UPDATE#09 02/21/09 (NIGHT)

     (JUNKANOO PART 1)   


Howdy Everybody,

The adventures of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 through 02/20/09 have been published on the website.  We continue with the latest edition.

 UPDATE 2009 #09 02/21/09                                  SENIOR JUNKANOO PART 1 of 2

At last update, we had completed the daytime activities at the Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina in the Bahamas.




     Judy and I departed from the marina so as to arrive in the town center before 8pm.  Half an hour later, the Senior Junkanoo event commenced.  There were so many good and interesting pictures of this event that I have divided the coverage into two separate update editions.  I think you will enjoy the pictures that are often self-explanatory and reveal the level of civic pride and historical importance of this unique Bahamian celebration.


     Before the slaves were brought here to the Bahamas, the costumes, that they normally wore and used in Africa, were fashioned from dirt and mud from the ground. They also used various paints to decorate their faces and bodies.

     Here in the Bahamas, the slaves would gather any type of material that they could find in order to make their costumes. Many of the common materials in use at that time were shrubs, leaves, stones, bottles and paper. Generally, they also made their masks from these ubiquitous materials. Even after Emancipation, the slaves continued with their Junkanoo parades and adhered to traditions frequently using these same materials.  The majority of those early costumes portrayed Neptune and Amphitrite.

     The 1930’s saw the introduction of sponge costumes. Sponging was the number one industry in the Bahamas at the time. During the 1950’s, most costumes were made from cloth and fringed tissue paper. In the 1960’s, some groups abandoned their shirt and trousers costumes and introduced shoulder pieces and skirts made out of cardboard and fringed crepe paper.  Over the years, the floats, instruments, and costumes have evolved with the elaborate use of brilliant colors, feathers, and modern materials.  The design and construction of the costumes and associated equipment has elevated into projects requiring many, many hours, days, and months of intense preparation. 


     The music that is called Junkanoo is very primitive, but at the same time very infectious. The basic musical instruments are often made right here in the Bahamas, and consist of the various drums, cowbells, horns, whistles, scrapers and brass.

     During the 1930’s, "scraper" instruments became an integral part of the Junkanoo parade and added a unique twist to the broad range of musical sounds emanating from the band groups.


     Today, costumes are created over 7 major materials; Cardboard, Crepe Paper, feathers, Aluminum Rods, Tie Wire, Contact Cement, and Glue.

     The first thing in constructing a costume is to build a frame using the aluminum rods. The design for the costume is then drawn out by hand onto the corrugated cardboard. The excess cardboard is subsequently removed from the frame by cutting it off with shears or blade cutters. Wires are then pushed throughout the grooves of the cardboard to achieve the distinctive form and shape of these locally artistic masterpieces. Contact cement is liberally applied to the cardboard pieces to stick and hold them together. The cardboard pieces are then attached to the frame by tie wires.

     Afterwards, the structure is painted with white paint to camouflage the drabness of the corrugated cardboard pieces and strips. Although it is a very demanding and time-consuming process, the decorative steps that follow are what invokes the real passion for the avid Bahamian Junkanooer. The costumes are often fringed with crepe paper which is primarily imported from Europe. The edges of the crepe paper are fringed with pinking shears, or scissors, and cut into narrow, horizontal strips. The strips of crepe paper are then painstakingly applied to the cardboard, one strip at a time, using common glue. Estimates indicate that many costumes may require as many as 3,000 to 5,000 strips of multi-colored crepe paper for a winning combination in the major Junkanoo parades.  The addition of flamboyant feathers has elevated the art form to even greater dimensions.


     Most of the first drums were made from wooden barrels with cured goatskin or sheepskin stretched and nailed over one end of the barrel. The other end is left open. The drum is carried under one arm and supported by a thick strap, which runs over the opposite shoulder.  The drummer plays or beats it with his bare hands.


     Initially, the integration of brass instruments with the traditional sounds of Junkanoo was not too well received.  Today, most major Junkanoo groups can boast of having a brass section to accompany the traditional goatskin drum, cowbells, horns, and whistles. Many members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band, various youth group marching bands, and numerous members of various church bands comprise the majority of the present-day brass sections heard at Junkanoo celebrations.


     In addition to bicycle style horns, some participants utilize a type of manual foghorn more commonly found on boats,. The foghorn and bicycle horn are often doubled or tripled for a louderand more dramatic sound effect.


     A new style of drum that has been recently incorporated into the Junkanoo percussion sections is the Tum-Tum, which is actually a set drum made from fiberglass and plastic. The skins of these higher pitched drums are more susceptible to breakage. These drums are most frequently used by the lead drummers to play the major rhythm beats for the Junkanoo group.


     The large drums are heated by an open fire to make the skins extremely taut.  The process requires a watchful eye to prevent scorching yet still achieve the desired level of shrinkage to create the desired musical tone.


     As the Junkanoo music and dance is distinctly African in nature, most modern day Junkanoo dance choreographers try to make their routines as ethnic as possible.


     The “Cowbells” add great tone, rhythm, and beat.  These noisy, flat-sided clapper bells are commonly made from galvanized sheet metal or cast iron. They normally range in size from 6 to 14 inches long and are usually played in pairs. They are often joined at the end by a cord or chain. With a pair held in each hand, they are vigorously shaken or struck together.

In some instances, they may be joined together in such a way that there might be 2, 3, or even as many as 5 bells per hand.


     These huge drums are affectionately referred to as B-52’s or Rocket Launchers.





       We sincerely hope that you will review the previous years of compilations to give context to the current editions.  Please let us know if you have any special suggestions and thoughts.

     REMEMBER:  The website is now fully active and you can visit it at any time.  You can review any of the 2006, 2007, or 2008 logs and learn more about the crew and our plans.  Enjoy.



   You may contact us via email anytime.

Thanks for allowing us to share our life and adventures with you.

Lotsa Luv,

Fred Reed and Judy Law




"AMARSEis pronounced "AM-ARE-SAY".

        Our website is:   www.amarse.net   .