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5 Brooklyn J’Ouvert Bands You Should Know

Published on Aug 31 2017, at 8:05 pm

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Pagwah Mas is a mas band in Brooklyn, NY that was the winner of last year’s Fancy Ole Mas competition.

By NAN Travel Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Sept. 1, 2017: J’Ouvert, (pronounced Jou-vay), the start of a Caribbean carnival, in Brooklyn, NY has taken a bad rap. It has been blamed for several murders in recent years and this year the city has steeped in and pushed back the start of the event to approximately 6 a.m. on Monday, September 4, 2017 from Grand Army Plaza while cops will be screening everyone.

The Parade, which features creative socially conscious costumes, steel pans, masquerade bands and stick play, will then move south on Flatbush Avenue, east on Empire Boulevard and south on Nostrand Avenue and end at Midwood Street. Whether that will make a difference is left to be seen this Monday but the reality for many playing this ‘ole mas’ is not crime or violence but a real celebration of Caribbean carnival culture. As Phenderson Djèlí Clark tells it: “J’Ouvert is pounding bass on a big truck, steel pan, rattling cowbells or just the “ting-a-ling ting-a-ling” of bottle of spoon. J’Ouvert is masquerade with or without actual masks. … J’Ouvert is ex-slaves with flaming torches and chains … J’Ouvert is rum. … J’Ouvert is devils–red devils, blue devils, devils dripping black tar and spitting fire. J’Ouvert is baby powder and paint. J’Ouvert is MUD. …J’Ouvert in is magic.”

Here are 5 Brooklyn J’Ouvert bands you should know as they keep the spirit of ‘ole mas’ – traditional and fanciful – alive.

1:  Pagwah

Pagwah Mas is a mas band in Brooklyn, NY that was the winner of last year’s Fancy Ole Mas competition. This year they will playing mas under the theme ‘Kritical Mas 2017.’The group, now in its 10th year, says it “is a celebration of culture and preservation of the J’ouvert tradition and aims to become a staple to the art form in New York and globally” and “speak to social and cultural issues that creates a connection between our name, story and brand, and each costume piece.”  Th band was founded in 2008 by Richard Pacific and offers readymade costumes, custom bodypainting, and community to J’Ouvert attendees wanting to celebrate in style.

2: Kutters

Kutters is a Trinidad-based band that plays Brooklyn J’Ouvert and was the third place winner last year of the Fancy Ole Mas competition with Silver Algae.  This year they return with Algae Silver J’Ouvert

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A traditional J’Ouvert costume at the Mayor’ of NYC’s reception to kick off the 2017 Carnival. (Hakim Mutlaq image)

3: Roy Pierre & Associates

Roy Pierre & Associates are a legend at the Brooklyn J’Ouvert. They

Have been participating since its inception in the early 1980’s and their costumes make a statement and tell a story. They have won the competition 16-times. This year the group is presenting “UNTAMED!,” an irreverent, unconventional presentation with sections ranging from the Primitive / Tribal to Road Warriors to Earth People and Native Americans. The band will be celebrating the spirit of resistance of those who challenge the status quo, in favor of seeking the freedom road.

4: Oildowners

Oil Downers won first place last year in the Traditional Ole Mas competition for Tea Party In Trump Plaza. The Brooklyn, New York group presents their take on social issues and issues in the news annually. They have played White Devils and even Don King, Lorena Bobbit and gangsters as well.

5: Green House Jab Jab

The ‘GREEHOUSE Jab Jab’ band is celebrating 16 years of preserving Grenadian culture in Brooklyn, New York. The band is managed by Adrian Bain and they urge attendees to dress in horns, paint, and slick black motor  oil as a means of reconnecting with their heritage.


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