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Carnival Tabanca & Chance the Rapper: Jamaica Carnival 2023 debrief

Jamaica's Carnival season is coming to a close, so naturally that gives way to the season of Carnival Tabanca.

Carnival Tabanca (n) - The feeling of sadness, nostalgia and borderline depression that revellers experience in the days and weeks following a Carnival in the Caribbean.

And what better way to deal with the feeling of tabanca than to write this week's Carnival debrief blog post while listening to DJ Private Ryan's Post Carnival Relief mix?

When I was writing my blog post answering the question "What is Carnival" it was hard to choose between the words "season" and "event" to describe Carnival, because it really is a season of building up energy for the road march on Carnival Sunday. So today I really want to reflect on both the season build up and the event itself.

From even before I landed in Jamaica on March 31, I could already begin to feel the energy of Carnival through social media because of the crazy number of parties and fetes that were happening every day and week. Leading up to Carnival, everyone who participates knows you have to do your homework, which means listening to Soca Brainwash and other mixes to learn the newest soca songs for 2023. Once I booked my flight to come home to Jamaica for the season, every workout session, study session and just general background music was soca brainwash. It was time to learn new music and quite literally be brainwashed by soca, because I wasn't about to get caught on the road not knowing the music.

The first real Carnival event I went to was "Sunn-Up" which was a water-inclusive soca fete (meaning they had water trucks and hoses to spray all the patrons), and I went to that one during my Spring break with my 2 friends from Cornell.

My spring break officially ended on April 9, but I stayed an extra week in Jamaica to be able to attend the road march.

On Monday, April 10, I went to the most reliably fun party I can name in Jamaica called "I Love Soca". This party was a "cooler-fete", which for my non-Caribbean readers means that you carry a cooler of drinks and chasers to the party and make your own drinks throughout the event. It's quite an interesting concept, but makes the party pretty fun because you go with your friends and everyone contributes to the cooler to make an all-inclusive personal bar. It's definitely something that is Caribbean because it reminds me of carrying a cooler to the beach or on a boat and partying outdoors with that same vibe.

On Thursday, the next event I went to was a live performance by Kes the Band, one of the best soca artistes from Trinidad & Tobago. Honestly, I didn't plan to go because the tickets were so expensive, but a friend of mine was kind enough to give me her 2 complimentary tickets so I got a chance to go. It was one of the best concerts I've been to musically, and also just energy wise, because Kes really knows how to hold and captivate a crowd. If I wasn't a Kes fan before, I definitely am now. Here's a little snippet of a the performance:

The next day, on Friday night, I went to Bacchanal J'ouvert. For those of you who don't know, Jouvert is a party that really peaks in the early morning. The name J'Ouvert originates from the French "jour ouvert", meaning daybreak/ morning, and in Trinidad this signals the start of Carnival. We got to the party at around 12:30am, and there was a road march afterwards so we ended up leaving at about 5/5:30am, just in time to see the sun rise. This is also a paint party, so we were covered in paint by the time we got home. J'ouvert is definitely my favourite part of carnival because of the paint!

For reference, this shirt was completely white at the start of the night:

On Saturday, I made the executive decision to REST.

And then Sunday was the highly anticipated road march. For me, this was my first time ever participating in a Carnival road march, so I really was looking forward to the consistent energy and vibes throughout the day. And honestly, it did not disappoint. I tracked on my Apple Watch, and we marched 10 miles between 12pm and 6pm, just dancing, drinking, chipping and having a good time. One of the best decisions I made was purchasing the VIP package with Xodus, because it gave me access to ride on the trucks. It was such a relief to be able to rest for a bit on the trucks instead of having to walk to whole 10 miles straight.

It was such a fun experience running along the moving bars in the trucks, seeing friends along different parts of the road march route and just being with some of my best friends throughout the day. Thankfully, it was a more cloudy day, so we weren't completely burning up in the sun, but we did put on 100 SPF sunblock before we went out just because we weren't taking any chances!

Despite all of the fun I had on the road, my highlight of carnival wasn't even carnival itself, but it was actually something so much more random - meeting Chance the Rapper! At lunch time, one of my friends came up to me and said that he thought he saw Chance the Rapper over in another section of the venue. Of course, my first thought was, "Chance is in Jamaica?? What??"

Then my second thought was that I had to go and find him, and get a chance ;) to talk to him. For those of you who don't know me personally, Chance the Rapper has been one of my favourite rappers since 2016 when he released his album 'Coloring Book'. I actually have a poster of the album cover on my apartment wall in college, so the fact that he was in Jamaica was a crazy thought.

I went up to him with one of my friends, and talked to him and his brother very briefly. Man, it was definitely surreal seeing one of my favourite celebrities like that in Jamaica. It's pretty common knowledge that celebrities come to Jamaica for Carnival every year, but he was probably one of the last people I would've expected to be in the island. I had the opportunity to tell him about the time when he retweeted my cover of his song 'Holy' with Justin Bieber and him remembering the steelpan really made my day. After that interaction, I remember feeling so happy that really nothing could've ruined my day. And to make things even better, it was at Carnival, so I was already in a super good mood!

After meeting Chance, I met his brother Taylor who I'm also a huge fan of, but for different reasons. He's an advocate for so many good causes and I really love how he supports his brother as a manager and is basically his #1 fan. I had the chance (my god, idk how else to express this without being punny) to talk to Taylor even more on the road during the road march, and because he had reposted my cover of his song "Be Yourself" on Instagram in 2020 he also remembered the steelpan! He actually got really excited when he remembered that I played his song on the steelpan, and even gave me his number to make some music with him one day! That was so crazy to me, and it really made my day even better than I thought it could have gotten.

At the end of Carnival Sunday, I went home and just rested for the rest of the day. My legs were so tired. It definitely is the kind of event that you need to exercise for in advance and prepare yourself for because it is a seriously physically taxing road march, and to make things worse you do it all pretty drunk too. But all in all, Carnival in Jamaica did not disappoint. I enjoyed myself and even got the added bonus of meeting one of my favourite artistes in the world. It was a great day and yes, catch me on the road in 2024 again!

Trinidad - you're not safe either!

Until next Sunday,

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