Island Roots Heritage Festival Part 2

This year’s festival was the first visit from Calico Jack and Charles Vane…at least in the last 300 years or so… which meant they needed a little initiation. So they were called up to the stage to join the Every Child Counts drum performance. Let me illustrate the differences with a pair of musical slide shows.

First – The ECC school performance…

Now – The Pirate Captains and another audience victim’s performance…

I guess it wasn’t bad for their first time up and it was definitely entertaining.

The Tiny Turtles also performed, dressed as pirates. They sang a number of songs I’d heard before, but they offered a verse for Row Row Row Your Boat that was new to me and made me laugh.

The lyrics are :

“Rip, rip, rip your pants, gently down the seam.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, hear the ladies scream!

AAH!”

I’ll have to remember that one for the future!

There are a couple of other things that make this festival a complete experience for me. One of them is seeing some traditional Junkanoo.

What is Junkanoo?

It’s a magnificent musical and dance spectacle that is true Bahamas. Music is made with goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles and horns and costumes are hand made, elaborate and colorful creations constructed out  of crepe paper and cardboard.

Where did this dance come from?  Well to pirate a little text from the Bahamas Tourism Website –

“Ask folks here at the top of the Caribbean how The Bahamas Junkanoo Tradition got started and they’ll all tell you a different story; with many believing it was established by John Canoe, a legendary West African Prince, who outwitted the English and became a local hero; and others suspecting it comes from the French ‘gens inconnus,’ which translates as ‘unknown’ or ‘masked people’.

The most popular belief, however, is that it developed from the days of slavery. The influx of Loyalists in the late 18th Century brought many enslaved people who were given three days off at Christmas, which they celebrated by singing and dancing in colourful masks, travelling from house to house, often on stilts. Junkanoo nearly vanished after slavery was abolished but the revival of the festival in The Bahamas now provides entertainment for many thousands.”

During the festival we were entertained by the Forest Heights Falcons, the National Junior Junkanoo Champions.

The other performance I looked forward to was  the Royal Bahamas Defense Force Band.  The band is a joy to listen to and watch, and this year, Governor Rodgers, Grace and I were brought out to dance with them during performances. You can hear a little of it and see a slideshow here.

There was one slight change this year. In years past, a man who feels like a Bahamian brother, would lead the band, Matthew Rolle. This year, he had been promoted and another gentleman was leading the band, as he oversaw things from the sideline.

While I have nothing against the new band leader, part of my tradition of seeing the Defense Force Band has been to see Matthew’s smiling face leading the band. Luckily, he jumped in an lead a few numbers during their performance, including the pieces where we were pulled in to dance.

On a side note, I had a little more time to chat with him this year and found out that in addition to an amazing band leader he is also an astounding poet! He even has a book out, although it’s sold out right now, called The Voice of the Drummajor.  He has an amazing ability to quickly come up with enjoyable lines and even did a little impromptu rhyming with words we threw at him on the fly. Unfortunately, it was so windy, the recording I tried to make didn’t come out.

I also had an very pleasant, yet unexpected, surprise on the final evening of the festival.  Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was in attendance.  In past years, when he was Prime Minister, he would visit the festival. Some years he was there to lecture me about pirating in his islands…

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Other years he would be so kind as to pose for a picture with a Loyalist lady.

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Always, always, always, he had a great smile.  It’s one of those warm smiles that lightens the mood and gets you smiling right back.

As he is no longer Prime Minister, he was not there in any official capacity, but just to enjoy the festival. I went up to say hello and was greeted with that trademark smile and a big hug. That made for the perfect wrap up to a perfect event!

Take A Walk On The Wild Side

A trip to Green Turtle is not complete without taking in a little of the wildlife. We were once again lucky this year to be staying at Sandy Bay, an adorable home on Gilliam Bay, on the northeastern side of the island. This is the view from the backyard….

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When I’m there,  I start every day with a more than an hour walk on the beach and always see some fun creatures. This year was no exception. In the water I saw a few nurse sharks. Those I didn’t get pictures of.  But I also saw a Yellow Crested Heron (Thanks DP Patterson for identifying him)

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Some big, beautiful stingrays

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And the one I’ve never seen before…. what I think is a bristle worm…. Here’s what it looks like on shore…

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And here’s what it looks like in the water

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What a very unique looking little creature…..

Hit the Presses

I guess pirates are photogenic. Check out the front page of The Abaconian, the newspaper of Abaco.

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Thank you to reporter Timothy Roberts for writing such a great article on the festival and our involvement in it.

Here’s a link to the online version of the article.

Giving Thanks

As I close this blog post, I have some thank you’s to send out.

First and foremost to Annabelle Cross and Julie Farrington. I am pretty sure these ladies went months without eating, sleeping or doing anything else so they could put this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival together.  I appreciate your dedication to this event and faith in me,  and the friends I bring along, to be a part of this wonderful island tradition!

To Clay and Vincent – “The New Guys”.   You were both such a pleasure to have along on this journey! Thank you for jumping in to something quite new and performing so beautifully and professionally.  The Shadow Players are very lucky to have you!

To Lawrence and Grace – Thank you both for once again joining me on this trip back to my favorite island.  Having the pleasure of being able to travel with those I love and care about makes it that much more special!

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