On October 28th, West-Can Folk Performing Co. treated Montreal to a one-of-a-kind Caribbean Carnival exhibition, showcasing the rich cultural heritage and artistic expressions of the city’s Black community. The roots of this extraordinary exhibit can be traced back to a transformative project known as “Carnival Is… Mas, Movement & Music ” that started in January 2023. The initiative was born out of a growing concern for the declining awareness and appreciation of carnival arts, coupled with the urgent need to pass down this precious knowledge to younger generations.
Attendees of the Caribbean Carnival Exhibit were greeted by a captivating display of handmade costumes, towering Moko Jumbies, Sailors, Short knee, Dame Lorraine and the rhythmic beats of drummers and percussionists, who acted as the spirited welcoming committee to this journey through the heart and soul of Caribbean carnival culture.
The exhibit’s commitment to educating the public on the culture and heritage of carnival arts was evident. The audience had the privilege of witnessing the rich oral traditions of the Caribbean through captivating speeches and character portrayals by Baby Doll (Amanda Benn), Pierrot Grenade (Akil Alleyne) and Midnight Robber (Pat Dillon Moore) as they were ushered through the movement, the mas and the music of carnival. Making this event both educational and entertaining.
The event was graced by the presence of some of Montreal’s highly regarded Calypsonians, with each artist taking center stage, accompanied by the vibrant Jab Djab band. Their combined talents produced a delightful and harmonious medley that enthralled the audience.
The intergenerational steel orchestras’ melodious tunes resonated throughout the venue with songs arranged by Martin Albino and James Andrews. What made this performance remarkable was the fact that many of these musicians were first-time panists who had only started learning to play the steelpan a mere six weeks prior to the event. Their dedication and enthusiasm were truly impressive and contributed to the event’s overall success.
One of the most extraordinary aspects of the evening was the showcase of a handmade costume by individuals who, until recently, had no prior experience in crafting their own carnival attire. Their magnificent creations, constructed with care and creativity, were a testament to the artistic potential that can be unlocked when a community comes together. The event served as a platform for these newfound costume designers to exhibit their talents, leaving the audience in awe of their skills and imaginative designs. It was a true celebration of creativity and artistry. The Cocoyea Posses’ (Pan Man Fantasy) added the element of ‘Big Mas’ to the event as the masquerader danced the costume through the venue and poured her heart and soul into the portrayal.
The Montreal Caribbean Carnival Exhibition was more than just an event; it was a vivid celebration of culture, a call to preserve traditions, and a glimpse into the vast, diverse, and exuberant world of Caribbean carnival arts. This was a night to remember, one that left attendees yearning for an encore and thirsting for deeper cultural immersion.
The spirit of carnival is alive and well in Montreal. The “Carnival is Mas, Movement & Music” project has sown the seeds of future celebrations, ensuring that the colorful and vivacious spirit of Caribbean carnival remains a vibrant part of Montreal’s cultural tapestry.
West-Can thanks everyone who helped to make this project and exhibit a success.