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Bye ‘Rona: Late Summer Carnival Celebrations To Plan For Now

You’ve probably seen the photos from Trinidad’s Carnival by now and regret not making your way over to the Caribbean island to bust a little wine. And if you’re a carnival veteran, you’re already experiencing “ah tabanca” (the longing to return). Lucky for you, even though Jamaica cancelled it’s Carnival celebration slated for next month due to Coronavirus, there are plenty of carnivals left in 2020 to get on bad. From Miami to Jamaica, and yes, even Tokyo, Caribbean culture, carnival celebrations and soca music have impacted nearly every part of the globe.

To have the best experience, do your research on the best fetes (parties) in each location, as well as the best band (group that you wear the same costumes with on the road). You’re also going to want to get lots of rest beforehand, because you definitely won’t once you arrive. For many, Carnival is not just a series of events, it’s an honored tradition and way of life. And once you get your first taste on di road, you’ll see exactly why. It’s another way among millions that diasporic people turned hardship into celebration and used symbols, sounds and movement as a source of freedom.

Here are a few places to get you started on your way to bacchanalia. 

July 31 – August 3, 2020
Barbados’ carnival is called Crop Over because it marks when slaves celebrated the end of the sugar cane season. It’s just as big as Trinidad’s celebration and slightly cheaper. The festivities begin in June and run until the first Monday in August with The Grand Kadooment: a parade of sequined costumes, trucks blasting soca, and lots of rum. Some of the best fetes to attend during Cropover include Caesars Army A.M.BUSH, Soca Brainwash, and Limerz. When the rum hits and hunger calls, make sure to grab the islands’ famous flying fish sandwich.

Song to get you ready: Ben Up by Porgie & Murda

August 7-11, 2020
Anyone who attends Grenada’s Spice Mas will never forget seeing the Jab Jab in action. During J’ouvert (a fete celebrated from the early morning until the dawn) the Jab Jab character is covered in Black paint or oil. The word “jab” has its roots in the French word, diable, or devil, and playing jab served as a mockery against slave owners. Call and response with cow horns, conch shells and drums are the emblematic sounds of Grenada’s J’ouvert that grew into what is now Jab Jab music. If you’re afraid of getting dirty, this J’ouvert is not for you. But it is one of the best, most intense celebrations in the world, and worth the paint and oil to help you free up yuhself. 

Song to get you ready: Run Wid It by Mr. Killa

July 6 -7, 2020
Vincy Mas may not be as large as Trinidad, but the music and energy coming out of this island is just as powerful and growing each year. The main carnival takes place in Kingstown with steel pan bands, soca, rum, and lots of winin. One event not to miss is Vincy’s energetic Soca Monarch competition, where some of the best of the island’s artists compete onstage. You can learn more about the official events on the website here. 

Song to get you ready: Nasty Up by Problem Child

July 15-22, 2020
St. Lucia’s carnival includes everything from boat and beach fetes, to concerts. The main events take place in the towns of Gros Islet and Rodney Bay, so you should call a hotel in either location homebase. There’s a special sound coming out of a town in the east of St. Lucia, called Dennery segment. This sub-genre of soca is known for its fast pace and addictive basslines. Be careful, or you might find yourself in the splits. After carnival, enjoy a cooldown on one of the island’s many gorgeous beaches in Marigot Bay or Soufriere. 

Song to get you ready: Split in de Middle by Freezy

Just because Bermuda isn’t technically part of the Caribbean, it doesn’t mean this small island doesn’t know how to get wotless. The island’s carnival is fairly new and growing in popularity each year. Raft Up, a boat fete that includes hundreds of rafts in Bermuda’s crystal blue water, is one of the most fun experiences you’ll have. Every fete culminates into the Parade of Bands, where a rainbow of feathers and costumes sway to the beats of soca and calypso.

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