The development of Junkanoo costumes
Costumes went through many changes over the years. In the 17th century, slaves hid their faces with flour paste or put a paper bag over their head with wired mesh paint for effect. At that time, the costumes were two dimensional. they were also made from colorful rags and any materials the slaves could’ve find. Materials such as leaves, shrubs, and bottles. In the twentieth century, in The Bahamas the sponging industry was booming. Junkanooers began using sponges to cover their costumes. The performers also had their shirts and trousers covered with sponge. Unfortunately, in 1938-1939, they had to stop using the sponge because of the disease that had hit the sponge bed. In the mid twentieth century, steeple hats were popular. Steeple hats are high narrow-crowned hats that are pointy to the top. The headpieces were entirely made from multi-color paper fringe. Junkanooers usually wore simple top and trousers with a normal or over exaggerated steeple hat. It was either fringed in a broad cut newspaper or tissue paper. To expand the hat, costume makers fixed birds, flags and sometimes flowers to the top of the hat. Today, costumes are made of aluminum rods, tire wire, lots of glue, cardboard, and contact cement. Crepe paper is a popular Junkanoo costume material that was used in the past and is still being used today. In modern time, the costumes consist of a headdress, shoulder piece, and skirt. One Junkanoo dancer’s costume weighs about fifty pounds, this is lead costume of the parade. Other costumes, which are the largest weighs from 250 to 500 pounds, depending on the costume’s size and engineering. The costume designers attach the cardboard pieces to the frame by tie wires and paints them white. Crepe paper is then affixed onto the costume with glue. Glitter, studs, and decorative beads are the final touch to the costume.
Sponge costume worn in the twentieth century
The popular steeple hat
Platinum Knights 2017 Parade
Maureen Duvalier “The Bahama Mama”
The woman that introduced Choreograph Dancing to the Bahamian Junkanoo Parades
Maureen Duvalier was the first woman to participate and start Junkanoo Choreograph in the Bahamas. Her unique delivery took her from local nightclubs to the world stage. As the time went by, she became the face and sound of the country’s booming tourism product, performing professionally well into her 80s. Mrs. Duvalier was known as the “Bahama Mama”. In 1958 she brought the first group of women to rush openly on Bay Street. Mrs. Duvalier rushed in Junkanoo from the age of seven with her uncle, Freddie Bowleg down bay street in full costume and mask. Back in the 1930s it was uncommon for women to take part in Junkanoo, if they would participate in the parade, they would hide their identities for fear of ridicule. The masculine groups never felt that women should be involved in Junkanoo groups. They all forgo the traditional fringe of Junkanoo costumes and instead wore black and red outfits made of fabric. They still covered their faces to conceal their identities” . In 2004, Duvalier described the moments before going on the parade “everyone was standing up looking at these women in their costumes…and by the time they got there to Bay Street, people were coming to meet them. Maureen Duvalier was the first to introduce choreographed dancing to the street parade and work to advocate in the parade structure. She was often referred to as “The Boat”, if the boat was in it meant that Maureen would be on Bay Street. Maureen worked on a Cruise Ship that travelled between South Florida and The Bahamas, because of her job the ship would dock by Christmas day and this meant she would be on the parade. This trailblazer started the junkanoo world in choreograph dancing and it has been a part of every group since. As red above, choreograph dancing was in effective in Bahamian Junkanoo. When it was first brought onto the streets of Nassau in 1958, it brought a positive change to many Junkanoo groups.
The above picture depicts Derrisha Oliver embracing her junkanoo experience.
Choreograph dancing brought spark to junkanoo groups, gave it a significant look, more excitement, and most importantly captured the crowd ‘our people’ attention. As far as I can remember choreograph dancing in junkanoo was indeed exciting, as a dancer you’re able to express yourself through your cultural moves and this is where the music comes in. In choreograph dancing there are steps such as, ‘Sashay’. ‘Pa-Da-Boo-Ray’ (Pas de Bourree), Rest Steps and Fan Hands. Dance steps like these are what grasp our Bahamian people’ and even Tourist attention who come to watch the parade. Choreograph dancing carries majority of the points for each group. In the choreograph section in a group, you are required to have a showtime and separate routine. ‘Showtime’ as we call it is a time limit for your choreograph section to showcase their best moves and give the watchers a great show to enjoy. Everyone must be in sync and moves on time. The dancing part of a Junkanoo group brings light and excitement to any group. The crowd does not only look forward to the costumes and awesome music but also the competition between the different choreograph sections.
The Development & Importance of Junkanoo’s Musical Instruments Junkanoo has dated back from the during the time of slavery in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Starting off as just a free day to celebrate African Culture using various made instruments such as drums, the musical aspect of Junkanoo has developed over the many decades. Upon making its debut on Grand Bahama Island in 1972, there were only a certain amount of instruments used. Instruments such as the ‘Goat-skinned’ drums and cowbells. The two instruments are seen as the two most popular Junkanoo instruments. In 1976 the brass instruments were introduced to the world of Junkanoo. Some of these instrument include the trombone, trumpet and more. Then there’s the four different types of horns seen in the Junkanoo world. These horns include the fog horn, the bicycle horn, bronze bugel horn, and the traditional, more cultural, but rarely used horn known as the conch shell. As years went by, to make the festival more cultural, along with the playing of the other instruments making a Bahamian tune, the rake n’ scraper was used to help bring more of a cultural aspect to the Junkanoo Instruments and the tunes they harmonized.
Junkanoo instruments play an important role in the festival. According to the Bahamian people, the music created by Junkanoo instruments help bring alive the crowd giving the Bahamian people and the tourist that attend a taste of the culture through the use of music. Although, there could be more Bahamian music played, it still helps give a reflection of our African descent. Also, the Junkanoo festival wouldn’t be a festival if it was just people parading in costumes and dancing. Some people may think it’s a Bahamian Cultural Halloween flash mob dancing throughout the streets. The biggest role of the Junkanoo festival is the music that is being played. The harmonizing of drums, cowbells, whistles, brass instruments, and horns, coming together to bring alive the Bahamian crowd by making a rhythmic beat of Bahamian music.
Evolution of Junkanoo Instruments Junknaoo is one of the most celebrated festivals in the Bahamas. It originated from a man name John canoe who was an African tribal chief. During Christmas time, the slaves were allowed one day to celebrate. During their celebrations, they would perform traditional dances to the sound of the native instruments they had back then. According to geographia.com , Junkanoo occurs about twice per year and each year it gets bigger and bigger because teams are looking at ways to be unique and provide a different sound. With Junkanoo becoming better every year, so will the instruments. In the past, many tribes would use hallow wood with holes in it as a horn but in modern society, trumpets and other wind percussion instruments are now used instead. Junkanoo is a place for individuals of all ages. From the time that you arrive to Junkanoo to the very end, you will be truly entertained. Junkanoo consist of a variety of beautiful colored costumes, traditional dances, home cooked dishes, thumping music and most importantly, vibrant and electrifying sounds from the crowd.
In the seventeenth century, way before the word “Junkanoo” came along, many Africans blew bugles, horn and homemade goat skin drums as instruments. According to my-bahamastravel.com, many Bahamians who participate in Junkanoo use whistles, goat skin drums, brass, percussion and cowbells to bring about a loud sound. The sound of Junkanoo has evolved over the years from using hallow wood with hole carvings to expensive instruments such as trumpets. Each year persons find new and innovative ways to provide a new sound so that their group can win and not be considered cliché. The sound doesn’t only come from the instruments alone. Many Africans back in the seventeenth century would sing and perform choruses. These chants still happen in today’s society to help complement the overall sound of the group. An example of such chant is, “the Valley boys coming… the valley boys coming.” The Junkanoo music is the best aspect of Junkanoo because that is what gets the crowd electrified. According to Bahamas-trasures.com, “It reaches the spectators and the fans, so that they, too, can hardly resist the heated goatskin drum’s call to move, and to start dancing.” This statement shows that many persons love to attend Junkanoo because of the infectious sound which comes from the trumpets, cowbells and drums. The music that is played along the streets of downtown can be heard many miles away. This is because of the modernization of trumpets which allow a louder sound to be played.