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CALYPSO-CARIBBEAN STREET PARTY (article first published : 2007-12-4)

This year’s Umhlanga Festival Street Party will feature the unique sounds of a Calypso Steel Drum Band, the Caribbean Connection. The same evening will feature a live performance of the beautifully vibrant Umoja singers/dancers, followed by a parade of Umhlanga’s most gorgeous girls, the Miss Umhlanga Bonaqua finalists.

The already pedestrian-friendly area of Chartwell Drive will be closed off to traffic, enabling guests to walk around freely for the evening. Restaurants and cafes plan to spread themselves over the pavements and generally participate in the carnival atmosphere. Visitors are invited to come dressed in tropical colours and win a prize for the best-dressed Caribbean castaway couple!

Although seemingly vastly different, the Caribbean and African musical offerings have similar origins; both were used by the singers as alternative methods of communication, and also as a way of instilling hope. Calypso music originated in Trinidad and included African, Indian and European influences. It actually began as a type of protest music when African-Trinidadian slaves were not allowed to speak while they worked but were allowed to sing.

The workers/singers began playing drums made of skins, bamboo and finally steel pans (such as the bottoms of metal shipping containers, paint cans and garbage cans). Pan drums became so sophisticated that eventually they could be used to play an entire scale. Today, Calypso Caribbean music is played all over the world and for the first time a six-piece steel drum band will be performing in Umhlanga.

Umoja currently on at Sibaya Casino is a short showcase of African music and how it has developed over several decades - from tribal, to township, to labour (gumboot dancers) and through the dark days of Apartheid. Music was clearly used by a downtrodden people group to escape the harsh realities of life and, like the Calypso music, to lift crushed spirits. The Street Party will come alive with the bright and vibrant sight and sound of the talented Umoja cast.

This year’s street Carnival is sponsored by the Calypso Group (CEO Sadha Naidoo). Other musical delights for the full Carnival (December 19 to 28) include buskers (December28) and Karaoke evenings on the December 19 (The George & Tapas Bar) and December 26 (Characters Pub), both at 18h30.

Umhlanga Festival Calypso Caribbean Carnival Street Party itself takes place in Chartwell Drive on December 28 from 18h30.




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