In honour of Indian Arrival
History tells us that after emancipation a dearth of willing labourers led plantation owners to petition the authorities for new workers. From the introduction of indentureship in 1838 until its abolition in 1917, this labour shortage was filled by workers from various parts of the world – especially India. While nowadays indentureship is sometimes viewed as another form of slavery, many saw it as an opportunity to better their living conditions.
Today, those Caribbean countries with a history of indentureship have public holidays to mark the exact day the first workers arrived from the Indian subcontinent. In Guyana, the holiday is on May 5 (1838); in Suriname, it is June 5 (1873); in Trinidad & Tobago, it is May 30 (1845); and in Jamaica, it is observed on May 10 (1845).
In Guyana, ever since Indian Arrival Day was first officially celebrated on May 5, 2004, melas (fairs) have been held in the three counties where the indentured labourers first landed – Essequibo, Georgetown and Berbice – organised by the Indian Arrival Committee. The Guyana Tourism Authority says these melas feature cultural presentations in the form of music, singing, dance and drama, as well as an educational corner where students, historians, researchers and other visitors can discover the history behind the event.
And not to be forgotten: the cuisine. Visitors can find sweet treats like gulab jamoon, pera and gulgulla, or go for a “seven” curry (so called because it includes seven different vegetable curries).
Although Jamaica does not have a large Indian population, with only about 30,000 Jamaicans of Indian descent, important cultural practices live on, particularly in terms of food, music and religious practices. The National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica, the parent organisation for the various Indian associations, holds a week of festivities every year, beginning with a puja (prayers) on May 10 and ending with a family fun day at the weekend.
Trinidad received the largest group of indentured labourers after Guyana, and today, the Indian population accounts for about 40 per cent of the country’s inhabitants. Indian Arrival Day was officially declared a holiday in Trinidad & Tobago in 1995.
It’s observed by government agencies, private-sector and religious organisations with cultural shows, songs, dances, concerts and awards to contributors to Indian culture.
For additional information on Indian Arrival Day celebrations
• Guyana: Indian Arrival Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Jamaica: National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica: email@example.com, (876) 926 1300, ext 4317
• Trinidad & Tobago: National Council of Indian Culture: (868) 671 6242 or 665 6733 or visit www.ncictt.com
• Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha: (868) 645 3240 or 663 7131
• Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin: GOPIOTT@gmail.com
London rocks to ska
Mention reggae and most people think of Bob Marley. But before there was reggae, there was rocksteady and ska. A combination of R&B and Caribbean music, most notably calypso and mento, ska still has diehard fans, so much so that Sean Flowerdew decided to start the London International Ska Festival back in 1988, headlining artistes such as Prince Buster, Potato 5, The Deltones and Hotknives.
In 2011, Flowerdew relaunched the festival, welcoming visitors from “all over the world: USA, Japan, Australia, central and south America, Qatar and all over Europe”. Flowerdew expects over 5,000 fans to converge at O2 Academy Islington and Islington Metalworks on May 3 – 6 in London.
This year, Flowerdew features George Dekker & Jackie Robinson from the Pioneers, Dawn Penn, Moon Invaders (Belgium), Kinky Coo Coo’s (Spain), UK’s rocksteady stars The Delegators, Dandy Livingstone, and Spain’s biggest reggae act Los Granadians, as well as Ska Cubano, among many others.
For more information: www.londoninternationalskafestival.co.uk
Aruba offers soul from Sinbad
Sinbad’s Soul Music Festivals once featured Seventies music in a different Caribbean country each year. But the Soul Beach Music Festival, which was started in 2001, as a spinoff of those roving festivals, has had a home in Aruba for the past ten years.
This year, it is scheduled for May 23 – 28, and features R Kelly as the headline act on the closing night.
The festival is executive-produced by Mark Adkin, Sinbad’s brother and his manager for the past 17 years, and combines old and new-school R&B. Past shows have showcased the talents of Jill Scott, the Isley Brothers, Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan, India Arie, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J Blige and Toni Braxton.
Adkin expects approximately 8,000 people will be in Aruba, from the US and across the Caribbean, to experience the 25 events carded for the five days of the festival. There will be daytime beach parties, happy hour at the host hotels, comedy nights with top US comedians, music concerts, and nightclub parties with celebrity DJs who are flown in for the festival.
For more information: visit www.soulbeach.net
Calling all chocolate lovers
If you happen to be somewhere near the Magdalena Grand Hotel in Tobago towards the end of June, there will be an unexpected treat waiting for you.
To be more accurate, chocolate plus an expo of “exotic cocoa products from across the Caribbean”, and a full-scale conference on fine cocoa.
According to the organisers, the event is for cocoa users, food specialists, cocoa farmers, potential investors, and anyone passionate about chocolate. It will be looking at what is going on across the region, from the Eastern Caribbean islands to the Dominican Republic and on to Jamaica, Belize and Costa Rica.
“Come join us!” is the invitation. “Taste, buy, explore new business opportunities!”
The third Regional Caribbean Fine Cocoa Conference & Chocolate Expo: Transforming Caribbean Rural Economies in the 21st Century is at the Magdalena Grand Hotel and Beach Resort, Tobago, on June 28-29. For information and registration, contact Laura Da’Breau at (868) 642-8888 ext. 21174 or 21111, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.caribbeanfinecocoaforum.org.
Calabash is back!
International writers, live music, seminars, great food, a gorgeous Jamaican beach – yes, the Calabash International Literary Festival is back. After disappearing for a year, in 2012 the festival celebrates the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence from Britain, with the title Jubilation! 50.
Calabash is an informal, easy-going event: its relaxed atmosphere and “great vibes” encourage interaction among participants and guest writers like (this year) Nigeria’s Chimamanda Adichie.
As usual, Calabash takes place at Jakes Resort, Treasure Beach, on Jamaica’s south coast. The dates are May 25-27.
Check the website at www.calabashfestival.com for more information, or the festival’s Facebook page.
New book festival for Bim
The new Bim Literary Festival and Book Fair is the latest of many around the region, and will showcase the works of Barbadian and other Caribbean writers.
The inaugural event takes place May 16 – 20 in St Michael, Barbados, with an emphasis on fiction, poetry and drama. The aim is to include film and other genres next year.
It’s organised by Writers Ink Barbados, a collective of key and award-winning writers founded by poet Esther Phillips. Guests can meet and listen to readings by some of the Caribbean’s best-known writers and poets, such as Kamau Brathwaite, Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace, Austin Clarke, Lorna Goodison, Elizabeth Nunez, Kwame Dawes, Kei Miller, Anthony Kellman, Dorothea Smartt, Glenville Lovell and Courttia Newland.
For more information: www.bimlitfest.org
Mirissa De Four
Tobago host its annual Rainbow Cup triathlon
The Neal & Massy Rainbow Cup International Triathlon, held annually in Tobago, has been gaining international attention over the last few years, with competitors coming from all over the world. Cash prizes have increased to US$10,000.
Popular events include the sprint, tag team, kids’ and Olympic triathlons, as well as the 2,000m open water swim, 5k run and many other events spread over two days.
A very special competitor this year will be triple amputee Rajesh Durbal, who has completed the 2010 Ironman contest.
The action heats up from 26 May on Turtle Beach in Tobago.?
For more information, visit www.rainbowtri.com, or call (868) 784-4128.