Carnival in St. Kitts and Nevis is a mixture of cultural influences, says Noah Mills

(SKNIS): Chairman of the St. Kitts-Nevis National Carnival Committee (SKNNCC), Noah Mills, described carnival in the Federation as one of geographical and cultural differences, while talking about the evolution of carnival on “Working for You”, on Wednesday, January 18.

“I think carnival as the name suggest is malleable and it is always being reshaped but it was always hinged to entertainment – music, dancing, reveling, and it goes way back and it actually is a melting pot of African, European and Caribbean influences,” said Mr. Mills. “The slaves would have rejoiced at different times of the year and then at Christmas time there would have been the sports, be it masquerades, bulls, mocko jumbies and other troupes of that nature. And these things I have been told should have been seen throughout the streets of St. Kitts and Nevis.”

Mr. Mills said that the evolution of carnival in the federation dates as far back as the 20th century.

“At that time, I have been told that the string bands were very prevalent. The string band was what provided music as it is done in some troupes today,” said the chairman. “Then in the 1940’s, along came what is called the iron band and you would have heard them playing drums and instruments and at that time again using the term loosely, instruments could have been the rim of a vehicle and you just get a metal rod and your start hitting it.”

He added that the late 1940’s also saw the introduction of the brass bands such as the Police Brass Band and Ellie Matt and the G.I’s Brass. He noted that the introduction of the steel band came later on in the early 50’s as persons were given the opportunity to travel across the Caribbean to places like Trinidad, a country well-known for its calypso, carnival and known for the invention of the steel pan. All of this, he said, began trickling down into the federation’s culture.

Chairman Mills reminded all that National Carnival was formally introduced in 1971 but in 1957 a National Festival was introduced by Basil Henderson.

“Now really and truly that flourished but even back then there was controversy because what would have been Christmas Sports and that version of carnival began a little bit of friction,” he said, while adding that in 1971 the National Carnival concept was developed by C.A. Paul Southwell with Eldrin Jenkins being the first ever chairman. “We would have seen the evolution not only in music because in the 1980’s we saw the introduction of the electronic instruments – instead of the drums, we had the drum machines. Now these days 1990’s, 2000’s, we are seeing sampling where pieces of songs are being taken and persons are recording layers of their voices and putting them together and performing in a competition called soca.”

Mr. Mills said that over the years we have seen music and costumes evolve from cultural depictions of what our heritage would be, noting that the evolution represents an ever changing product of carnival.

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