California high school students get Junkanoo tutorial

California high school students get Junkanoo tutorial
Students from Edison High School in Huntington Beach, California stop for a photo after their workshop at the Department of Culture Wednesday. (Photo credit: BIS/Eric Rose)

Fifteen California high school students got a crash course in Junaknoo Wednesday after participating in a music workshop at the Department of Culture.

The students are on a Royal Caribbean Cruise around the Caribbean and will stay in New Providence for two days.

Hosted by veteran singer, performer and Senior Cultural Officer Sonovia Pierre, the Edison High School students experienced the bass beat of the goatskin and conga drums and melodies from traditional cowbells at the event.

Eddie ‘Fast Eddie’ Dames, a cultural icon, also showcased his prancing skills up and down the room in front of the student filled room, and educated them on the history of Junkanoo music.

“I know that you’ve heard of other kinds of music in The Bahamas,” said an enthusiastic Dames.

“We have one that is called ‘The Junkanoo’.  Junkanoo is made up of a mixture of instruments ranging from goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles and tom-toms, similar to the other kinds of rake-n-scrape music that you had.

“We add to that fusion with zuzaphone, saxophones, trumpets, fog horns and horns made up of conch shells and bugals.”

He continued his quick education as he showcased the footwork used when moving to the beats and sounds of Junkanoo.

“Our dances are centered around the particular kind of music that we have; our rhythms and our dancers are typical of African gyrations.

“The footsteps you may see in Junkanoo is typically on one step forward, two steps backward; that particular dance has been the staple of the Junkanoo Dance,” he continued.

The excited students also learned Bahamian folklore songs such as ‘Watermelon spoiling on the vine’, ‘Island pocking’ and others while learning the history of Junkanoo and watching videos of the cultural celebration.

For 10th-grader Luke Hanzal, the trip to the Department of Culture added to his love of music.

“I’m a percussionist so I’m really into this,” he said. “I also like how the music is relaxed and it’s not tense.

“It’s been an amazing trip so far down here.  The culture, beaches and everything else I’ve seen are beautiful.”

Others like Catherine Doan, a ninth-grader, said the culture intensive session was more than she ever expected.

“During the first ten minutes I’ve already learned so much about the culture and the music and its just really amazing,” she said.

Performers in their own right, the students have also performed on the cruise.