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J’ouvert in white for Republic Day

Published: 
Monday, September 18, 2017
Pan lovers take to the streets for the first Republic Day J’ouvert held by CAL Invaders in 2015.

The J’ouvert Jump Up on Republic Day in 2015 was meant to be a one-off, finale celebration for CAL Invaders as it marked its 75th anniversary as a steelband. Two years later, the J’ouvert jam has become a calendar note for lovers of the band and pan, looking forward to chipping and dancing to the live unamplified pan music between Roxy Roundabout and Elizabeth Street, by the Queen’s Park Oval.

“This has been literally by public demand,” said Michael Dinchong, Invaders managing director. He was surprised by the reaction to the event, but believes that it has to do with a revival of what J’ouvert used to be. J’ouvert, meaning day break in French, announces the official start of the Carnival festivities. In its earliest presentation during the plantation era, the J’ouvert was a form of protest and resistance as the slaves, under the guise of masking and performance, protested the treatment meted out by the plantation owners. Passing down the generations, J’ouvert continued with the concept of protest, adding to it steelpan music which defined warriorhood as well as resistance.

Invaders, as the band is known regardless of corporate sponsor, has the reputation of one of best J’ouvert bands on the road. Back then, it was only pan music that accompanied the masqueraders. This is unlike the present when each mas band carries its own selection of DJs positioned on big trucks. It is that memory of pushing racks as the pan men played, plus presenting J’ouvert in its original form – with witty placards, interpretation of dress to mock the elite—that has welcomed a new following.

While the band knew nostalgia would have thrilled an older, die-hard audience, the band did not realise young people were also enjoying the experience. “The average young person know pan in Panorama or in the pan yard – for them that is too much noise and complex arrangements. But the J’ouvert brought pan in its element, bringing a stillness and peace, a pace that the young people appreciated,” Dinchong said. The irony, he added, is that there is a lot of young people playing pan but not enough supporting the art form.

This year’s event plans to encourage more young people to participate by redefining the J’ouvert but maintaining the tradition in a modern setting, said Dinchong. The concept this year is J’ouvert in White, allowing people to redefine their concept in white while maintaining the value of the traditional J’ouvert. “It’s a perspective youth can relate to,” he explained.

The J’ouvert Jump Up is now a gift to the people which also includes the participation of six other bands – Brimlers, Woodbrook Modernaires, Phase II, Silver Stars, Woodbrook Playboyz and Newtown Playboys. Musical rivals during Panorama season, some of these bands also reside on Tragarete Road.

The challenge, Dinchong said, is financial support for the event. While the band is happy to share the joy of music and J’ouvert with the public and even expats living in the US and Canada, it is a struggle to finance it on its own. “With the state of the economy, money is going out but no money is coming in,” Dinchong said.

While it offers another opportunity to socialise by breaking bread, the proceeds will assist in defraying expenses accrued. Breakfast, provided by Rib House Catering, is available during J’ouvert hours 4.30 to 9 am. For further information about the J’ouvert Jump Up check CAL Invaders at the pan yard or any of the participating bands.

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