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Spice Mas was nice!

Published: 
Thursday, August 21, 2014

Grenada Carnival, or Spice Mas, took place on August 11 and 12. As usual, a sizeable contingent of Trinidadians made their way over to take part in the celebrations. 

A section of journalists formed part of the contingent including our own David Cuffy, who was attending for the first time. Here, Cuffy shares some thoughts about one of the region’s fastest growing festivals. 

The colourful florescence of Monday night mas in St George and the uninhibited participation of villagers in Tuesday J’Ouvert in St David were the defining elements of the Carnival on my first experience of Grenada Spice Mas’ from August 8 to 12.

I was there on invitation from IMG Entertainment Co Ltd, Flavour de Mas, and the Grenada Tourism Authority to join the T&T media contingent covering the event. 

We made the three-hour sea voyage to the Spice Isle on the Paria Bullet, along with other Trinis heading to the island to enjoy the festivities.

On Carnival Monday night, hundreds of people (in three bands) costumed with colourful lighted headpieces, carrying equally colourful glow sticks in their hands, and served with scintillating music from huge trucks with powerful sound systems and coloured lights started a glowing parade from the Grand Anse Shopping Centre on a soca-jamming four-mile journey to the Carenage in the town of St George, which was crammed with spectators awaiting their arrival.

A brief shower of rain in the town had them seeking any available shelter, but did not deter enjoyment of the moment as T&T’s Tunapuna Vibrations Rhythm Section was there spewing out some slamming tempos to keep the crowd moving until the bands arrived. There was “authentic” J’Ouvert that morning in the capital featuring revellers happily enjoying themselves to soca music while covered in oil and paint.

However, there was a similarly-themed event on Tuesday morning in Sauteurs, a tiny hamlet in St David Parish, located between La tante and Westerhall in the island’s southeast, and the only one without a main town, so is sometimes referred to as “The Virgin Parish”. Its approach is a rocky coastline that slopes up gently towards the central mountainous ridge.

On our way to Sauteurs in the early morning darkness, we passed scores of people making the trek up the mountainside to be a part of the happening that was more like long-time “ole mas” than anything else.

Villagers donned various types of clothing (old dresses, pants, t-shirts, etc) and used anything (toy guns, worn headpieces, old lawn mower, etc) for adornment to enjoy themselves to music supplied by DJ trucks and the Tunapuna Rhythm Section in a happy atmosphere of peace and sharing that really had to be experienced to be understood.

Sauteurs is where the last remaining Carib natives in Grenada jumped off a 40-metre-tall cliff later named Caribs' Leap to their deaths in 1651, rather than face domination by the conquering French. Thus the town was named Sauteurs, which is French for “jumpers.”

Spice Mas, just as T&T’s Carnival, consists of multiple activities brimming with pageantry and expression linked to our African, French, British and Caribbean heritage. There are Groovy and Power Soca Monarch competitions, Panorama, Dimanche Gras, Parade of the Bands, and a plethora of fetes.

In the traditional characters vein, masqueraders disguise in the costumes of “Shortknee” and “Jab Jab” players. The Shortknee tradition combines pieces of distant Grenadian history expressed through masks, dance, chants and colourful costumes.

Armored with tiny mirrors to reflect enemies and ankle bells to make music, masqueraders in knee-length pants carry talc powder that is sprinkled on those who make cash donations. Jab jab revellers paint their bodies black, put red helmets with make-believe horns on their heads, and march around in energetic groups.

Dimanche Gras was almost ruined by rain on Carnival Sunday night. But the show went on amidst several interruptions to climax with the crowning of the King and Queen of the Bands, and the Calypso Monarch.

Grenada’s carnival has a reputation for being safe and full of fun, and this year’s was no exception. But, like most festivals of this magnitude there were occasional hiccups along the way. These minor irritations, however, did not impact on the overall competent execution of the many activities.

Results of the main competitions

Road March Winner

Squeezehead (Turbo Charge).

King of the Bands

Ganesha - the Prince of Rich Values (from the band Helen Marie & Associates).

Queen of the Bands

Mystical (Lime Commancheros & Associates).

Band of the Year

In Flight – Lime Commancheros & Associates.

Calypso Monarch

Ajamu (Edison Mitchell) – When Calypso Was Calypso/ Tune In Yuh Rukunkutuntun.

Panorama Winners

Lime Commancheros & Coyoba New Dimension 

Groovy Soca Monarch

Shortpree (For The Sake).

Lime Soca Monarch

Luni Sparks & Electrify (No Mercy).