Are you ready for the electrifying energy of Cayman Carnival Batabano – to dance and jump to the island’s rhythms and beats?
The multi-faceted annual event has already included a highly successful Junior Batabano and Family Fun Day; gala dinner and concert featuring the legendary Byron Lee’s Dragonaires; and bar hop that has seen various bars throughout Grand Cayman compete for best “BataSpirit” beverage with Batabano’s official custom-made rum, courtesy of Cayman Spirits. (Cayman Cabana is the last stop on the bar hop, so be sure to make it there on May 1.)
The festivities continue into the weekend with a special Friday night fete scheduled for May 1. Trinidadian soca star Machel Montano and his full band will take the stage at Festival Green at Camana Bay with a live performance. Joining him on stage to sing the very popular “Party Done” (which they debuted at Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 2015) is soca sensation Angela Hunte.
The opening acts are Regeneration and FEVA, and a host of local and international emcees and DJs who will be playing to the crowd all night long, including EMAN, Dirty Dez, DVJ Carter LMP, DJ Soca Sweetness, DJ Eternal Vibes and DJ Flex.
Considered the “King of Soca,” Montano is a multi-award-winning artist whose goal is to successfully usher soca into the realm of mainstream music. It will be his second time performing in Cayman.
“The only other time that Machel Montano has played in Cayman was in 2008 when the committee organized for him to come here for the carnival’s 25th anniversary. It’s very special that he will be back to perform here,” said Donna Myrie-Stephen, festival organizer and chairperson.
Tickets for the Friday night fete are $55 in advance and $60 at the gate, VIP admission is $100 in advance and $125 at the gate. Tickets can be purchased at Funky Tang’s, Reflections, La Classique, Winner’s Circle, Margaritaville, and online at Ticket Gateway.
It’s best to keep your (comfortable) party shoes on and forget about resting this weekend because on Saturday, May 2, the Batabano parade kicks off.
More than 2,000 people are expected to take part in the annual parade, which begins at 1 p.m. at Public Beach and will travel along the Seven Mile Beach corridor along West Bay Road before it comes to an end in George Town on Harbour Drive.
“It is the longest Batabano parade route to date, thanks to the Rotary Club, our biggest sponsor,” said Myrie-Stephen.
Thousands of residents and visitors are expected to line the streets to enjoy the revelry and animated parade, which involves mas (masquerade) bands, dancing and jumping to steel pan, calypso and soca music while dressed in majestic, colorful costumes.
Whether you’re young or old, the parade is sure to get you cheering participants along the way – and even dress up and dance along, too.
The party will continue in town until midnight with a host of international and local DJs playing to the crowds, so come along and jump, jump, jump up to the stars!
For more information on Cayman Carnival Batabano, visit www.caymancarnival.com.
History of Carnival
Carnival is a premier cultural celebration found in many countries in the Caribbean and around the world. While in many Christian countries, carnival is the last opportunity to eat and be merry before Lent (the period of fasting in preparation of Easter), some carnival traditions date back to pre-Christian times.
Some of the most popular and longest-running events include Carnival in Rio de Janeiro; Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival; and the Carnival of Venice.
Over time, countries celebrating carnival began to develop their own traditions, with some separated from their cycle in the religious year to become secular events that take place in the late spring and summer.
In the Caribbean, specifically, ancient African traditions of parading and moving in circles through villages in costumes and masks made their way into carnival traditions – circling villages was believed to bring good fortune, to heal problems and pacify angry relatives who died and passed into the next world. These African traditions were brought to the Caribbean from laborers and slaves in the early 19th century.
Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition of putting together natural objects to create a piece of sculpture, mask or costume to represent a certain idea or spiritual force. Feathers, for example, are an integral part of carnival costumes.
Caribbean carnivals today have several common themes based on culture, religion, folklore and tradition. Among the disciplines are playing mas (joining in with a masquerade band), calypso music, the crowning of a calypso king or monarch, steel band competitions, and the early morning street party called “J’ouvert.”
Cayman Carnival Batabano
In Cayman, Batabano was launched in 1983 by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman (with Junior Batabano introduced in 2002). What began as a one-day affair is now a multi-event celebration.
The word “Batabano” refers to an area in West Bay and also describes the tracks left in the sand by sea turtles as they crawl into the beach to nest. Finding these tracks was a reason to celebrate. Therefore, Batabano is a salute to Cayman’s turtling heritage.
Since its inception, Batabano has grown exponentially and brings together districts and various corporate groups to compete and showcase creative costumes, floats and choreography.
It’s also a prime example of bringing people together and promoting cultural understanding. Batabano is unique due to the fact that the Cayman Islands is such a small country, yet is home to more than 100 nationalities.
Donna Myrie-Stephen, the festival’s organizer for the last 15 years, is passionate about Batabano in every way. “The name alone is distinct and unique,” she said. “It’s about unity, love and freedom of expression and is the great equalizer. Everyone can participate no matter your religion, race, social or political affiliation. It is one event that transcends all boundaries to bring people together as one.”
Batabano also provides many benefits to Cayman from a social, cultural and economic perspective, according to Myrie-Stephen.
“It’s what makes me so committed to positioning Cayman Carnival Batabano as one of our top cultural celebrations … It’s an industry we need to continue to grow here. People have embraced it as part of their heritage and now it’s up to us to embrace it as part of our development to reach its full potential.”