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As summer comes to a close in New York City, Caribbean music, food and culture are highlighted at carnival celebrations held throughout the five boroughs but concentrated in Brooklyn, home to the largest population of Caribbean immigrants outside of the West Indies island chain. For more than 50 years Brooklyn has been the epicenter of the Labor Day weekend Caribbean carnival festivities, patterned on the rituals, events and music created at Trinidad and Tobago’s world-renowned carnival.

Although the spread of Covid-19 has mandated the postponement of numerous public gatherings, including the annual Labor Day carnival parade and the J’Ouvert Celebration, which attracts nearly 2 million people, it cannot suppress the Carnival spirit. On September 11, Tropicalfete, a New York City based, internationally recognized Caribbean cultural organization, will celebrate carnival’s core elements, calypso/soca, the steel pan and masquerade, at its Carnival Festival, which will be held at the Brooklyn Public Library Plaza, at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway. Different elements of the carnival from different islands will be showcase such as the clown from St Kitts and other islands. The event will be hosted by artist and educator Tanisha Burke and award-winning multimedia journalist and host Melissa Noel.

TropicalFete’s Carnival Festival will commence with ace saxophone player Bryan Hurst

performing the U.S. National Anthem, accompanied by stilt walking moko jumbies wrapped in American flags. Vocalist Cheryl Vincent will join Bryan Hurst to perform a medley of songs commemoratingthe nearly 3,000 people that perished as the result suicide attackers seizing US passenger jets and crashing them into lower Manhattan’s World Trade Center, on September 11, 2001. A moment of silence will follow, honoring the lives lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic, then five white doves will be released into the air to symbolize unity and healing. 

Ricardo Greenaway, an accomplished Brooklyn based steel pan player who has been a teacher in Tropicalfete’s steel pan program for over 10 years, will be performing his musical selections on a steel pan donated to Tropicalfete by Heather McCartney, Director of School & Family Programs at Manhattan’s Joyce Theater Foundation, Inc. She donated the steel pan to Tropicalfete in memory of her brother Charles A. McCartney. 

Tropicalfete’s Voices, an eight-piece choir under the direction of Daria Primus, will perform two soca selections. Brooklyn based Calypsonian Mervyn “Dr. Whitty” Carter will perform “Superman,” which he wrote about the ongoing challenges faced by black men, especially in the US.

Throughout the year, Tropicalfete’s Stilt Walking Unit, which presents moko jumbies (moko is an Orisha god of retribution and jumbie is a term for a ghost or spirit; they are regarded as protectors whose towering height of 10-15 ft allowed them to see evil before others do) clad in colorful costumes and dancing to soca, has performed at a wide variety of events throughout the tri-state area. Moko jumbies have been a part of carnival since enslaved west Africans were permitted to practice their traditions in the Caribbean. Under the leadership of Caitlyn Pierre, Roshamba Marcelle and Charles Watts, Tropicalfete’s Stilt Walking Unit will perform a special program called “The Colors of Life.”

A soca band comprised of some of New York’s finest Caribbean musicians will perform a medley of soca hits accompanied by a cast of traditional carnival characters including the Red Devil, the Jab Jab and Dame Lorraine. There will also be an Ole Mas segment where costumed characters offer satirical commentaries on current events or popular personalities.

Tropicalfete’s Steel Pan Ensemble, under the direction of Tropicalfete’s Music Educator Ashley “Mystiq” Murray, who has been playing pan since she was 11 years old and is a 2017 recipient of a Caribbean American Impact Award, presented by Caribbean Life Newspaper, will command the ensemble performing several music selections. The ensemble will be dress in costumes made and designed by the Tropicalfete players themselves. Students in Tropicalfete’s introduction to pan class, available to children 3 to 8 years old, led by Shania Prescod, will don sailor costumes and perform with their steel pans hung around their necks in homage to Trinidad’s early steel pan players of the 1940s and 50s who wore their pans so they could play as they participated in the street parades that were central to the carnival festivities.

Tropicalfete’s Carnival Festival will also include performances by Dance Brazil Fitness & Exotic Soca vs Samba Fusion with Ana, a set by DJ SB Sounds, an audience limbo contest, a raffle for various prizes, and comments from elected officials and Tropicalfete’s community partners in this endeavor, which include The Brooklyn Public Library Adult Learning, Literacy Zone, Grow NYC, New York Police Department, The Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON), New York City Office of The Mayor, New York State Council on the Arts and New York City Cultural Affairs.

“Tropicalfete offers excellent cultural programming and opportunities throughout the year. The end of summer festival is a great opportunity for the youth to showcase a culmination of all their hard work and dedication to our community. It is an event not to be missed,” says Diana Duncan, Tropicalfete Parent and Education Advocate.

For further information email: info@tropicalfete.com or call 646-504-3383

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