Road March - A “Famalay” Affair Road March A ‘Famalay’ affair
Skimpy costumes and untamed dancing aside, carnival road marches are paramount meeting grounds for people of all ages, cultures, and class – and for some, it’s a family affair.
Bianca Hernould tells The Gleaner, “As kids, my parents would come back from J’Ouvert on Friday night, and get my brother Johnathan and I ready for Kiddies Carnival in the mid-90s. Those are such fond memories of my childhood.”
When they got older, they joined their parents on the road. “My first ‘grown-up’ carnival was in 2006 in Jamaica, and I experienced Trinidad carnival in 2008. Carnival is something we all love and can do together, a time where we can all be together and have fun and listen to great music and be free!” Bianca exclaimed. She added, “Mommy and I normally choose costumes together, and we go shopping for accessories together; its always a bonding experience, call it girl time. And she always encouraged and taught me to be confident in my own skin on and off the road.”
Together, the four Hernoulds have religiously attended carnival together and are sometimes joined by other relatives on the road.
“It is something I love and would love to share with my own family one day. I know carnival gets a bad rap sometimes for the ‘wine up’ and seemingly in-your-face promiscuity, but I truly believe it is a time for people to listen to great music and feel free. They’re able to forget about the stresses of life for one day and just have fun,” she said.
For Melanie Schwapp, carnival is a place of love. She has been participating in Jamaica’s carnival celebrations since the first year it was introduced as a road march in 1990, and it is actually where she met her husband.
Three decades later, she finds herself still masquerading along with her two daughters, Briana and Claire. “My family and I all jump mass – all except for our son, Daniel. He loves the parties and the vibe, but I think that’s his limit. He has so many other interests and I think an entire day of playing mass would take away too much of his time from these activities,” she told The Gleaner.
She added, “Both our girls were shy when they first jumped in costume for their 20th birthdays. Carnival is a part of our Caribbean culture, and soca has always been something we exposed them to, so having them on the road with us was only a culmination of the pleasure we take in our Caribbean heritage.”
Like Bianca and her family, the Schwapp’s have created memories at other carnivals outside of Jamaica. Melanie says that she went to Trinidad carnival for the first time in 2010 and in 2012 their eldest daughter joined them.
“It turned into one of the best times of our lives. That first year of Trinidad carnival with our daughter with us on the road was one of the best times of our lives. It was not just our child who joined us, but children of our close friends, too, and the energy and excitement they brought to the event was incomparable,” she said. “It was such a joy to watch the wonder of this unifying production through their eyes. My personal enjoyment of Trinidad carnival doubled when I saw how much our children were enjoying not just the music and vibe of the carnival, but the whole culture of Trinidad too - the shark and bake, the doubles, Maracas beach, the whole works.”
She says that she sincerely doubts that she and her husband would be able to manage playing mass with their grandchildren but can only wish they would be able to. She and her husband have forfeited carnival this year, but both daughters are playing with Xaymaca.
“There’s a vibe that has brought people from all over the world for Jamaica Carnival, and we’re feeling the same culmination of culture and camaraderie that’s the true essence if carnival. As my daughter Briana said, ‘Buju in Trinidad, carnival in Jamaica – just goes to show how much we really love each other.’ The Caribbean is vibrant and happening, and I’m all for it!”
Merrick Marshal says that he grew up watching his mother, Valerie, fête with Byron Lee and his band. “We used to go to Waterloo and watch her walk past. I like the energy that soca music provides,” Marshall said. He first joined his mother on the road seven years ago. He, too, found love in carnival. “My other half Trayceann, is a soca junkie, and she jumped last year not knowing at the time that she was pregnant.”
He added, “It always feels like we are going on the road with good friends, although instinctively I am protective of my mother and my child’s mother while on the road, at least I do not feel like a bodyguard. Being together in a group where we treat each other as friends, makes carnival feel like no added pressure to chaperone or anything like that,” he said.
Soca recording artistes Skinny Fabulous, Machel Montano, and BunjiGarlin said it best this year with their collaboration Famalay, “ Family doh ever fraid to have yuh back at all time but telldem and demfriend we fêting with we Famalay, we come to play and mash up fête, tunup the dance, we like ah army.”