Everything You Need To Know About Junkanoo Music and Culture

This past weekend, Vashtie had the pleasure of DJing an event series in the Bahamas were Junkanoo took the center stage. While we’re familiar with the genre native to this islands, we learned its much more. It plays a huge part in the culture of countries such as Jamaica and the Bahamas. In the Bahamas the parade occurs twice a year, first on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and Independence Day (July 10th.). The hours of the parade usually takes place between 1:00 AM to 9:00 Am. Junkanoo in the Bahamas takes place on Bay Street in New Providence, but it is not limited to just that location of the island. According to Bahamas.co there are three theories on how Junkanoo came to be. First there is the theory that John Canoe a slave and former prince of West Africa founded the parade. Second, the parade comes from the French word “gens inconnus” which translates to unknown or masked people. Third is it believed that the parade came about because of slavery, during the 18th century Loyalists gave slaves three days of during the time of Christmas. During this time the slaves celebrated by singing, dancing in colorful masks, and going from house to house on stilts.

The Junkanoo parade has been around for more than 500 years that means as time goes on the more elaborate the costumes. My-Bahamas-Travel shares that in the early days of Junkanoo slaves used whatever they could find to create their costumes. This meant they used things such as shrubs, leaves, bottles, and stones. In the 1930’s there was an introduction of sponge costumes and in the 1950’s there was costumes made of cloth, and fringed tissue paper; the 1960’s made cardboard and fringe paper costumes popular. Today a lot of costumes are made of crepe paper, aluminum rods, tire wire, contact cement, glue, glitter, and decorative beads.

The instruments used at the Junakanoo parade are cowbells, drums, horns, whistles, and brass. The drums are made of metallic oil barrels; there are also four types of horns used to create the music at the parade. Those four horns include foghorns, bicycle horns, the bronze bugle, and conch shells. The music played at Junkanoo can be described as infectious. Bahamas Entertainers lists musicians Antonius Roberts, John Beadle, Eddie Minnis, Jackson Burnside, John Cox, and Brent Malone as making huge contributions to Junkanoo music. It was not until the late 90’s that Junaknoo music began to be recorded. If the Bahamas happens to be on your list of places to visit think about visiting during the times of Junkanoo to experience the costumes, music, dancing, and wonderful people of the Bahamas.

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