Bacchanal Jamaica

Bacchanal Jamaica
Most Caribbean Carnivals are held either in late February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide, or in August, to celebrate the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean. The Carnival of Jamaica, commonly known as Bacchanal Jamaica, is an exception. It usually takes place in late March or early April.

The history of Carnival in Jamaica dates back to the 1940s, when Trinidadian students who studied at the University of the West Indies recreated the elaborate carnivals they used to enjoy back home on campus. However, for most of the Jamaican public Carnival seemed like a foreign concept at the time.

Things began to change in the early 1990s. In 1989, a group of Jamaican Carnival enthusiasts, who called themselves The Oakridge Boys, couldn’t attend Trinidad Carnival because of an intense hurricane. So they decided to bring the energy, vibe and music of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival to Jamaica.

Jamaica’s very first Mas festival was organized by the Jamaican music pioneer Byron Lee and a group of friends. It featured a week of activities held in April 1990. In the following years, new carnival groups began to emerge, such as Revellers (1994) and Raiders (1995).

In 2000, the three groups joined forces to form Bacchanal Jamaica, which has since evolved to become one of Jamaica’s biggest annual events. Unlike traditional Caribbean Carnivals, it is held at the end of Lent, culminating over the weekend after Easter. Apart from that, it is mostly similar to Trinidad Carnival by which it was inspired.

The main highlights of Bacchanal Jamaica’s annual program include Beach J’ouvert, Bacchanal J’ouvert & Road March, and Bacchanal Road Parade. Beach J’ouvert is essentially a beach party featuring some great DJs and bands. Bacchanal J’ouvert is a party that officially opens the Carnival. It starts about 10 pm and lasts until the wee hours of the morning, culminating in a street parade.

Finally, the Bacchanal Road Parade is the event everyone is waiting for. Revelers in vibrant costumes march through the streets of Kingston, accompanied by reggae and ska bands. By the way, reggae and ska music is what distinguishes Bacchanal Jamaica from other Caribbean Carnivals. Jamaicans see their Carnival as a great opportunity to popularize the country’s most beloved music genres.

Bacchanal Jamaica

Photo: O’Neil Perrin




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