Jamaica becomes a player in the Carnival industry, and Canadians help out.


By Stephen Weir for the Caribbean Camera
Jamaica is the new kid on the international Carnival block and this year, thanks to big Canadian visitor numbers, the child has suddenly grown up. Although there have been carnivals in Jamaica since 1989 it has only been in the last three or four years that carnival fans from North America and other Caribbean countries have sat up and taken notice of what is going on in the One Love island nation.
The annual festival in Jamaica kicked off in January this year and ended last Sunday with a mas parade of 6,000 costumed revellers through the streets of Kingston.  What made Sunday’s parade different from the past parades was the number of Canadians and other international visitors who were on the road in costume, and in the crowds of spectators that lined the streets of Kingston.
Celena Seusahai is one of the driving forces behind the Tribal Carnival mas band in Toronto.  She took time off work to join fellow Canadians taking part in this past weekend’s Kingston festival and parade.
“It has been fantastic.” Celena Seusahai told the Camera. “I played with Xodus (one of three major Jamaica bands). This year, I saw a lot of Canadians and Caymanians here. Why Jamaica and why now? I wanted to experience another Carnival, and we’ll be heading next to Cayman for the Batabano Carnival in about two weeks.” 
Ms. Seusahai sent the paper two pictures of herself at the Jamaica Carnival. One shows the Torontonian in costume on the street outside her Kingston hotel. The second shows her with Jamaican Canadian Shanece Dawnson who is a section leader at Tribal Carnival.
 “Without a doubt Carnival in Jamaica 2018 is the largest staging I have ever witnessed in the past 15 years. Never before have I seen so many Carnival chasers, tourists, regional influencers in Jamaica for our Carnival week festivities, which tells me that local Carnival industry players are on the verge of making a huge dynamic shift in the Carnival industry. Clearly Jamaica is now in the top rankings of must-attend carnivals,” wrote Andrew Bellamy, a director of Xaymaca International, one of three mas bands that took to the streets last Sunday.
One of the reasons for the international interest can be traced to the involvement of Soca star Machel Montano.  He staged a huge Saturday morning outdoor breakfast concert in Kingston and took to the street on a sound truck (followed by thousands of revellers) at the Sunday parade.
According to the Government of Jamaica, “51,384 visitors arrived in the island in the first week of April, ahead of the island's carnival kick-off. That is an increase of 12.4 per cent over the corresponding period last year.”
The government estimates that about half of the people who took part in the festival, be it as participants or spectators, were from off-island. While officials could not immediately say how much money spent by visitors at carnival was injected into the economy, they said it had a trickle down effect on the areas of Kingston where carnival was taking place.

Picture Top - Shanece Dawnson and Celena Seusahai at a pre-parade party
Picture Right- Celena Seusahai on the street on her way to the Kingston parade

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