Friday, 7 September 2012


Multi tasking is a word associated with women although most of us do it without realising. Driving a vehicle when we are texting or speaking on the phone as well as managing a conversation with a passenger. That is dangerous multi-tasking. But it is done, anyway.  A boss administering a bunch of clerks, newly appointed junior managers and anxious customers while performing his own chores- such as making sure the company sells well or dealing with emergencies.
Like said, multi tasking is traditionally associated with females.
Whistle blowing at the Notting Hill Carnival, this year...pic by Z. Bahati.

Feeding a crying baby, cooking for the husband, making sure older children are prepared for school, chatting and gossiping with friends and neighbours and if educated (and well positioned) being an efficient executive. Yes, multi-tasking is a skill. Multiple skills; multiple things, multiple colours.
Consider such  mix: work, play, serious, fun. This would be one way of describing a Carnival.
A procession of large open air vehicles carrying musicians and fast speaking entertainers, breaking their lungs with passion. And tagging behind the wheels,  groups of dancers, dressed in all manners of clothing, half naked, fully clothed, transparent, vibrant, loud, cheerful, boisterous, joyous, funny and strange. And following this entourage, well wishers on the side- tourists, friends and foe, families, young and old, shouting, taking pictures, singing along, watching with fascination, drinking and screaming.

 All this makes up a mobile concert. Not the static  band singing while the audience on the floor gyrates and moves along. That is only a third of the picture. Multi-tasking, multi layered rainbows, multiple sounds; thin and thick humanity befits the word, Carnival.
First time I attended a Carnival  was in Cologne. It was mid 1980’s;  just arrived from Africa and friendly locals tried putting me in the loop, so to speak.
Cologne Carnival- pic by Journey Mart

“Everyone gets drunk and you might meet a willing lady...”
Free sex, free booze?
Tell that to any hot blooded young man and their nerves burst with anticipation. I headed for the Cologne Carnival expecting to see a heaven of possibilities. This was February but cold. Very.
 And snowing.
I saw people dressed like monsters, witches, animals, birds; large and gargantuan costumes. It freaked me out. How am I going to know who is female or male?
“How do you distinguish?” I inquired.
Never mind I was advised. Have a beer.
“ Do not analyse.”
It was very different from going to a Kibisa ngoma group dance in Dar es Salaam or attending a Remmy Ongala gig around Ubungo. 

Remmy Ongala's Mambo CD

Those days Musician Ongala and drum & dance troupe Kibisa were in my eyes the East African Carnival.
By the time I attended the world’s biggest Carnival in Rio De Janeiro two years later,  things became clearer. Sambodromo is a mini stadium constructed specifically for the annual Brazilian Carnival. You sit here for three days watching Samba groups parading  for hours and hours, dressed in shocking, amazing attires. The songs are loud, the flamboyancy something from Mars,  Neptune and Pluto and Jupiter combined.
I went home thinking, what a show! Next time a local musician took me to the city centre, Avenida Venezuela, Maua Square and so on. Street Carnival was better. I joined in the fun and befriended a couple of people. Next time I attended the Salvador – Bahia Carnival, north east Brazil  I was not just observing and watching. I had a percussion instrument in my hand and joined the throng of revellers; danced and played for hours and hours, drinking, grinding, singing with the people. For five days of happiness.  Carnival makes a nation understand her own character, culture and identity. This time I got the essence of the Carnival. Join in and you shall taste the coffee.
Urban Pulse's Frank Eyembe with Ambassador Peter Kallaghe at the Carnival.
 Pic By F Macha...

Imagine taking a cold shower in a chilly weather. You wont understand how it feels without stripping off your clothes and jumping in.
And that’s what London’s Notting Hill Carnival does to you. There is room for everyone. When it began in the late 1950’s under the leadership of late journalist and woman campaigner, Claudia Jones (pictured below), it was  to boo and chide racism.

 Trinidad born Claudia Jones, died of TB and heart problems in 1964. What she created in London has lasted and today this West London occasion  attracts at least a million people (including tourists) from all over the world. Two days of fun every end of August.

Historically, the Carnival was a Christian feast to begin 40 days of absolution, prayer and fasting prior to Easter, known as Lent. Carne means Meat  and Vale farewell, so “goodbye to partying.” It is almost akin to Idd El Fitr whereby Muslims celebrate after ( not before) the sacred month of Ramadan.  

Also published inCitizen Tanzania

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