Jamaica Carnival

Jamaica Carnival was introduced to Jamaica in 1989 by soca loving patrons who would often travel to Trinidad to party. The devastation to Trinidad from Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 as well as election in 1989 resulted in the cancellation of Trinidad Carnival and so revelers decided to bring the party to Jamaica. In 1990, with much success, Byron Lee established Jamaica Carnival.

Jamaica Carnival takes place in the country’s capital of Kingston and consists of a number of pre-parties leading up to the main event. The annual event is comprised of different parties. Each party is hosted at a different location across the island such as J’ouvert or Beach J’ouvert, which consists of body painting. A cover charge grants patrons unlimited access to the bar for the duration of the party. Beach J’ouvert is held at James Bond Beach in St. Mary. Soca-robics (a bi-weekly soca themed exercise program held during the entire season leading up to the main event) is held at Mas Camp, which is located at Independence Park in Kingston. Bacchanal is the main event. These events commence in January and span roughly 12 weeks ending on the weekend following Easter (on the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday). Jamaica Carnival sees the coming together and total cessation of the division of the socio-economic barriers for the duration of the festivities.

Jamaica Carnival starts out with a road march through the streets of Kingston. Large groups of revelers dress in costumes consisting of different themes and vibrant colors. Each group is assigned their own float. Each float is displaced about 30 yards a part from another and usually led by the individual group belonging to said float. Floats consist of a place to rest and medical staff who are in place to tend to exhausted revelers and those suffering from heat stroke and dehydration. They are also equipped with a detox bar for revelers who have over indulged in the freely distributed alcohol. Each float is also equipped with its own DJ and music.

Jamaica Carnival starts approximately at 7am and lasts for about 12 hours. Revelers follow a pre-determined route in Kingston, which is blocked off to regular commuters for the duration of the march. Jamaica Carnival road march ends at Independence Park, which is located next to the parking lot of The National Stadium. At this point a number of local and international artists are featured, including Allison Hinds, Destra and Machel Montano, just to name a few. Each individual group is then judged on certain criteria and top placements are given awards.

The Jamaican Constabulary Force (local police) is deployed all along the pre-set route to maintain crowd control and protection for the revelers. There are also selected volunteers known as marshals who are assigned to the individual groups of revelers. These marshals are tasked with overseeing their designated groups and ensuring that revelers who are unwell or showing signs of fatigue are taken to the medical team assigned to that float. Private Security firms are also employed to oversee crowd control and to ensure that general security is upheld for revelers and marshals.

Jamaican Carnival remains a social event that most Jamaicans look forward to every year. Each year garners new revelers both locally and internationally, many of whom are willing to travel long distances for the Grand Bacchanal that is Jamaica Carnival.

Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival sets the precedence for all other carnivals globally and is known as, or thought of, as being the greatest carnival on earth. The festivities start on a Friday and officially end on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Brazil is populated by mostly Catholics so this practice is keenly adhered to.

Rio, is loosely used as the name for Brazil’s capitol city, Rio de Janeiro. Every year between the months of February and March, Rio’s streets are set aglow with beautiful, exquisitely crafted costumes, extravagant and elaborate floats, and lastly but certainly not least, the intoxicating and rhythmic sounds of Brazil’s finest music and unique dances. Rio’s music and dance, locally called Batucada, is the heart and soul of its people and by extension its carnival. The Samba dance is the most famous and revered. The Samba is Brazilian in origin with African influences added. It is unique to Brazil and villages throughout the country and they preserve it by omitting the influence of western culture. Their music is comprised mainly of percussion instruments. The Batucada is an irresistible combination and is used in nearly all of Rio’s street parades.

Street carnivals are very common and free in Rio. Gone is the fanfare and extravagance and what is left is the music and dancing and everyone is welcome. Bandas and Blocos are street musicians and dancers who are well versed in these festivities, keeping the party alive 24/7. The most famous of the Bandas is the Banda de Ipanema, which loosely translated means ‘The Irreverent One’. Street carnivals take place throughout all of Rio, and it is the largest and most famous in the world. These bandas can be sometimes more than 300 strong with the largest street dance typically found in Rio’s Centro. 2012 was an unprecedented year for Rio Carnival. Police reported more than 5 million revelers in the streets taking part in a bloco and without any reports of crime.

Samba Schools are responsible primarily for the creation and execution of Rio Carnival, i.e. themed costumes and floats, adornments, dance and music routines, and performances. There are approximately 200 Samba schools in Rio which are largely comprised of local neighbors of a common geographical background who all want to attend carnival. Each Samba school has a particular syllabus that must be followed. Sequences begin with ‘Commisao de Frente” (Front Commission) who introduces each school and ends with Room Masters and flag Carriers. The latter is made up of 1 leading pair (3 reserves) and dancers with the ‘Bateria’ (drum kits) bringing up the rear. These schools are judged at the end of Carnival.

The Sambadrome is an arena specifically built in Rio de Janeiro to accommodate all aspects of Rio carnival. It was constructed in 1984 and now provides a place for all ticketed events (mainly samba school performances). There are different seating areas, from Grandstand (general admission) to Frisas (open air box seats along the samba runway) to Camarotes. (Luxury boxes between grandstand and frisas). Ticket prices vary depending on section, ticket type and season.

At the end of Rio Carnival there is the crowning of 2 princesses and 1 queen. The winners parade takes place on the Saturday after the ending of the Carnival, 1 week after Ash Wednesday.

New Orlean’s Mardi Gras

New Orleans Mardi Gras, also known as the twelfth night, is a very popular annual music festival.   It starts on January 6th and goes until Shrove Tuesday (fat Tuesday), ending on the day before Ash Wednesday. This is to accommodate the observation and/or participation in the period of Lent. In recent times Mardi Gras has garnered so much notoriety that other countries have adopted some versions of it to fit their respective cultures, making it somewhat of a global event. Today hundreds of thousands of people flock to New Orleans for a taste of what is still considered by many to be the original Mardi Gras.

 

New Orleans Mardi Gras consists primarily of parades, which are organized by various social clubs called Krewes. There are many krewes. The older ones, like Rex and Krewe of Proteus, are known for keeping Masquerade Balls, some of which are private, while the newer krewes (also called Super Krewes) like Krewe of Endymion and the Krewe of Bacchus, are famous for having celebrities as their Grand Marshals. Super Krewes also have the largest parades and events. The oldest societies are responsible for marking the opening of Carnival season by throwing formal dances known as Masked balls.

 

All krewes have different themed costumes and masks. Costumes can be full bodied – covering from head to toe – or on the opposite side of the spectrum, can be very skimpy leaving very little to one’s imagination. For years some female revelers have been upholding a tradition of bearing their breasts. Many of these women bare their breasts in return of beads and party favours that are thrown from passing floats. The French Quarter, especially known for its “Balcony flashers”, encourages large crowds to form on the streets below. However, in 1972 the French Quarter prohibited large floats and crowds due to fire safety concerns. Canal Street which skirts the French Quarter now hosts those larger parades.

 

New Orleans krewes require membership and are open to all who pay dues. This allows any member a place on a parade float. Blues, Jazz and creole inspired music are always to be heard and at least one Jazz band accompanies a float. Individual floats usually have a number of live performing bands. Float riders traditionally throw stings of colourful beads, gold coloured coins or doubloons, small toys with the krewe logo, and moon pies to revelers. Throwing of the beads date back to the earliest Mardi Gras and has become exceptionally popular over the years.

 

The crafting of floats have become a major industry in Louisiana and New Orleans is home to many people who have made this their life’s work. Craftsmen and artists of various disciplines have tendered their skills, time, and talent into making some of the most detailed, exquisite and unique floats to ever parade in Mardi Gras.

 

Mardi Gras has three primary colours, which are purple (Justice), green (Faith) and gold (Power) – these are also the colours of the Catholic Church. Mardi Gras is Catholic in origin which explains the history and use of these colours. All costumes, masks, and floats contain a variation of these three colours.

 

Louisiana legally declared Mardi Gras a state holiday in 1875. Although it is rare, over the years, due to unprecedented conditions such as World War II and Hurricane Katrina, some or all parades have been cancelled.

Reggae Sumfest

Every year Jamaica is host and home to one of the most popular music festival called Reggae Sumfest. This is the epitome of a Jamaican party. It is held in what Jamaicans affectionately dub as their “second city”, Montego Bay (Mobay) which is the capital city of the parish, St. James.

Reggae Sumfest was founded in 1993 by Red Stripe (Ja. Ltd) who is to date their official sponsor.

Reggae Sumfest is Jamaica’s largest concert festival. It starts the second week of July and lasts for 5 days. This music festival attracts a mixed crowd but mostly consists of young adults. The festival hosts five events with one event per night.   Each night is unique in its theme but always follows the reggae genre.

The festivities open with the Beach Party Night, which is held at the Aquasol Theme Park, located on the Walter Fletcher Beach Complex. The gates open early for this event, starting at 4 in the afternoon and runs all night. The second party is the Blitz All White Party – All white being the dress code. Blitz is also held at the Aquasol Theme Park. These first 2 parties are hosted by some very talented, charismatic and eloquent local DJs who are also noted for their artful music mixing abilities.

The last 3 parties are all live events and consist of the very popular and most anticipated Dancehall Night, Reggae Night and to the locals delight, International Night. All live performances are held at the Main Event, located at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex. These last 3 live events have featured popular local and international performers. Local artists such as Sean Paul, I-Octane, Popcaan & Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley have dominated the Dancehall stage, while artists such as Luciano, Super Cat, Beres Hammond & Busy Signal, have graced the Reggae Night stage. Some internationally renowned artists have included Rick Ross, Rhianna and 50 Cent, just to name a few.

As with these larger events, security is provided by private security companies as well as the local police, there are usually designated volunteers who are assigned to help with medical needs and crowd control.

Medical staff is present at all parties and are equipped to deal with various ailments – the most common being intoxication and dehydration. If needs be, there are vehicles on stand-by to transport the sick to the nearest medical facility.

Over the course of 23 years, Reggae Sumfest has managed to climb from very humble beginnings. Today, Reggae Sumfest is a music festival giant garnering a solid reputation both locally and internationally as Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s Premier Reggae Music Festival event.

Ultra Music Festival

Ultra Music Festival is an electronic music festival that starts mid-March and lasts for 3 days. It is an outdoor festival that is held at Bayfront Park in the down town Miami area of Florida.

Since Ultra started in 1999, it has become an extremely popular event. Ultra Music Festival has up to 165,000 people in attendance. Ultra is home to 8 stages and recently includes visual stages. The Main Stage hosts the biggest names in the electronic dance music industry such as Avicii, Skrillex, and Swedish House Mafia. The other 7 stages throughout the park host emerging talents like Crystal Castle, and live artists such as Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg and has had a surprise visit from Madonna. Given Ultra’s rise in popularity (since inception) the festival has now gone global to include places such as; Tokyo Japan, Buenos Aries Argentina and Johannesburg South Africa to name a few.

Ultra Music Festival brings together some of the biggest names in the electronic dance music (EDM) sphere with artists such as David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Zedd, Tiesto, Alesso and The Chemical Brothers. It is also responsible in part to exposing who back then were little known artists such as Muse and Fall out Boy, who both have now become internationally acclaimed and much sought after talents in music.

In 2009 Ultra expanded its lineup to include cross over acts and live bands, such as Black Eyed Peas and break out band Crystal Castles. In 2010 each stage was accompanied by visual arts.

2013 saw yet another bright idea from the festival’s organizers. To celebrate its fifteenth anniversary, Ultra was held over 2 weekends instead of one, having approximately 330,000 revelers in attendance. This was the largest crowd and the longest duration the festival has ever had to date.

2014 had some amount of hard ship as Swedish DJ Avicii had to be replaced by Deadmau5 as he returned home for surgery for a blocked gallbladder. The English group, Above & Beyond, had their performance interrupted by a rainstorm causing them and their equipment to be moved backstage. Additionally, gatecrashers critically injured a security guard when they trampled him trying to get in – this led to more stringent security policies being implemented for future shows.

Ultra 2016 ushered in the return of the ‘Resistance stage‘, which featured Arcadia Spectacular’s Spider. The lineup consisted of 2 phases featuring some of EDM’s most sought after artists, e.g. Zeds Dead, Tiesto, DJ Snake and Deadmau5.

Ultra Music Festival has won many awards and recognitions over the years including the International Dance music award, DJ Award and DJ Mag Awards. After Ultras sold out 18th edition, it was voted the world’s best music festival according to a DJ Mag survey.

To experience the Ultra Music Festival is a mind blowing experience. High octane revelers consists of veterans and newbies like Spring Breakers, who all gyrate to the sounds of disco, techno, house, dub step, pop and hardcore music while super pyrotechnics, confetti and laser lights move in sync to the music.