In the English vernacular of mainland North America, the word “carnival” has two very distinct meanings. Naturally, visitors to this site gravitate to the traditional sense: a period of transcendent indulgence preceding Lent. Yet Merriam-Webster also cites “An organized program of entertainment or exhibition” – what folks in the UK might call a fun fair.
With its amusement parks, games of chance, and deep-fried abundance, Coney Island may seem firmly aligned with the latter connotation. Yet the seaside neighborhood also hosts the annual Mermaid Parade , a bacchanalian exercise to be sure.
The two definitions will collide on June 11th, when the Ford Amphitheater will host Kes the Band. The soca ensemble is a perennial favorite in their native Trinidad. “Savannah Grass” was a strong contender for the 2019 Road March title. While top honors went – once again – to Machel Montano, Kes’ bouncy, joyous anthem will prove an enduring reminder of the festive season in Port of Spain.
To be honest, the boardwalk’s charms are a far cry from the bucolic expanse of Queen’s Park Savannah, and nobody’s likely to mistake the murky waters of the upper bay for Maracas beach or Las Cuevas. But for one evening in the springtime, it will be easy to pretend.
Not as famous as Aphrodite or Athena, Nyx was one of the most ancient of Greek goddesses. The personification of Night, she was described by the poet Hesiod as the daughter of Chaos; her own children included Sleep, Dreams, and Death. An oracle sacred to the goddess was established in the city of Megara.
More than 2500 years after the time of Hesiod, the dark deity inspired a line of Cosmetics , now a subsidiary of L’Oreal. In 2012, the Mystic Krewe of Nyx formed in New Orleans. An all-female organization, Nyx generally rolls on the Wednesday before Mardi Gras. In 2019 their parade included a staggering 3,383 riders. In a break with tradition, they will head out again on July 27th. With a theme of “Summer Loving”, they will proceed from Marigny, past Jackson Square and up and down Canal Street before ending on Tchoupitoulas.
To be clear, folks in NoLa seldom need much prodding to step in the streets. Second Line processions – originally a funerary rite – occur almost every week for a variety of reasons. But the idea of a Mardi Gras krewe having two parades in one year has not been universally embraced. When a Twitter survey asked users to rank causes of “cultural ruination”, Nyx’s heresy was surpassed only by controversial developer Sydney Torres. One outraged purist found the notion “more unthinkable than eating king cake out of season”. (For more on the confection in question, check out our latest update to The Debauchionary).
It’s too soon to tell if the nay-sayers will prevail. But if Nyx attracts a decent midsummer crowd, one can assume that other krewes may be tempted to consult oracles of their own.
For many Londoners, the swinging summer of 1966 is best remembered for England’s first – and so far only – World Cup championship. For our purposes, the lasting significance derives from the inaugural Notting Hill Carnival . Within a decade, the event came to embody the social fractures of the United Kingdom in the era between the end of World War II and the rise of Thatcherism.
These days, the Notting Hill district is considered one of the capital’s most upscale and desirable neighborhoods, but that was hardly the case in ’66. Attracted by the areas cheap rents, West Indian migrants brought the festive customs of their homelands, but were often subjected to racist assaults and the hostility of officials. So called “Sus Laws” permitted the detention of individuals on the mere suspicion of criminal intent. The 1976 Carnival was patrolled by some 3000 police officers – a tenfold increase from the prior year. When a Caribbean youth was accused of being a pickpocket, simmering tempers exploded in a volley of bricks and bottles that left 160 people in hospital.
Two young white rockers, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon, were on hand that day. They were key figures of the burgeoning punk scene, but also had an appreciation for Jamaican rhythms. The Clash’s debut Album , released a few months later, featured cover art inspired by the riot and a rendition of Junior Murvin’s classic “Police and Thieves”. Hearing that version, Bob Marley was soon inspired to compose Punky Reggae Party .
Things have been considerably more peaceful in the 21st century. The Notting Hill Carnival may not enjoy universal support, but it has been embraced by Britons of all backgrounds, and was memorialized in NW, a novel by the brilliant Zadie Smith. It is now a fixture of the Bank Holiday weekend; things get stirred up beginning on August 25th this year.