and Menace XL’s, T.A.N.Y.A.
Notwithstanding the early glitches surrounding the Carnival routes, we dare say that this Carnival will be a splendid affair. We here at NEWSCO take this opportunity to wish all Antiguans and Barbudans, as well as all the visitors to our fair shores, a most delightful and memorable Carnival 2022. And yes, never mind what Ella did in BUM BUM, never mind the intoxicating rum and the infectious music, let us stay covered in our Carnival outfits, be they ever so small, and not resort to “playing mas’ in our born-in suits.”
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.