Bayou Bacchanal shares Caribbean culture with New Orleans
Much has been written about New Orleans and its connections to the Caribbean. From its earliest days, trade routes linked the city with islands to the south. The combination of European colonialism and the enslavement of western Africans created a repulsive economy, but one that somehow gave rise to some instances of true beauty. Those cultures, as well as those of the Native peoples and even Asian traditions, influenced food, music, dance, religion, architecture, art, literature… everything that makes life meaningful.
We often joke that New Orleans is the “northernmost city in the Caribbean” and that isn’t entirely false. If you haven’t yet listened to it, please check out the new installment of WWNO’s history podcast, TriPod: New Orleans at 300, called “Haiti and New Orleans: Is the Feeling Mutual?". It explores the impact of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and the mass migration from Haiti to New Orleans that resulted, as well as the reciprocal question of whether New Orleans is part of Haiti’s story.
As with Haiti, many Caribbean cultures have found expression in New Orleans. A local nonprofit organization, Friends of Culture, works to keep that culture fresh. Their annual Caribbean Carnival, Bayou Bacchanal, is this weekend and it brings the tropical Carnival experience to New Orleans that our Mardi Gras traditions lack.
Bayou Bacchanal begins with a parade, but don’t expect white-hatted brass band musicians in this one. The driving rhythm of Soca music will help the dancing masqueraders shake their feathers. Traditional Caribbean costuming will be on display (along with quite a bit of bare flesh), and headdresses and costume pieces will feature every color of feather imaginable. The parade will depart from Harrah’s Casino at Canal and Poydras and make its way up Canal Street to Armstrong Park, where the party will continue from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
This year, the parade will also feature Color Me Krazy Mas, a Paint and Powder Carnival band, with three DJs: DJ Half Krazy, DJ T-Roy and DJ Phil. To participate in that aspect of the parade, payment and registration is required. Details for that can be found here.
At Armstrong Park, the ringing, tinging steel drums, indigenous instruments of Trinidad and Tobago, encourage more dancing. Vendors will be there as well selling Caribbean food and more.
The party is more than Saturday’s daytime festivities, and different events have been built in to the Carnival schedule. Pan: The Spirit 2, a conference on steel pan instruments and music, will be held Thursday, Nov. 2. The White Party is Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Nov. 4 features a late-night Caribbean Camouflage party. Check the link for those event details.