The spirit of Bahamian culture is brought to life with the creativity, enchantment, and revelry of the nation's favourite cultural expression - junkanoo!
"Bark like a dog!" shouts the band leader just before he summons the rhythm
Over 1000 strong, per troup at a time, respond in unison; "Woof! Woof!"
The rhythm then strikes up, and the spirits of the ancestors dance in unity with the numerous Bahamian souls who all congregate to enjoy what is held as a national treasure in their junkanoo celebrations.
Silbert Ferguson is a junkanoo specialist, and a historian of this rich and vibrant expression of Bahamian culture. He expresses his devotion to the musical art-form by showcasing various representations of Junkanoo styles and outfits at the EduCulture junkanoo complex located in Nassau, Bahamas.
Housed at EduCulture are various depictions of Junkanoo costumes, instruments and also an introduction to the uninitiated, on how the Bahamians partake in, and express themselves during junkanoo.
Junkanoo is focal to The Bahamas. It is about making a connection through music and dance that invokes harmony, and the spirits of the ancestors in a celebration of togetherness.
Ferguson shares that Junkanoo in The Bahamas has been ever present from the early 1920’s. What is most exciting about this Bahamian cultural form, is that it draws in all levels of the society into the junkanoo celebration. These celebrations take place via annual events on the streets of Nassau.
The blends of drums, bells, and other varying instruments all coming together to create a harmony of fun, whilst also partaking in a beverage of choice, is a typical feature of what junkanoo parties and celebrations entail.
Ferguson shares that junkanoo preparations in The Bahamas is serious business. It is known that groups will begin their preparations of costumes many months before the celebrations. However, the most fascinating aspect, is that every group seeks to guard their preparations as a national secret; sometimes too spying on other groups to see what costume creations they are planning to unfold during the annual junkanoo celebrations. So seriously is this junkanoo craft taken in The Bahamas
But where did Junkanoo as it is known so widely now came from? A brief explanation is provided by Bahamas Tourism where they stated the most popular belief "is that it developed from the days of slavery. The influx of Loyalists in the late 18th Century brought many enslaved people who were given three days off at Christmas, which they celebrated by singing and dancing in colourful masks, travelling from house to house, often on stilts. Junkanoo nearly vanished after slavery was abolished but the revival of the festival in The Bahamas now provides entertainment for many thousands."
The best Bahamian Junkanoo parades take place in Nassau. Additionally, the fun of junkanoo can be experienced also on other islands such as Grand Bahama Island, Eleuthera, Bimini, The Exumas and The Abacos islands.
View pictures of junkanoo costumes and visit to EduCulture by clicking here