When I think about Switzerland, I think about the Swiss Alps with ski chalets, Swiss watches and chocolates, the Geneva Conventions, Swiss bank accounts. Soca and carnival in Switzerland? I don’t think of that at all. But here it is. Our music and concept of carnival in Geneva, Switzerland thanks to GC sounds and other pioneers for Caribbean culture. It’s called the Lake Parade and has been going on for about 20 years. However, for the first time, this year our Caribbean culture was reflected with the introduction of a soca truck to this event. And it was mad fun! One of the best carnivals for me this year. It was that good. From my perspective, here’s why.
Organisation The organisation I felt was good. I was given enough detail prior to the carnival to know where things were such as accommodation, transport, directions to places etc. The Geneva Carnival team were efficient and answered all my questions (and I usually ask many). I didn’t arrive in time to attend all the events but next year I will do so because I really enjoyed the Friday Dream fete. All the European soca community was in one venue which I liked and it was just good friendly vibes. This soca truck sponsored by the company LiveLoveSoca was t-shirt based and there were many opportunities for collection. Some ladies brought their own costume from other or upcoming carnivals. Costumes from Mas with a Difference, Bacchanalia and Flawless Mas amongst some others could be seen. It was great as it generated queries amongst the curious and fascinated.
Transport and accommodation. From London, it takes an hour to get to Switzerland. An hour! On most days, it can take me an hour just to get across London city. Touch down in Switzerland and it takes 6 minutes by train to get to the city centre of Geneva. Which is free once you get the ticket at the airport. Public transport is free. I got a card at my hotel which gave me free access to public transport inside the city. So no paying for public transport. If you want to take a taxi, well you’re on your own with that one. Essentially, all you have to think about paying for is food. Unless you want to do some extras. There are quite a few hotels of various price ranges based in the city centre which were walking distance to the carnival route.
Cost Let’s see the package I got was 99CHF which was about £80.00 for t-shirt and about 3 events? I arrived on the Friday night so missed a lot. The hotel I stayed in was about £240 for the two nights but that was for a double room. My flight was about £150 when I paid. So all in all not too bad a spend for a carnival vacation.
Route. The carnival route was sweet! It is the most beautiful carnival route I have been on. I cyah lie. It’s like the French Riviera of carnival routes. Along the route you have the Geneva Lake on one side of you with the blue waters and you will pass manicured trees, sail boats and yachts at some point. On the other side, buildings with individual features. Going across the bridge, you can see some buildings of famous companies such as Rolex. The carnival went at a steady pace so you could keep up and didn’t feel like you were rushing to catch up or staying in one spot for ages. The route is short. From about 2pm -6pm? But the end of the route leads to an enclosed space along the lake front where the various trucks parked up and played their music until 3am in the morning! It was like a serious liming and feting session, kind of similar to the end of Jamaica carnival with Bacchanal Jamaica but everyone ending up the same place. There were also vendor trucks with various food and drink and toilets. I did see some revellers from the parade just jumping in the lake to cool down. Yes, I seriously like this route and the end to the carnival. Along the promenade of the lake front after dark, there were further spots where people were randomly listening to music and dancing to salsa. That was just nice and I joined in for a dance or two when I returned after having a fresh up.
Size of Event To my mind, it’s a medium sized parade. There were many trucks on the route and many people. But the road was wide enough not to feel claustrophobic and there was enough space for you to bruk out if you wanted (which carnival bonifides such as Ashleigh did!).
Weather It was great! It was hot! About 31 degrees? There was truck a couple of trucks up front with guys who had water guns hosing the crowd. I tell you I went there plenty times to get wet and cool down!
Music. The DJs on the soca truck did a seriously good job of keeping the vibes going and introducing the predominantly Swiss crowd to our music. They loved it. There were other trucks playing other types of music; dance, reggeaton, pop. If you are one of those that think only soca should be played at carnival, welcome to the world of the global carnivalista. You know that soca might be played but there might be other genres of music depending on where West Indians have decided to settle down, where our music and culture is popular or the given culture itself. For example, carnivals in countries such as the French Caribbean countries or in the city of Venice or in Rio where they don’t play soca at all but hey it’s still carnival! I love me soca but I love me some reggaeton amongst other genres as well so I moved around the route a lot.
Overall Vibe This carnival has vibes! It opens up with three sweet rides at the beginning of the procession and the music trucks and procession followed. The crowd was pretty diverse in terms of music preferences. There were the people who had no idea about soca and got to know about it. It was good to see new faces, get to meet new people and see new people loving the culture. Then there were the various Soca European teams/ companies/crews who represented. The Swiss soca community naturally attended, UK Soca Scene, Live Love Soca and Specialist Ent were there. The French Soca Crew and Dutch Soca Lovers were there. And everyone was on the same mission, to have a fantastic time in the new location for Caribbean vibes.
Appreciation of culture Whilst some authorities are wanting to move Notting Hill Carnival from its ancestral home because it is a two day inconvenience for them, and they don’t see our value and how special our culture is, Switzerland embraced it. People asked questions; What is this music? Where can I get it? Where can I get the Brazilian costumes (don’t worry we will educate them on that) How can I dance like that? When is Notting Hill Carnival? The happiness on their faces, they jumped and sang soca and danced and they marvelled. At our culture. Caribbean culture did that. In Switzerland. Deep in Europe. How amazing is that?
It is new and the great response was fantastic. Geneva carnival can easily and quickly join Notting Hill, Rotterdam and Berlin as the top carnivals with Caribbean inclusion this side of the Atlantic. But being there at inception? When soca was first introduced this year? That was such a privilege and something pretty special. You think Europe don’t know about soca and carnival? Check out these carnivals as well as festivals such as the Ibiza Soca Festival. Yeah man, Europe does soca and carnival too. And it’s done with style.
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