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Culture in St Kitts & Nevis
 
 
 

Arts & Crafts

Artists of St Kitts & Nevis create works inspired by their own native traditions, life on the islands, and African roots. Pottery is especially notable, both red clay pieces and pieces fired with colourful glazes and indigenous designs. Paintings often depict tropical landscapes, portraits of islanders, or cultural traditions like clowns performing. Other crafts include rug weaving, wooden items such as carvings and sculptures, and leather work.

Music

The most well-known kind of traditional music is probably seasonal Christmas songs, though there also chanteys and other songs. Music is also a part of the 'Tea Meetings' which are common on the island, featuring a pair of stentorian male singers in a competitive kind of performance in which hecklers play an important role.

Carnival in Saint Kitts and Nevis features music quite prominently. Big Drum and string bands accompany folk performers. Other instruments include shack-shack (a tin can with beads inside), baha (a blown metal pipe), triangle, fife, guitar and quarto.

Iron bands were introduced to St Kitts & Nevis' Carnival in the 1940s, when bands used makeshift percussion instruments from the likes of car rims. Ensembles of local, collaborative musicians formed during this era, playing drums, saxophones, bass guitars and trumpets; these included the Silver Rhythm Orchestra, Brown Queen, Music Makers, Esperanza and Rhythm Kings. The following decade saw the introduction a Trinidadian style called steelpan, brought by Lloyd Matheson, CBE, then an Education Officer. The first steelpan band was Roy Martin's Wilberforce Steel Pan. Other bands included the Eagle Squadron, Boomerang, Casablanca, Boston Tigers and The Invaders. Modern Carnival in St Kitts & Nevis did not begin until the late 1950s. In the 1960s, brass bands dominated first Carnival, then much of popular music

Festivities

As in other Caribbean nations, the culture on St Kitts & Nevis is festive and vibrant. Carnivals and celebrations play an important role in island life. At Christmas time, Carnival is in full swing on St Kitts. The opening gala takes place in mid-December, with events going on until a few days after New Year's. Among these events, crowd favourites include the Miss Caribbean Talented Teen Pageant, the Junior Calypso Show, and the National Carnival Queen Pageant. Of course, there are also plenty of parades full of people wearing colourful, spangled costumes.

Another very popular aspect of Carnival, Masquerade (or Mas) evolved over the past three centuries from a mix of African and European traditions. Masquerade performers wear brightly patterned long-sleeved shirts with trousers, all embellished with bangles, mirrors, and ribbons. Topping off their costumes are masks and headdresses decorated with peacock feathers. Their dances combine elements of waltzes, jigs, wild mas, fertility dances, quadrilles, and other traditional African and European dances.

Stilt-walkers called moko-jumbies wear similar but simpler costumes. The word "moko" may come from the name for a vengeance god in West Africa, where the tradition originated. Or it may derive from the macaw tree, a tall palm with thorns – headdresses worn by the moko-jumbies are said to be patterned after a Macaw in bloom. Wearing stilts six to eight feet high, moko-jumbies dance to entertain the crowds.

Clown troupes also perform at this time of year. In groups of about fifty, they dance while a live band plays music. Bells on their baggy, vivid costumes jingle as they move. Pink masks meant to represent Europeans cover their faces.

In addition, there are other festivals on the island of St Kitts. There is Inner City Fest in February in Molineaux Green Valley Festival usually around Whit Monday in village of Cayon, Easterama around Easter (April) in village of Sandy Point, Fest-Tab, around July-August in the village of Tabernacle, and La festival de Capisterre, around Independence Day in St Kitts & Nevis (19 September), in the Capisterre region. These celebrations typically feature parades, street dances and salsa, jazz, soca, calypso and steelpan music.

Apart from Carnival, the island of Nevis has its own unique festival, Culturama. Celebrated on the weekend of Emancipation Day, it began in 1974 when some islanders feared that their native folk art and customs were being lost. They started Culturama to reconnect people with their traditional culture. In addition to arts and crafts, the five-day long celebration includes dances, music, drama, and fashion shows. Parties, boat rides, swimsuit contests, and street jams have also become part of the festivities.

 

 
 

 



 


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