In less than one thousand, three hundred and twenty hours, the streets of West London will be awash with the pounding of feet and bodies converging in one streamless procession, plodding and prancing along to different Caribbean rhythms and beats infused with a mixture of urban music. To the naked eye, taking in the wondrous, vibrant and colourful scenery enveloping the streets, this could possibly look like another festival, however to many of those who bear the Caribbean heritage and those that share and love the culture, this is undoubtedly the most anticipated street party of the year, signalling a culmination of not only the hard-work put in over the course of the years, but a sense of pride and patriotism rooted from birth to date.
The UK Caribbean scene has certainly come a long way, from the first set of large innocent souls that migrated to England in 1948, leaving behind the beautiful sunny weather, turquoise clad waters and welcoming white sands rooting the swaying coconut or palm trees, enroute to the unwelcoming shores of London. To think that many who boarded the ships would think that in 2013, the success of the Caribbean culture would be soaring, would be a mirage encased in painful memories of hardships experienced in England. However with every hardship and setback encountered, the silver lining has always been in reach and as Rome was not built in a day, the journey heartfelt, has taken a stronghold and the fruits of labour, amidst the tears of angst have slowly been replaced by tears of joy at the growing success.
2012 was undoubtedly a fantastic year in the UK Caribbean scene, with the hard-work, achievements and commitment recognised by all. However it has been the countless dedication of pioneers long forgotten and those that continue to strive to bring the culture to newer heights that 2013 has seen an elevation and a sense of renewed hope descending on the Caribbean scene. As the biggest street festival draws nearer, it is only apt that one should recognise where we are in 2013 and not only commemorate those that created a legacy, but applaud those that continue to fight for the greater good, to bring the Caribbean culture to the masses and share the heavenly paradise that dwells within the tropics of the Caribbean sea bordered by the Atlantic ocean.
Echoing the famous words penned by the critically acclaimed soca artist Bunji Garlin, ‘We Ready’, the music scene in the UK bubbling along to the synthesised organ sound has slowly been making a beat in the background, building a crescendo that has seen the scene burst with a different mature sound. In what could be termed the year that UK soca music blew up, this year has seen a plethora of old and new artists releasing hits after hits of music and taking the centre stage showcasing the diversity of style dwelling within the UK. With a list of talented home grown producers lending help to artists locally and international, this has been the year that has cemented UK soca music and finally beckoned ears far and wide to finally take notice. With a few artists nominated alongside international top soca artists at the 2013 International Soca Awards, who said the scene was not ready? In addition to the maturing music scene, well known broadcasting organisations have been bellowing and nominating soca music alongside popular urban music in anticipation of the British summer playlist.
Drive along Heathrow Airport, enroute to the terminals alongside popular figures of British popular culture and you will be met by an enchanting picture of Dee Jones, clad in a mas costume. Notting Hill Carnival is literally around the corner, however the aesthetic beauty encasing the streets of London would not be here if it was not for the hard-work put in by talented and amazing designers, who without batting an eyelid have definitely stepped up a notch. Without a doubt 2013 has seen a step up in costumes designed for masqueraders and to say one has been lost for choice will not be a farce in the bigger scheme of things. Heralding the artisanship that surrounds this industry we have witnessed well-known mas bands showcasing their work at the past renowned World on Regent Street festival and at London’s leading Afro Hair and Beauty exhibition held at Alexander Palace. In addition to the growing appearances, surrounded by the echelons of society and with artists such as Bon Jovi and Jennifer Lopez performing at Hyde Park festival on July the 8th, guests will be enchanted by beautiful Caribbean women clad in a flurry of sequins, feathers and jewels showcasing and adding a bit of flair to the festival proceedings.
We have certainly come a long way from Britain’s first ever comedy show Desmonds, which first aired in 1989 and ran until 1994 on Channel 4. With repeated episodes and a long hiatus displaying anything Caribbean related on prime time TV, eyes have been longing for a comeback of something similar or something showcasing real Caribbean culture at its heartbeat. The time is finally here in 2013. Tune into Sky TV every Thursday from the 4th of July 2013 at 7:00 pm and chances are in a spate of a breath you could be transported to the Caribbean. With more than 10 million plus subscribers, coming soon to Klear TV channel 232, the first ever UK Caribbean show called SAK PASSE will be showcasing at prime time, brought to you by one of the long standing pioneers in the scene. This a culmination of hard-work, passion and dedication and is a dream come true to all those involved.
Think Caribbean cuisine and the first thing that springs to minds of many is Jerk chicken, despite being indigenous to one island. Caribbean food popular on the street has finally made a turnaround and has tantalised many palates as far as Singapore, with a well-known chef bringing the Caribbean cuisine to the Far East. Of recent, Taste of London showcased Caribbean cuisine alongside Michelin star chefs, but the winner has been Masterchef. Having won and gained a platform in this coming 2013 Masterchef series, Caribbean cuisine at its finest will soon be competing alongside budding chefs looking to win the big prize and presented on prime TV, by a Trinidadian born woman on a mission to evangelise the boisterous flavours of her native cuisine. Long gone will be the image that surrounds many of what Caribbean food is all about and an awakening and appreciation of this exquisite and vibrant cuisine will soon be the talk of town and echoing the words of the Masterchef contestant in a few years’ time instead of people saying “let’s go for Chinese or Indian”, people will say “let’s go out for a Caribbean”.
In concluding, in less than one thousand, three hundred and twenty hours, Notting Hill Carnival borne out of a town Hall in Kings Cross will be 50 years old. If Claudia Jones were still alive, to see NHC amidst its controversy still going and still strong, welcoming all nations of creed and colour to mingle and party with each other would be a momentous and joyous occasion. So as the journey continues let you all remember where this beautiful culture and scene came from, and in a moment of reflection and clarity brought on by knowledge, remember what it took to get here and what possibilities lie ahead.