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Huddersfield Carnival 1974
My earliest memory of going to carnival in Huddersfield was 1974, once it had changed from the Mayor's parade. In the 1970s, the steel band was the main attraction more than the sound system.
But as times go by there was a lot less of the steel band and a lot more of the sound system.
In Jamaica there was a lot more sound system and reggae. Whereas in Trinidad, Tobago, Grenada and Caracou there was more calypso. At first it was kaiso then it went to calypso and now its soca. Itís the rhythm of the pan. Nowadays itís a mixture of them all.
Today the youngsters like reggae and rythmn and blues and hip hop whereas the older generations like the calypso and soca, itís not an island issue.
Carnival in Grenada as a Child
I remember going to carnival in Grenada aged around seven, It started from Luc(k)as Street and went round St Georges into River Road Park, which is at the other side of Grenada, past the market.
Before the procession there is a thing called ĎJuvaí morning. Thatís at 1.00 oíclock Ö. and people would come down from the country, from St Davidís with painted faces and masks.
I think my first experience of that was when my mum said Ďgo outsideí at 4.00am in the morning, and all I could see were shadows. Then when the day became lighter I saw all these faces and it was really hideous. As a child of 6 or 7 you were scared.
This guy in a mask chased after me and knew I was scared so I bought a mask at the time it was 3 or 5 cents and as I was walking Iím thinking how can I get my own back, someone scared me I want to scare someone. Because thatís the way people operated when you were younger, getting your own back. So as I walked down this field, thereís this bit of land not far from a place called Cooper Hill (which are steps) off Tirrell Street. I saw this little lad in a field playing around, there were some houses not far from where I thought he lived. So I decided to scare him. I felt bad afterwards as he was only about five.
Whereas in England I donít think the British public understand this. I donít think they want to understand it. Iíve said to someone, do you realise that carnival starts in early morning ĎJuvaí (Antigua) in your house, at 3.00am in the morning and you hear Ďboom, boomí this massive thunder of drums coming down and ĎJabjabí (Grenada) is when they put on masks then we have the procession.
But when they all assemble in the park, which is on River Road, itís amazing. Theyíre judged on whose is the best costume and to me itís more like an art display. Which is the best artist, which is the best costume and they are judged on that. If they got first prize, I donít know what money they were offering at the time; it could be a thousand, two thousand dollars.
So, carnival has been a really nice experience of growing for me, because at a really early age I remember trying to play the steel pan. We used to burn the pan and tune it.
The tin for the pan could be anything, like molasses, butter or oil tins. Get a fire and put it on it, itíll heat the tin and then after itís cooled down. You start indenting squares and each of those squares you can put A, B, C, D, and play doh, ray, me, so, far, la, tee, doh. So you have the tenors and you have the bass. You have the rhythm (I canít remember the name), that one you can hear high pitch, like E, F and G.
My kids went on to play for North Stars Steel Band.
Itís the steel band that makes carnival, thatís what itís about. The music is like the beat of the heart. People years ago have tuned the pan exactly how they want to play and if the Queen has a steel orchestra it means she likes steel bands. It means itís good and itís not going to die.
And coming back to the 60s, (my mumís era) famous calypsonians were: Kitchener, The Duke, The Explainer and Sparrow and when you listen to these guys, these are not guys who are educated, but they are educated to a point where the things they say are so amazing. I love to listen to Calypso, itís about life.
I identify with it because I am Afro Caribbean. Itís something I grew up with. Itís been happening since as early as I can remember.
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