The magic of Junkanoo

Junkanoo is perhaps the truest and most complete expression of Bahamian culture. Junkanoo parades envelop not only our music but our dance and our art and indeed our folklore.

It is a totally Bahamian tradition yet thoroughly international.

Themes, beautifully manifested in pasted/painted costumes and off the shoulder pieces, run the gamut from the fauna and flora of the Bahamian archipelago, “ole time stories”, Bahamian heroes and Biblical narratives to the seven wonders of the ancient world; from the Aztec and Mayan peoples of the Americas to world famous cartoon characters, the Queen, Uncle Sam and Mandela.

This year’s Boxing Day themes did not disappoint, stretching among the A group category from the Serengeti in Africa, to dream vacations, fairylands and video games to the fight against cancer and Hurricane Dorian.

Junkanoo is enjoyed at any time of the year and at any time of the day, but it is hard to beat watching lead banners and dancers burst out of the dark night into the gleam of spotlights on Bay Street on Junkanoo morning.

There is simply something wonderful about being out and about in downtown Nassau at two o’clock in the morning when most sensible people are in their beds, but you have joined hundreds of others to partake in “our tings”.

It is virtually impossible for Bahamians to hear the beat of a goat skin drum, the ring of cow bells, horns and whistles and not immediately begin to move their feet and indeed their entire bodies to the rhythm of the music.

There is nothing understated about Junkanoo.

It is bold and loud, even brassy. Its colors are strong and vibrant – orange, yellow and green; red, gold and silver – all in their brightest hues. Even subtle additions of pink and blue do not tame the riot of color.

Our Junkanoos are boastful in the best and the worst way.

Before a Boxing Day or New Year’s Day parade, every group announces the competition ended: “It over”, each satisfied that they have so perfected the magic of their craft that no other group can win.

There being always “many a slip between a cup and a lip” all those early counted unhatched eggs lead to proclamations of “they rob us” when the judges release their choices for winners. All in good fun.

The viewing public is an integral part of a parade. After all, what would a Junkanoo parade be without shouts of “Dey coming”, “Valley”, “Saxons”, “it ower” and bouncing bleachers.

Junkanoo, keeping Bahamian time, is always late.

Scheduled to begin at 10 p.m., no one seems to remember a time when the first group ever hit Bay Street at the appointed hour.

Sometimes justified, like this year, by the downpour of rain; once underway, it is impossible for a group to withdraw from competition.

Complaints from fed up viewers pledging never to return gradually fade and inevitably faithful fans return annually to cheer for their favorites, declare victories stolen and promise not to come again because there was simply “too much lag time between the groups”.

All in all, a wonderful time is had by all.

We remain in the debt of the dedicated artists who labor for untold hours in Junkanoo shacks bringing well researched themes to life every year.

We thank the musicians who raise the level and sophistication of the music annually without losing Bahamian tempo or cadence.

We thank the dancers who convince us that with a little practice perhaps we too can dance the lengths of Bay Street and Shirley Street without missing a beat and seemingly without damage to muscles, tendons or ligaments.

Finally, we acknowledge and thank the organizers and sponsors of this spectacular celebration.

We congratulate the winners of the 2019 Boxing Day Parade and applaud all participants in every category for what they do to promote and keep our culture alive and relevant to all generations of Bahamians.

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