it have a Vibe
These words can describe any carnival but for the 50th installment of Notting Hill Carnival (NHC) they seemed especially poignant... and then some! Many of the seasoned NHC revelers including Daddy Juice aka The Carnival Ref and Scorn Juice, even on the wet Monday afternoon, expressed that this was one of the best NHC editions in years, while NHC toddlers like myself had to agree there was indeed something about this carnival that was just blissful. Was it the event line up for the weekend? Was it the execution of these events? Was it the different artistes/DJs on the bill? Or was it the people that came from near and far to celebrate and "feel that feeling"? Was it the length of the parade route or the elements? How did NHC 2014 go down?
TJJ's coverage actually started the weekend prior to the actual carnival weekend with the return of "Trini Luau" by Brian Danclair and Friends after an absence of a few years. The 2014 edition hit the spot - the food was very tasty and in abundant supply, drinks flowed and music was right. This was definitely a nice (and repeatable) precursor for the next weekend's festivities.
Coming in from out of town on the Friday meant that I missed Thursday night's "Sunset" vibes. This is a new event and was a great way for Londoners and any early out of towners to start the weekend off right. That means my weekend actually started with "Pon De Roof Top (PDRT)", another first year event (and def not the last), that featured Private Ryan along with Walshy Fire along with DJs Rascal, Shep Beats, Triple M and DJ Markee. With most of the visitors now in place this event was a great way to see who made it in and get a feel for what was the pump for the weekend was going to be. There were two main areas - outdoor and indoor - with outdoor having two levels but indoor just one. Once the party moved inside it was a tad cramped - especially when Ryan and Walshy came on. Looking for a bigger venue for the second installation is not a necessarily a bad problem for promoters to have. Carry on chaps. Carry on.
Daddy Juice, Juicy Juice and Scorn along with Hypa made it over to Busspepper's "Bacchanal Friday" held at Revolution America Square where DJs High Fidelity/Less Than Zero, Markee, Shep Beats and Private Ryan lead the musical assault. This party checked all of the right boxes - great crowd, nice vibe and Caribbean food if you needed to pad your stomach before the drinking festivities kicked off. Unfortunately the Revolution bartenders couldn't keep up with the demand for alcohol and their service simply got worse and worse as the night progressed. Wait, is that Benjai liming in the party ... normel, normel??!!
Primed from "Pon De Roof Top", I made my way to Next Level PoisonUK's "Fire Fete". This year featured Lil Rick, 5Star Akil, Fyah Empress, Tian Winter and Triniboi Joocie. Mr. Killa was carded to perform but I understand he may have pulled a "rolly plane-y" and didn't make it. Instead Olatunji Yearwood came on and gave the crowd the very smallest of teases. 5Star Akil lived up to his name and starred when he brought Naya George to the stage. Talk about surprise! And what a lovely one at that! Lemmee see yuh right haaaaaan'! Lil Rick then closed off the show in hyper dawg fashion. Next up was the "Next Level PoisonUK After Party". With DJs Spice, Tate, QT Hype, Triple M and Private Ryan doing the do. Benjai also blessed the mike and remember "I from Arima Dan!" Wow ... 3 events in one night! Ah feeling that feeling!
A quick shower and change and it was time for Ruk-A-Tuk's "Notting Hill Carnival Premium Breakfast Cruise". Last year's edition was just right so I was looking forward to see what this year's held. Using a bigger boat, the Dixie Queen, than last year meant more patrons and potentially more vibes. Food was served downstairs with seating and once breakfast was out the way was time for the action. With D-One Jammasters joining the DJ cast of Shep Beats, DJ Markee, Private Ryan and host Konata all main ingredients were in the pot. Now to bubble - on a dj, on pole, on a man or woman, or just on the floor. I think some people did all.
While myself and Scorn Juice were in the bubble at Ruk-A-Tuk, Dre aka The Carnival Ref and Juicy Juice 'suited' up. Another first time event at NHC, Ice box Entertainment put on their "Suits UK" cruise that started off in Trinidad Carnival only two years ago. Powering this sold out boat ride was DJ Dale, Back to Basics and DJ Spice, so the music was on point ... smallies doing pull ups while wining on man, conga line, pooch back, go dung ... you name it, it happened! This NHC cruise would have easily maintained all 8+ scores, but defintely needed to have more than one bar on board the Thames Princess. Otherwise, job well done guys!
From land to sea it was Saturday night and the TJJ crew ended up "Shipwrecked - In Mexico". This all inclusive event was possibly my highlight of the weekend. Held at the spacious Vinopolis, there was a flowing entry area where you picked up your drinking vessel for the evening, after which you proceeded to the first hall area the food was set up with various Mexican, vegetarian and Trini goodies. There was also a fruit/dessert and Jaeger shot stations, a photo area, attractive shot gals and guy and one of the bars. In the second hall area to the back was another bar and at the front was the stage/DJ area. Again DJs were Markee, Dale, Private Ryan along with Back to Basics and the order of the evening seemed to be "mash up" which they delivered on.
With my vibes still high I found myself at "Oh Gosh!". From the lines outside it was clear to see that the place was full. Surviving the crush at the gates, once inside I made my way to the stage area just in time for the start of the performances. Ms Desire and Triniboi Joocie started things off, then came Tian Winter (one of the sweetest voices in the Caribbean really. He can sing me a lullaby anytime!!) followed by Lyrikal. Then came Skinny Banton, who's hit "Soak It Good" dropped just before Berlin Carnival and has seemingly been the anthem of the summer - Soak it! Soak it ... Soak it GOOD! For those with extensive experience in marinating saltfish - and those wanting to gain some - this song seems to be a call to service. Have you been called? The show then finished with current TnT Groovy Monarch Kerwin Du Bois who thrilled the crowd with hit after hit after hit. Djs for the night included Soca Mafia, Triple M, DJ Tate, DJ Stephen (Machel's tour DJ) and Dr. Jay de Soca Prince from Toronto. With such a turn out for the show, I definitely think the organizers need to look into a bigger venue for next year.
Special mention should be made of the fact that in London, while there is a very big Trini population, there is an even larger Caribbean population with folks from Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada, Antigua and so on and that the everyday people and the various artistes/DJs from these islands also contribute to soca's growing popularity outside of the region. They are in the trenches working to "SOCA-RIZE" the world too!! Kudos must be given to promoters like Next Level PoisonUK and Bachanal Radio for putting on shows that showcase this. Especially in a vast, cosmopolitan and gateway to Europe market like London. For some context penny this - the international world knew who Arrow and Kevin Lyttle was years before they even heard of Bunji Garlin's name.
On NHC Sunday, the Team TJJ split up a bit with some in Abir's "The Colors of Life", some in TriniPosseUK's "Colours" and others with Pure Lime's "Chocolate Mas". But no matter which band you found yourself in, this day is the day that sets Notting Hill Carnival apart from the rest! And it's plain and simple ... NO other carnival has an ALL DAY Jouvert!!
As for Pure Lime, it was truly an exquisitely enjoyable and memorable day - drunk or sober. With music provided by DJs Rascal, Markee, D-One and hosted by Konata the crowd was able to chip and wine and roll up waist lines at will. Food - breakfast, lunch and corn soup - was provided by chef Hasan De Four and a happy 50th to Edison as well. Now, I do feel that Scorn Juice missed the important announcement at the meeting point "Please do not put any chocolate on the media roaming through our band." My evidence of this was the acutely stinging sensation I felt on my right butt cheek and the echo it made in my ears. It was vaguely equivalent to getting hit with a paintball - a chocolate one that is.
On Carnival Monday, after wonderful "carnival weather" i.e. not too hot, not too cold, the heavens opened up and it rained ALL day and was a bit chilly. Masqueraders from all bands were resilient though and still came out in costumes, some added ponchos and/or a wine tent aka umbrella and some of those were fully occupied throughout the day. Our team bravely followed suit and trekked on as well. When it drizzles for parade days this usually adds an element of "loosening up" for everyone. When it pours and revelers know this is the last bit of the carnival for the year, they riddim up and well.... make MAS!
NHC 2014 was #tooreal.
We Love Carnival ... We Know Carnival ... WE ARE CARNIVAL!
Roopie & The Notting Hill Carnival
Notting Hill 2013 Coverage