Words by Tishanna Williams
Photos by Wayne Lawrence
Each August, the usually-quiet island of Grenada transforms for its Carnival. Spicemas, as the Spice Isle’s summer festival is called, is a reveler’s dream: All of the vibes, and none of the bourgeois behavior that can plague celebrations on the larger islands. And for those who aren’t afraid of getting a little dirty, there’s nothing like playing Jab during Grenada’s J’Ouvert. For this year’s edition, culminating on Carnival Monday and Tuesday (August 14th and 15th), LargeUp’s got the hookup. All you have to do is get that flight — we got your itinerary. This is your guide to Spicemas 2017.
Located along The Carenage, on the waterfront in St George’s, Carnival City is an outdoor venue where you can catch performances by the island’s top musical acts. For calypso and soca artistes like Lavaman and Dash, performing here is a great way to get their music out, and perfect their Calypso and Soca Monarch performances. It’s no wonder this site is the venue for the prelim and semi-finals in these competitions. Things get started around 8pm nightly, beginning Thursday, August 3rd. Dress code is anything from casual to trendy.
Soca Monarch/Groovy Soca Monarch
The best of the best soca competitors will come out to compete for these twin crowns at the National Cricket Stadium on Friday, August 11th. The whole of Grenada will be there to support their favorites. We’re feeling Boyzie, Dash and Wuss Ways for a battle to the title this year. Of course, we had to ask someone in the Grenada music game for their perspective. Fearless Kevon, one of Grenada’s popular DJs, is giving Blaze‘s song “King” the nod for Power, while he thinks Groovy will belong to Terra D Governor‘s “True Colors.”
The parties will be pumping pre-Carnival with the average ticket for bigger events costing between US$25 and $150. Not bad, considering that some all inclusives at Trinidad Carnival cost as much as US$300. Whatever your taste, it’s available with events like C4 Promotion’s House Party Episode: Jab in White on Tuesday the 8th, and Binge (Beach + Beers) Cooler Fete on the afternoon of Saturday the 12th. When it comes to the Saturday night before Carnival, though, there are only two events worth going to: Xtreme White at the Kirani James Athletic Stadium, and the Pure White water party at Moonlight City, Grenville. Check Facebook event pages for dress codes, and ticket availability. (Hint: If the fete has ‘white’ in its name, you should probably wear all white.)
Real Grenadians know that the outdoor party sessions not to be missed are off the beaten path. While you may be looking for a club or bar to let loose in, a Grenadian may tell you they’re heading to the Goat Pen on Wednesday or Sugar Hole this Saturday. You should go with them. Talk about a real party!
If you only have one pre-Carnival event to live it up, do not miss Tallpree’s Pree Day, on Wednesday, August 9th. This is one of the biggest Carnival parties on the island every year. But the 2017 edition, at the National Cricket Stadium, will be particularly special: It sees the “King of Jab” celebrating 20 years in the entertainment business.
The piece de resistance of Grenada Carnival comes in the early hours of Monday morning, as bodies glistening with black oil and mud wine and wuk up from before dawn until the midday sun. To play Jab is to “Play the Devil,” and there is nothing sacred in this parade. From women making over sexualized gestures to tongues dripping in“blood” and the appearance of exotic snakes, Jab Mas is not for the faint of heart. (Historically, the whip-cracking, oil-smeared devil portrayed at Jab Mas represented the evil the enslaved Africans faced at the hands of the white colonizers.) But we promise you, if you experience it once, you’ll be back next year.
If you miss the main festival in St. George’s, you can catch it again in the countryside of St. David’s on Tuesday. Jab Jab is so important to Grenadians, it’s even lent its name to the island’s most popular local music — a style that originated in the streets during Jab Mas and has since been made popular in studio recordings by the likes of Tallpree. To miss Jab Mas is to leave the island knowing nothing about its carnival or people.
Traditional Mas/Monday Pageant
After J’ouvert is over on Carnival Monday, the Pageant begins: Traditional characters like Short Knees and Wild Indian masqueraders dance through the streets from their respective parishes into the town of St. George’s. These colorful presentations give us a taste of the island’s home-grown flavor before the Pretty Mas that floods the streets in the evenings. Careful, though, with your outfit — Some of these characters are known to toss baby powder as part of their performance.
Monday Night Mas
A real light show, you purchase a package that entitles you a space in a band. Meet the party at Lagoon Road, St George’s, and party on the streets with glow sticks and flashing lights all the way to the Carenage.
What would Carnival be without a time to wear pretty costumes and show off your style while wining through the streets? In Grenada, the Parade of the Bands takes place on Carnival Tuesday. Entrance into one of the hot bands this year will cost you about $500ECE (roughly US$200). Summer Crew‘s costume theme “Secret Garden” is looking great this year; you you can find them on Facebook. Costumes aren’t as risqué as those in Trinidad, so you can jump up confident you’re not flashing the Carnival paparazzi. And, of course, when all is (almost) said and done, there are Last Lap parties to cap everything off. DJ Kevon recommends Twofer Tuesdays at Club Bananas in True Blue. There’s even free drinks. What more can you want?
One thing is certain: All of the partying you’ll be doing at Spicemas will make you very hungry. If you miss Gouyave Fish Fridays, you missed a real treat. Grenada’s fishing capital is halfway up the coast from St. George’s, and you get your catch grilled, fried or whatever straight off the boat! It’s a street party setting with music being played from nearby shops, so no need to dress up. Just come hungry.
The owners of BB’s Crabback are Grenadian nationals that came home to the island from England, and decided to open a place with open-air ambience directly on the water in St. George’s, and a personable vibe that will have you feeling like family. We strongly recommend the namesake appetizer, BB’s Crabback — fresh seasoned crabmeat baked in the actual shell and served with fried bakes. Prices for a meal range from US$15 and up.
Do not go to Grenada without trying the flavor-packed national dish, breadfruit oildown — breadfruit, pig tail and salted meat stewed down in heavy seasonings and coconut milk. If you’re staying countryside, you may be lucky enough to see a large pot of this being prepared on a wooden fireside in someone’s front yard. Another treat that’s not to miss is lambi (or conch), a mollusk that can be a bit chewy but still tasty. Ask around for lambi waters, a delicious thin broth. Like a good time, it won’t be hard to locate during Spicemas in Grenada.