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The Grand Farewell Parade of Carnival

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I don’t know where these guys get the energy from. Just two days after completing the Grand Parade, an alcohol- and Tumba-fueled procession which lasts over nine hours, they’re back out on the streets dancing and partying for Carnival’s Grand Farewell Parade. I was nearly unable to endure it, myself, and that was as a spectator!

Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao

If you’ve already seen the Grand Parade, the Grand Farewell Parade doesn’t hold a lot of surprises in store. It’s the same route, the same music, and the same groups marching in the same order. The differences are that it’s night, and that most of the participants have embellished their already-extravagant outfits with colorful lights. As the marchers shimmy down the street to beat of the drum, their sequined costumes shimmer underneath the glare of powerful lamps.

The parade begins at 5pm in the neighborhood of Santa Maria, but doesn’t reach Otrobanda until 10:30 at night. We went out to watch the parade at around 11pm. By this point, most of the guys and girls in the parade must have been ready to collapse, and although they did their best to hide it, the energy level wasn’t quite as high as it had been during the first parade. But they’d been marching for about eighteen total hours within two days! The fact that they could even stand was amazing.

Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao

Throughout Carnival, the figure of King Momo has been front and center. A larger-than-life papier-mâché figure, King Momo “presides” over the festivities, allowing his subjects to drink, dance and have a good time. He represents mischievousness and debauchery… but while it’s good to cut loose occasionally, you shouldn’t indulge such desires all of the time. So at the end of the Farewell Parade, King Momo is burnt, and the fireworks which were packed inside his body are sent shooting into the air.

We loved the Carnival celebrations; it’s not every day you get to see such a luminous display of joy. If nothing else, this festival has reminded me how cathartic it is to get wild, every once in awhile. But now that King Momo was dead, it was time to return to life as normal. Thanks for the party, Curaçao! It was fun while it lasted.

Caribbean Carnival Costumes

Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
Carnival Farewell Parade Curacao
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February 11, 2016 at 4:02 pm Comments (0)

Getting Down at the Tumba Festival

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The first major act of Curaçao’s Carnival celebrations is the Tumba Festival, held every year in late January. This is a week-long competition to choose the official song of Carnival, during which dozens of songs battle it out to be the top jam, all performed live in front of a big crowd.

The Tumba Festival has an official history stretching back 45 years. It’s related to “tambu,” which was the traditional music of Curaçao’s slave population. Although they had only percussive instruments to play upon, Tambu was an important part of the culture and remained socially relevant even after the end of slavery, thanks to its pointed, political lyrics, sung in Papiamento.

Switch a couple vowels around, add in some other musical influences, and Tambu becomes Tumba: still sung in Papiamento, but played with a heavy dose of Latin and jazz. The Tumba Festival has grown to become one of the most popular annual events in Curaçao, with tickets to the Friday night finals increasingly difficult to come by. The winner of the festival is named King or Queen of Carnival, and the winning song becomes the official anthem of the celebrations.

Tumba is almost exactly how you would expect a Curaçaoan style of music to be, with performances that are loud, colorful, relaxed, and intent on having a good time. The songs are repetitive and go on for ages, but the musicians on stage don’t mind. Huge bands comprising dozens of horns, keyboards, guitars, drums, singers and dancers are all having so much fun loosely playing along with the rhythm, that they’d allow the music to go on indefinitely.

Of course we didn’t understand a word of what they were singing about. And once we had listened to a few Tumba songs, we’d heard plenty; they’re all quite similar to each other. But the people here love this style of music, and the finals on Friday night turn into a huge party which goes on until three or four in the morning.

The title of Tumba King 2016 went to Rubertico Balentien, who won the crowd over with his rousing tune Nos dos ta bati bai (We’re Going Together). Check it out if you want, and see if you can resist dancing to the beat.

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Tumba Festival 2016
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January 25, 2016 at 10:14 pm Comments (0)
The Grand Farewell Parade of Carnival I don't know where these guys get the energy from. Just two days after completing the Grand Parade, an alcohol- and Tumba-fueled procession which lasts over nine hours, they're back out on the streets dancing and partying for Carnival's Grand Farewell Parade. I was nearly unable to endure it, myself, and that was as a spectator!
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