J’Ouvert 2013 will start off with the traditional mas from 5 year old band MAS Jumbies. Its presentation is called “De Posey and Bedsheet Brigade” and gets its inspiration from the Carnivals of the Post Emancipation period (1838-1896), this term was used by the French and English to describe the Carnival celebrations of the African population during this period. It is derived from the French word “diametre” meaning beneath the diameter of respectability, or the underworld. It was used at that time to describe a certain class in the community that now participated.
The “Jamets” occupied the barrack yards of East Port of Spain, thus creating a “Jamet” culture. They were the stick fighters, prostitutes, chantwells, matadors and dustmen. They all lived in close and appalling conditions of marked social instability and faced daily, crime, vagrancy, disease, prostitution, unemployment and sexual permissiveness. It is no wonder, therefore, that Carnival was embraced with such fervor, giving them the only time to openly express their dissatisfaction. For them, it was a necessary release from the struggle that was their daily lives and existence.
At this time the view of the whites and the colonial government, was that the Carnival activities were immoral, obscene and violent. The kalenda, the drumming, the dances and the sexually explicit masquerades were thought to be totally objectionable and measures were taken to curb and even prohibit them. This was also the era of repressive legislation and the Colonial Government passed several laws banning many of the activities associated with the Carnival including dancing to drums, carrying lighted torches and “obscene songs, masques and dances”.
However, it would take more than legislation and the police to stop the Carnival. The repressive legislation was met with more aggressive responses. It all came to a climax in 1881 (Canboulay Riots) when masqueraders carried out a planned resistance against the police who attempted to stop the carnival. In the aftermath of the riot of 1881 Governor Freeling addressed the people and declared “There shall be no interference with your masquerade.” By acknowledging the importance of the Carnival to the people he proved that it was much more than just music, masquerade and dance but rather a necessary form of cultural expression.
Unfortunately, this reprieve was short-lived as the following years saw increase governmental control over Carnival and pressure from the media to suppress the more “objectionable” aspects of the Carnival. The people’s Canboulay Festival was abolished in 1884 and replaced with a restricted festival which took place at dawn on the Monday preceding Ash Wednesday. J’Ouvert (breaking of the day) became well established, with the tamboo bamboo replacing the African drums. The Canboulay and the stick fighters were eventually driven underground but flourished in rural areas from Tunapuna to Sangre Grande in the east and Freeport to Moruga in central and south Trinidad.
The band is all-inclusive with security, mobile bar & breakfast and a 40ft music trailer with DJs. To register visit http://www.masjumbies.com/ or call Karen at 731-0837 or Judith at 724-7949. Prices start at $380-900. Sections include: Pierrot Granade, Dame Lorine, Jab-Molasie, Pisse-en-let and Jamet & Jametman. Carib Brewery is one of our official sponsors.
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