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How the world’s second largest carnival in Colombia honours African roots with classic African music

June 06, 2019 at 05:30 pm | We Tour

Araba Sam

Araba Sam

June 06, 2019 at 05:30 pm | We Tour

The Barranquilla Carnival was declared as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in November 2003. The carnival is the second largest in the world after Rio de Janeiro. It is a celebration of folklore and the welcoming of spring as a symbol of birth and renewal.

Historically, it was a holiday for slaves that started in the 1800s but is influenced by a mixture of the European, African and Indian traditions, dances and music and a combination of pagan ceremonies, Catholic beliefs and ethnic diversity. The first main parade, the Battle of the Flowers, took place in 1903.

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Situated on the Caribbean coast in Colombia, Barranquilla is nicknamed Colombia’s golden gate because of its high level of industrialisation as a principal port city during the colonial period.

Barranquilla’s Plaza de San Nicolás. Credit: Wikipedia

According to Lucas Da Silva, a Colombian DJ, some Colombian sailors brought records back from Nigeria in 1972 and later record labels sent producers out to discover more African songs to be played.

The 70’s to 80’s highlife and soukous from Ghana, Nigeria and Congo are still the preferred jam in Barranquilla. African artists such as Prince Nico Mbarga, Lokassa Yabongo and the Oriental International Band are revered as prominent African musicians in the city. Classic African music became pervasive and led to the creation of Champeta, a musical genre with a fusion of African rhythms and Euro-African influences.

During the carnival, classic African music are played to the loud cheers of the crowd exhibiting ndombolo, a Congolese dance. More music is performed by drum ensembles and other groups playing various wind instruments.

There are musical and theatrical performances by masqueraded singers, dancers and actors. There is an abundance of diverse ethnic foods. There is also a display of beautifully crafted objects such as costumes, animal masks and head ornaments. Additionally, the Carnival Queen Contest is also held to select the carnival queen.

Credit: Fresh Coffee Stains

Barranquilla’s Carnival slogan is “quien lo vive, es quien lo goza” meaning, “Who lives it, is who enjoys it”. The preparation begins weeks before the carnival and the locals are given a four-day holiday during the event. The carnival is held every year and begins on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and runs for four days.

This year’s celebration was held on 2nd March to 5th March 2019 but no worries, you can start planning for next year’s festivities which would be held from Saturday, 22nd February to Tuesday, 25th February 2020. Calendar marked for sure!!!

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