Before J’ourvert on Saturday morning, we got off the ship early and went on a walking tour with the guide Lammy on the Labadee peninsular in Haiti. I learnt so much. For example, Royal Caribbean initially leased that peninsular for 25 years. When that ended, they leased it again for 99 years. Imagine that. Paying rent for 99 years.
Lammy only took us to three places but it was his knowledge and passion for Haitian history and reality which enthralled us. For those of us that knew, he was reaffirming our knowledge. For those that didn’t, it was an eye opener. I learnt more. I didn’t know that if there was no Haitian revolution, if Napoleon hadn’t lost in Haiti, the state of Louisiana in the United Sates would have been French territory today. The Louisana Purchase would not have occurred. After Napoleon lost to Haiti in 1803 (he sent 30 000 soldiers to Haiti to curb Toussiant’s rule and lost), he sold Louisana to the United States.
J’ourvert was one of the major highlights for me of the cruise. No, it wasn’t at day break but that didn’t matter. It started around 11:30. The vibe, music, location and people just made it good; Asa Bantan, Little Natty and Wuz Wayz, Lavaman, Kes the Band. Kees asked women with flags representing their countries to come on stage and it was such a good feeling to see so many diverse Caribbean flags. Someone created a big flag made up of all the Caribbean flags and many people took it to the front of the stage. That was a moment. Another moment for me was when they played kompa music at j’ourvert. It included Haiti and it felt to me it almost a formal welcome of Haiti to the family of soca. It felt good as Haiti is so often looked down upon.
I was looking forward to the Wakanda ball. It was aight. I mean I liked seeing everyone dressed up in African/wakanda attire and the food was good. The violinist Mapy was fantastic. But I guess I was expecting more from this ball. Like I dunno… see the opening dance at Akeem’s wedding in Coming to America? I dunno…. Something like that. Or a replay of the fight scene in Black Panther choreography. Some drumming. You know? To me it didn’t feel Wakanda/Africa enough. But maybe it was because I was way at the back on the second level that the ball didn’t have much impact for me.
I loved the carnival fete pool side. Many men and women did wear carnival costumes from various countries. There were some serious back packs and I wondered how on earth they traveled with those. There was a nice vibe at this fete which was I loved.
I attended the Panel discussion about soca on the Sunday. It was good the Uber Soca Cruise team thought about having a space for the artists to come together and for the audience to listen and answer questions. But to be honest? Some, if not most of this discussion I have heard before many times in many places. How do we grow soca? How do we make soca into a recognised genre by systems such as Itunes? Why Djs always play the same tunes in a fete? Why isn’t ‘small island music’ being pushed more? Sometimes I think there is not enough thinking on a global level. Feting outside of the Caribbean, travelling the world to places like Brazil, Africa, China, trust me, people don’t see small islands, big islands. All the Caribbean islands are small islands from their perspective and the seeming in house bickering is amusing.
The finale fete on Sunday night killed it. Motto skilling up on Alison Hinds bumper was madness. Mr Killa doing his thing. We were right at the top of the ship for most of the artists. But when Bunji came on, there was a need to be in the middle of the crowd, in the mele. Whilst performing, he spoke about the significance of being on Haitian soil for this cruise, the importance of taking pride in being Caribbean and representing West Indian wherever we go world wide. Bunji talking and singing, the huge Caribbean flag coming to the front of the stage, us underneath being sheltered by this Caribbean flag. A moment not forgotten. It was deep. Who thought a fete would produce such a profound moment?
Look out for the final sum up of the cruise