Happenings – November/December 2010

A round-up of current and coming events on the Caribbean calendar

A group from Samaroo Village performing parang music at Queen’s Hall, Trinidad. Photograph by Edison BoodoosinghA lit deya, symbolising the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. Photograph by Mark LyndersaySwiss keyboardist Alex Bugnon. Photograph courtesy Anguilla JazzTraditional sun-drying of cocoa beans in Trinidad & Tobago. Photograph courtesy vpatrickbarrett@gmail.com

Chocolate in all its glory

Chocolate lovers won’t be surprised to learn that the word “cocoa” translates as “food of the gods”. Cocoa originates from the Amazon region and the forests of Central America and was even used by some Amerindian peoples as a form of currency.

Trinidad was once famous for its quality cocoa, and played a key role in developing and disseminating a fine cocoa crop across the region and beyond. Now the University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT) has set up a programme to support the fine cocoa sector across the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, several Caribbean countries are reviving their cocoa production. Tobago Cocoa Estates, Chocolate Dreams in Jamaica, Hotel Chocolat from St Lucia, and the Grenada Chocolate Company have recently boosted this once vibrant industry. Gran Couva in Trinidad has supplied the French chocolatier Valrhona with fine cocoa for several years.

So the UTT sees this as a timely moment to bring together the various players in the fine cocoa and chocolate sector for the first ever Caribbean Cocoa Conference and Chocolate Expo.

In addition, a week of activities will celebrate the many dimensions of chocolate in all its glory. The Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre will host the Chocolate Exposition on the four days leading up to the conference, from November 17 – 21. The Hilton’s culinary team will do daily Chocolate Clinic Demos, which will feature the live preparation of special dishes using chocolate; a chocolate and whisky tasting; and a chocolate chef competition. In addition, during Chocolate Week, a special chocolate-based dish will be on the menu each night for guests dining at the hotel.

For tickets and further information contact Euphemia Cazoe at: (868) 642-8888, or e-mail her at: cfcf@utt.edu.



Island Hopper

Ocean Breeze Music Festival and Conference
When: November 12 – 14
Where: Antigua
What: Sponsored by the Caribbean Recording Industry Association, this “music summit” will feature artistes from across the region. The first in what is planned as an annual event
For more info: http://oceanbreezemusicfestival.com

Jamaica Restaurant Week
When: November 13 – 20
Where: Kingston, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios
What: Participating restaurants offer discounted dining on a variety of dishes
For more info: Call (876) 978-6245

Alliouagana Festival of the Word
When: November 12 – 14
Where: Montserrat Cultural Centre, Montserrat
What: Spoken-word recitals, creative writing workshops, readings and signings
For more info: www.litfest.ms

Barbados Food and Rum and Wine Festival
When: November 18 – 21
Where: Various venues
What: Chefs from the UK, US and Canada will participate in big dining events
For more info: www.barbados.org

Turks and Caicos Conch Festival
When: November 26 – 27
Where: Blue Hills, Providenciales
What: A celebration of conchs, with conch-blowing competitions, parades and parties
For more info: www.conchfestival.com

Barbados Film Festival
When: November 30 – December 7
Where: Bridgetown
What: New and emerging filmmakers put their work on display
For more info: www.barbadosfilmfestival.com

Festival of Lights
When: December 12
Where: Various communities in St Lucia
What: Lanterns, parades and light sculptures feature in this annual celebration
For more info: Cultural Development Foundation: (758) 452-1859

Junkanoo Festival
When: December 26
Where: Nassau, Bahamas
What: An ancestral tradition that resembles Carnival
For more info: www.bahamas.com


Parang – soundtrack to the season

Parang music is the soundtrack to Trinidad’s Christmas season. The first strains of an aguinaldo, a popular type of parang, is enough to conjure up longings for ham, pastelles, and the other food, scents and traditions associated with Christmas. That’s why Ricardo Rambally, president of the Parang Association, says Trinidad is perhaps the only country in the world where Christmas begins in October, when the parang festival begins.

Parang is Hispanic folk music with predominantly religious themes. Some say it came to the country with the Venezuelans who came to work in the cocoa estates in the 19th century. Another school of thought says the Spanish missions introduced it in the 17th century as a way of teaching the gospels to the indigenous people.

In the old days parranderos would visit nearby houses to sing and in return were treated to Christmas goodies – before repeating the ritual at another house in the neighbourhood.

The festival is a nationwide event, with groups of parranderos competing every weekend, hoping to make it to the grand finale where the parang champions are crowned. Musicians playing traditional acoustic instruments such as the cuatro, guitar, mandolin, maracas, and box bass provide musical accompaniment to the songs, whose lyrics are usually sung in Spanish.

National Parang Semi-Finals, Parang Association Headquarters, Arima, November 27
Junior Parang, Chaguanas North Comprehensive School, November 21, and 22
National Parang Finals, Arima Velodrome, December 11
Lewa, Santa Rosa Church Park, Arima, January 2


True jazz at Tranquility

Anguilla’s Tranquility Jazz and Golf Festival combines two things that are very popular in the region: music and sports.

The four-day event ensures your interest is captured throughout the day with a golf tournament, and at nights with the sounds of jazz.

This is a great event for true jazz lovers, since the lineup stays true to the genre. Swiss keyboardist Alex Bugnon, American singer/songwriter Carla Cook, Martiniquan pianist Ronald Tulle and musical group British Dependency, also from Martinique, will provide the entertainment each night at venues such as the Cuisinart Resort and Spa and Temenos Golf Club. The Anguilla Jazz Ensemble, led by Lennox Vanterpool, will also perform.

Created in 2003 to catch the ears of visitors at the beginning of the high tourism season in the Caribbean, the Tranquility Jazz Festival has attracted top-notch performers such as Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Reuben Rogers, Diane Schurr, Patti Austin, and Arturo Sandoval.

BET Events Production produces the festival, and the theme for 2010 is All That’s Jazz.

The Tranquility Jazz and Golf Festival takes place from November 11 – 14.

For more information: www.anguillajazz.org.

The deyas of Divali

The Hindu festival of Divali is one of the most visually appealing celebrations held in Trinidad & Tobago.

As the sun sets on Divali night, millions of tiny clay pots, called deyas, are filled with oil and set alight. Hindus decorate their porches, yards, fences and even entire streets with these deyas. The more deyas used, the prettier the spectacle becomes. Divali is popularly known as the festival of lights.

In some communities, entire streets are closed off and bamboo is cut and bent into intricate designs. Deyas are then placed on these frames, providing an even more breathtaking view for those who spend the night driving around to see the displays.

In many ways, Divali resembles Christmas. Hindu devotees spend the weeks leading up to the festival cleaning and redecorating their houses. On Divali, they dress in traditional Indian attire and spend the morning engaged in prayer. Afterward, they cook elaborate vegetarian Indian cuisine and traditional sweets to share with family and friends. As dusk approaches, the entire family gets together to prepare and light the deyas.

A religious import from India, Divali came to Trinidad & Tobago when Indian workers were brought to the country following the emancipation of slaves. It is also celebrated in other Caribbean countries, such as Guyana, which also has a large Hindu population.

There are many stories about Divali’s origin, but it is widely believed to be connected to the defeat of the evil Ravan at the hands of Lord Rama, and is often used to symbolise the triumph of light over darkness.

Divali is an integral religious and cultural event on Trinidad & Tobago’s calendar, recognised and even celebrated by non-Hindus.