Manman! The End of the World at Carnaval

Manman. This deceivingly simple word means mother in Creole but is often used to express surprise—the Martinican equivalent of “wow!” Indeed, there is no better time to explore the complexities of this word than during Carnaval. Songs have been written to this word. Oaths have been taken with this word. This word is shouted from…

Carnaval: When The World Turns Upside Down

A cacophony of brass and percussion blasted through the city of Trinité this past Sunday as Martinique prepares for Carnaval. Carnaval is the festival that leads up to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It is a time for people to let loose before they have to settle down and be good Catholics during Lent.…

But It’s Not Even Thanksgiving Yet

I can hear the music as we approach, the crowd gathering on the street and filtering into the courtyard behind the Vauclin middle school. It’s dark out, a little after nine, but the lights and the music show the way. The beat rumbles loudly over the speakers. The man beats his bamboo drum, a feature…

The Creole World Music Festival

I had never seen so many dreads in my life. The music was pumping, the crowd was swaying, the scent of marijuana lingered in the air. The lights on the stage flashed on and off and in bright colors and Tarrus Riley was standing on stage in nerdy glasses. He looked nothing like what I…