By Daniel Shafto
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Additional resources for Carnival (Holidays and Celebrations)
Families would visit one another for parties between Samedi Gras and Mardi Gras (Fat Saturday and Fat Tuesday). When slavery was abolished in the French colonies in 1848, the freed slaves took these plantation parties to the streets, creating a celebration similar to today’s Carnival. Reggae, Soca, Mento, and the Steel Bands Reggae is of Jamaican origin and emerged in the late 1960s, building on the traditions of ska (Jamaican music that became popular in the 1950s). Reggae emphasizes the backbeat; the rhythm guitarist is vital to this music.
Since it is still dark in Binche when the societies gather, inhabitants and visitors in Binche hear the drums of the advancing societies long before they can make out the shadowy forms of the musicians and dancers. People fall in behind the marching societies. As more and more groups gather in the center of town, the noise and merriment grow until the rhythmic sound of the drums and wooden clogs, the excited laughter, and shouts of the crowd swell to a deafening level. By this time the details of each costume are clearly visible in the morning light and the partying is well under way.
Reggae emphasizes the backbeat; the rhythm guitarist is vital to this music. Bob Marley (1945–81) played a spiritual style known as roots reggae. Soca is a blend of slower soul music beats and quick rhythms. Introduced in the 1970s, it became an essential part of Carnival within a decade. Mento is a type of Jamaican folk music that provided the foundation for music that followed it, such as ska and reggae. Mento has African origins and is played mostly on acoustic instruments, such as guitar, banjo, hand drums, and rhumba box—an instrument based on the African mbira (a thumb piano), but large enough to sit on.
Carnival (Holidays and Celebrations) by Daniel Shafto