The Evolution of Junkanoo
Courtesy of The Times The Sunday Times

The Evolution of Junkanoo

The Organization of Competitive Junkanoo Groups

by: Cassidy Purcell

Fig 2: Thomas (left) and Leah LaChanna Curry (right) the leaders of the Platinum Knights are pictured during the 2017 New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade on Monday evening

When Junkanoo groups rush on the parade route with their captivating energy through the use of their dancers, drummers, and enchanting music they ignite the crowd’s enthusiasm and anticipation. However, Junkanoo did not always had organized Junkanoo groups participants. There was no special criteria to participate in Junkanoo in the past. Any and everyone who desired to rush in the parade route for whatever reason was welcomed. If the rhythm was in your soul and you wanted to release some energy, Junkanoo was the place to do just that. If you played a musical instrument like the drums, whistle or horn you were welcomed. People in the community came together and made their own individual costume with materials they could find around the house. Consequently, costumes didn’t coordinate, however, just the enthusiasm of performing was enough to bring out crowds of onlookers and ignite the Junkanoo spirit.

Swingers Junkanoo Group 2015

It wasn’t until Junkanoo became competitive that we saw a more organized group participation. Competition between groups brought about cohesion in their costume, music and dance. Each group would choose a theme and colors, and coordinate their costume, music and dance accordingly. They have the audacious task to impress the judges in 6 categories, how well the theme is portrayed, best dance, colorful and vibrant costumes and banner, originality of the theme, lively music, and the overall general impression of the Junkanoo groups. Junkanoo goers look forward to the brightly colored elaborate costumes and moving to the rhythmic sounds of the whistles, cowbells, goat skin drums, trumpets and horns, as a result of organize Junkanoo groups. Truly, organized Junkanoo groups have definitely advanced the cultural experience of Junkanoo. Through fierce competition, groups like the Platinum Knights, Superstar Rockers, Kingdom Culture, and Swingers put their best foot forward and give spectators a spectacular show as all of them desire to take home the first place trophy with of course bragging rights. Ever since the well organization of Junkanoo groups for competition,the Junkanoo festival experience has been something to look forward to every year as spectators are curious of which group will take home the best costume, the best dance and overall best music.


Evolution of Junkanoo Choreography

by: Chandrea Humes 

Earlier Junkanoo consisted of men dressed in costumes playing live music and parading the streets. Women would assist behind the scene with costume making and designing. As time went on women were brought in as freestyle dancers to help captivate the crowd. This eventually lead to the introduction of choreograph dancing as it was best for competitive reason. This gave the groups a sense of coordination that made them look synchronized and professional. The choreographed dances would include African, Bahamian and Caribbean dances like the “conch style”, heel and toe, and ring play etc.

Today’s choreographed dances feature some of the same classic moves along with modern dance hall, showgirl and hip hop moves for a more relate-able feel. Freestyle dancers as still present to interact with the audience and keep them engaged. Vibrant, sassy, and engaging most people would say that the dancers are the most fascinating part of the show.


Evolution of Junkanoo Costumes

by: Raquel Wilchcombe

This picture illustrates how back in the 1930’s, they made their costumes, out of sponge and everyday materials

The Evolution of Junkanoo costumes has transformed from the early Junkanoo days until now, which has become more attractive like never before. In the 1930’s, the slaves made their costumes out of everyday materials which were, shrubs, leaves, bottles, and paper. Which was during the time, the Sponging industry was booming, so it became a major part of the Junkanoo Costumes. Then in 1942, the Burma Road Riot had obstructed the Junkanoo parades that happened on the streets, as if they were never there, but was able to get back on the streets and performed in 1947. In addition to that, in the 1950’s costume materials were change. As it continued changing, going into the 1960’s, where the costumes were made out of cardboard and fringed crepe paper that had become very popular. Furthermore, the costumes also included pants, skirts, and hats that, often decorated with strips of crepe paper, which was cut into fringe. In the year 2000, it took a turn where they painted their costumes instead of using crepe paper. Now today costumes are changing, sometimes subtlety or radically.  Because of that, the costumes look three-dimensional with diverse synthetic material e.g. feathers and the sculptures were design based on different animations. Yet, to wrap it all up, the Evolution of Junkanoo costumes has been influenced as it is has made Junkanoo more attractive, the materials are always available when Junkanoo season comes around, it is now a form of art, costumes are now being competed with others and it’s originally a part of the Bahamian culture.

The Platinum Knights on their way to victory. This was during the 2018 New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade on Monday evening.