Sweltering. If I had to describe Kadooment Day 2017 in one word, that would be it. The heat was unrelenting, the humidity unforgiving and the masqueraders were unswayed. Smiling, sweating and beautifully bejewelled the ‘jumpers’ gyrated, dipped, tipped and bent over all the way from The National Stadium to Spring Garden on August 7.
The music was nice. I, for one, could not sit still even in the paralysing heat. Each year the release of music for the festival is shrouded in criticisms from the questionable quality of the melodies, the poor, sometimes ‘slack’ lyrics, too late releases and an overall supposed reduced delivery of ‘good’ music. While this year was no different, I beg to argue there was indeed a great selection of music to escort the paraders behind the blaring trucks ‘down the road’.
It was therefore somewhat puzzling then, to note some bands choose to start the party with music predominantly from previous years or even paid homage it seemed to primarily non-Barbadian artistes. A pity, but blessed sweet redemption would come. Stiffy, imploring all to Tip and Bend Ova would take the Road March crown. Masqueraders rocked left, right, forward and back sufficiently throughout the day to award RPB’s Boat Ride with second place and Marzville Give it to Ya so well we gave third place right back.
The climax of the annual Crop Over season was well represented by 20 bands and thousands of registered band members. They were magnificent. All shapes, sizes and soca pulsing skill sets were represented and each was a stunning display of creativity, from feathered headdress to street-stomping toes and everything in between.
The designers outdid themselves. The women, some admittedly less clad than others, left no detail unattended. Hair, nails, shimmering skin and oh the gorgeously finished faces complete with fluttering lashes and jewelled cheeks. If only the heat would pause long enough to allow smiles to break the surface more frequently, but alas glossed lips were frequently hidden behind much-needed refreshment, the beautiful faces barely visible behind chilled, oversized liquid-bearing cups.
The men were not to be outdone on either front and were equally splendid in their airbrushed anointments as well as in their liquid consumptions. There was no need to request “keep drinks coming”, punishing heat ensured there was no alternative and the drinks flowed.
Separately, or entwined and entangled together in various contortions, the men and women part-danced, part-jucked, part-limped and part-dragged themselves along the 9k route. Were it not for the heat I would have been envious. Instead, I enjoyed my role as a mere spectator cowering from the searing sun from my seated, shaded and elevated vantage point compliments Rotary Club of Barbados West.
It should have been an excellent day for all, revellers and spectators alike. It was not to be so. The heat was nothing compared to the heartache to come. The sudden and extended stop of the bands gave the first indication that something was amiss. Shortly after a fleet of police vehicles, sirens screaming and packed tightly with visibly armed task and defence force troops, parted the pulsing crowds. Movementations stopped momentarily as a collective muttering of quick prayers went up before the party resumed and waistlines went down.
It would be sometime later before the first news of a string of violent events would reach our sheltered domain to sully the day’s activities. In separate incidents, two stabbings and a series of shootings punctuated the proceedings, leaving one man dead and more than 20 others injured collectively. One of the bloodiest Kadooment days in living memory. It was a sour and disappointing end to the more than 12-week festival this year.
Mercifully, the heat abated. The spectators have surrendered and gone home, the route has been masterfully cleaned, costumes have been cast aside, masqueraders have rested and band leaders have breathed a collective sigh of relief. All is over. The music will play on and the memories will linger. How unfortunate that for some those memories will be too painful to bear and the plagues of heat, or pulsations of music, will have nothing to do with the sleepless nights still to come. (JW)