Mon | Mar 30, 2020

Krayoon Carnival more than a band, it’s a movement

Published:Saturday | January 19, 2019 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Members of the resident steel orchestra, UWI Panoridim band, at the launch of the Krayoon Carnival band launch.
Lenworth 'DJ Squeeze' Samuels and The Haven's Karen Darby share a laugh during the launch of Krayoon Carnival.

Unlike the Cayman Islands, Barbados, St Lucia, and the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica never had a carnival tradition before the '90s - first introduced on the University of the West Indies, Mona campus by students coming from these islands where carnival was already an annual event.

When record producer and musician Byron Lee inaugurated the annual Jamaica Carnival in 1990, the ultimate goal was to unite the classes in a series of events while exposing Jamaicans to other popular Caribbean festivals that identified with the culture of live music production and the revelry.

Joining the revelry in Jamaica this year is Krayoon Carnival. According to Sharon Simposn-Chung, "It (widespread celebration islandwide) is an element that is missing within the season, and our aim is to restore this in Carnival in Jamaica," she explained at the band launch on Thursday.

Carnival in Jamaica is spearheaded by a mix of old and new bands: Bacchanal Jamaica, Xodus, Xaymaca and One World Rebellion. Not to be confused with the present bill of bands, Simpson-Chung noted that their aspiration is to reintroduce what they coin "the soul of carnival" rather than focus on the moneymaking masquerades. So they will not be partaking in the road march.


Connecting the dots


Coming under the name Krayoon are members from various entertainment and event-planning teams, VAS Entertainment, FETEJ, and Fetedayz each known in soca-loving circles for their individual events. The partnership also includes south coast carnival to provide a vehicle for anyone who wants to jump carnival across the island.

Wesley Hylton told The Gleaner, "While the present focus of promotion for Krayoon Carnival is not on costumes, the anticipation is there to attract persons that share similar interests in learning about the roots of the celebration from the role of steel pan to the creation of big, colourful floats and various competitive elements of the season."

He says that what Jamaica's Carnival lacks is original events such as Carnival King and Queen contests, Soca Monarch competitions, steel pan bands opening the events as well as competing in the delivery and production of new calypso and soca music - which he believes will soon be another driving force in years to come.

"There is an impending soca music industry, and when it does start to climb, we will be ready to give those artistes the exposure," said Hylton. "We have the talent and the manpower, but at this time everything is in the early phases - getting Jamaica recognised as a place that has steel pan bands." The UWI Steel Orchestra, Panoridim, would be the resident band for Krayoon Carnival events, with a model to invite other popular steel pan bands to participate.

According to Tracey Hamilton, one of the founding members of Fetedayz and a Carnival Queen in the days of Byron Lee, the vision is to maximise on the growing space that is Carnival in Jamaica.

"This is more than a band. it is a movement that features live steel pan, an element that has been missing from local carnival bands since the days of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires," she said.

Although pleased with the increased number of groups emerging for this year's soca season, Hamilton notes that that not many are dedicated to keeping Byron Lee's legacy or that cultural dynamism alive. Adding to that that not many of the younger generation of soca lovers know that the steel "drum", or pan, was the primary sound of carnival before being gradually phased out and is now a dying part of the festival.

"Along with that, things like Tent Night are a lost element that originally was to bring creatives together for more than just the typical performances, but for social commentary and to speak and sing about things that are topical."

Krayoon Carnival is determined to contribute to the potential growth of carnival with slow but sure investments, starting with their every Thursday Carnival Lyme at The Haven on Hillcrest Avenue, leading up to the road march.