Barbados: Celebration of Rhythm
Submitted by Jacqueline Warner on the 2017 winter session program in Barbados sponsored by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies…
On Thursday night, my class went on a cultural excursion to the south coast on the beach for an event called Celebration of Rhythm. This event celebrates the unique culture of Barbados and the dances that have been created over time because of this culture.
Short history lesson: Barbados was made up mostly of English settlers and the African slaves they brought to harvest sugarcane. From this combination, we have much of what Barbados is today: a mix of English and African traditions, influences and peoples.
The island of Barbados became independent from the UK on August 1st ,1966. Last year, they celebrated their fifty years of independent “Pride and Industry”, the country’s motto. Since their independence, the island has been struggling to create their own culture so they are not just a mix of English and African culture. They have created the celebration of Kadooment, which was originally a celebration of the end of the harvest — known as crop over — and what is now a combination of the celebration of crop over and their independence. The celebration takes place at the end of July and beginning of August, but the celebrations and smaller individual parties begin as soon as April now. The people of Barbados get into groups, called bands, and pay to have their own parties and costumes. The costumes are usually very elaborate and include feathers and gems. At Kadooment, the people get in their bands and walk around following trucks blasting music. Some bands are there just to celebrate and have fun, but others are in the costume and dance competition and take it very seriously.
The Celebration of Rhythm performance started with British drumming and moved to an African dance by slaves on the plantation and with shaggy men dressed in what looked a little like a Ghillie Suit. The celebration continued through more dances that were traditional of Barbados including men dressed as women with large butts called Mother Sally and a brief stop in the Spouge music era of the 1960’s where everyone dressed in sequined leotards and suits to dance with each other. The celebration ended with a smaller version of Kadooment, which I have attached a photo of. The women came out in feathered outfits and two men came out on silts. They danced for a while, and a woman did the limbo under a stick on fire! The event ended with all of the performers coming down from the stage to get us to get up and dance with them, and then they led us in a conga line around the room and under the stilt men’s legs. During this time, we befriended some of the dancers and they showed us some of their moves, and later we met up with them again to continue dancing. Everyone on the island is so friendly, and it is very easy to meet new people — I am really having an amazing time learning about this new culture.