Saturday, October 20, 2012

junkanoo rush

So, we're coming up on silly season again.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

Here in Key West we get a week's head start on the rest of the world with Fantasy Fest but, before we can have a Fantasy Fest, we've gotta have Goombay.

In all my years here, I've always liked Goombay best. It's just a little left of the culture, it has the feel of less pressure (a.k.a. less corporatism) and hell, it's a homegrown celebration that stayed homegrown.

This year, I made it a point to get in on the Junkanoo Rush and man, am I glad I did. It was colorful, it was energized, it was harmonious and it was loud.

Like Mummers on steroids, these cats danced and pranced their way from the Elks Club, up to Duval and back down Petronia to the main stage and the drums and bells and whistles never missed a beat.

By the time they got to where they were going, better than half the neighborhood was walkin' and talkin' and movin' and groovin' with 'em.
It was so cool!

"Junkanoo", I've come to find out, is a Bahamian cultural expression. It's all about parades that are held in the Bahamas twice a year, on December 26th and January 1st. (New Year's Day is when the Mummers do their thing too)

The word “Junkanoo” comes from centuries of poetic license around the name "John Canoe", who was an African prince and slave trader operating on the Gold Coast in the seventeenth century.

Legend has it, he whooped up on the British navy and captured Fort Brandenbury so, to the Dutch and English he wasn't real up there on the popularity list but, to the slaves, he was a hero and the "Junkanoo Rush" celebrations were held in his honor.

Before emancipation, slaves were allowed three days off, December 25th, December 26th and January 1st. On the the 26th and the 1st, they were allowed to celebrate their Junkanoo festival.

As the story goes, anyone who was either an active participant in or a just spectator of the Junkanoo annual events was off the hook for going to work the next morning. (imagine that concept, an extra day off for dancin' in the street!)

Anyway, I've given up a bit of the back story and the color, here's a taste of what it sounded and moved like. . .

click arrow to play video. run time, 1:03

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