The History of J’ouvert  In the..." /> London J’ouvert Celebrations 2016 – Panpodium

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Published on August 16th, 2016 | by Robbie Joseph


London J’ouvert Celebrations 2016

The History of J’ouvert 

In the beginning the slaves celebrated the anniversary of their freedom by re-enacting scenes of Cannes Brulées. Cannes Brulées had its genesis during slavery. Whenever a fire broke out in the cane fields, the slaves on the surrounding properties were rounded up and marched to the spot, to the accompaniment of horns and shells. The slave drivers followed by the gangs cracking their whips; urging them with cries and blows, to harvest the cane before it was burnt. This event became known as the Cannes Brulées – Later called Canboulay.

After Emancipation the slaves used this celebration as a symbol of the change in their status. They engaged in masking, dancing, stick fighting, mocking the whites and re-enacting scenes of past enslavement. The August 1st celebration lasted for about a decade, after which it was transferred to the pre-Lenten season. The Canboulay usually started from midnight on the Sunday. This was, in essence, the beginning of the Africans’ Carnival. During this period the whites and coloureds ceased their participation in the street festival, thereby bringing an end to an era.

For more than a century J’Ouvert (pronounced ‘Jouvay’ meaning ‘day break’) processions have marked the opening of the famous Trinidad Carnival. Held in the wee hours of Carnival Monday, J’Ouvert evolved from 19th century Canboulay festivals, these night time celebrations saw ex-slaves gather to masquerade, sing, and dance in commemoration of their emancipation. When this tradition was incorporated into Trinidad’s pre-lent Carnival, it became an arena for African-derived percussion, sardonic costuming, and, more recently, lively steel band music with revellers jumping, dancing and shouting – fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol and the ambience of the occasion.

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The 2004 Notting Hill Carnival saw the revival of London’s Jouvert when Stardust, London All Stars and Ebony steel orchestras took to road at 6.a.m filling the air with the sweet strains of steelband music. Since its rebirth London All Stars have won the ‘Bomb’ tune competition eight times.

In contrast to the bright, fancy pageantry of the Sunday’s afternoon Children’s Carnival and Carnival Monday’s grandeur, J’Ouvert’s gruesome devils and mud-covered revellers manifest Carnival’s deepest challenge to order and authority, and fully depicts the essence of the Emancipation spirit. In keeping with J’Ouvert traditions of humour and macabre, numerous individuals play mud mas (covering their bodies with mud), dress in old rags, paint their faces, bodies and costumes, and cover themselves with white powder and flour. Many masquerade in satanic costumes, while others don satirical outfits and carry signs with humorous political commentary. Tubs of mud on make shift trolleys were wheeled down Ladbroke Grove, with revellers stopping every so often to smear each other or sometimes innocent bystanders.

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The London J’ouvert

Twelve years since its revival, London Jouvert celebrations sees Ladbroke Grove invaded by revellers adorning themselves in mud, powder or brightly coloured paint depicting the celebration of emancipation. The pre-dawn tranquility broken by the sweetstrains of steel band music in West London and masses of people chipping down the Grove in true Trinidadian style.  

This all steelband event, provides lively steel band music, which is well received by the public and is constantly growing in popularity. The British Association of Steelbands continue to work laboriously to ensure its growth is sustained through the inclusion of more steelbands and masqueraders and maintain its status of being an important ingredient of the cultural fabric of Notting Hill Carnival.

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The celebration starts with the procession leaving the Sainsbury’s car park at the top end of Ladbroke Grove promptly at 6:00 a.m. The steelbands snake along Ladbroke Grove as the revellers swelled to great numbers filling the air with a mist of powder and flour whilst covering each other with brightly coloured paint. The London Jouvert celebrations see steelbands and the traditional rhythm section playing along Ladbroke Grove and turning around at the bottom of the Grove and returning to Sainsbury’s car park.  



The Future of London Jouvert

When the celebration ends at 10:00 a.m. the revellers are always begging for more. Everyone is looking forward to more successful Jouvert celebrations in the future and BAS continues to work laboriously to ensure its growth is sustained through closer working relationships with the various Carnival partners/entities

2016 should see an increase in steel bands on the road for Jouvert as the 50th anniversary of Notting Hill Carnival is being celebrated.


BAS J’ouvert Bomb Competition Results


Band Tune Arranger


London All Stars Crying Frank Rolock


London All Stars She Frank Rollock


London All Stars Romeo & Juliet Frank Rollock


Ebony Steel Band My Way  


London All Stars Softly Awaits My Heart Frank Rollock


Real Steel Orchestra Love Me Tender Leroy Clarke


London All Stars Leibestraum Frank Rollock


Ebony Mr Bojangles Samuel Du Bois


London All Stars Feelings Frank Rollock


Real Steel Orchestra Ordinary People Leroy Clarke


London All Stars Shadow of your Smile Frank Rollock


London All Stars The Greatest Love Frank Rollock

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