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Bahamas Junkanoo Revue - Junkanoo Costumes

junkanoo photo - 33 K Bahamians who have migrated to South Florida have brought with them their Junkanoo tradition, a form of parading that has been closely associated with Christmas season celebrations. The first formal Junkanoo group to emerge in the Miami area was the Sunshine Junkanoo Band, which was formed by Bruce Beneby in Overtown in 1957. From this group a second organization?the Bahamas Junkanoo Revue?was born in 1993. The founders of the Bahamas Junkanoo Revue included Langston Longley, David Dean, Eddie Clark, and three long-standing members of the Nassau-based Saxons Junkanoo group: Reggie Lang, Al Green and Clinton Neilly.

During the 1950s and 1960s Junkanoo costumes in Miami were similar to those in Nassau, consisting of pants, shirts and hats that were often decorated with strips of crepe paper that had been cut into fringe. When Longley began taking part in Junkanoo in South Florida in the late 1960s, he would bring costumes from Nassau for Miami Junkanooers to use. He continues this practice today. During the 1980s the style of costumes in Nassau began to change, with the incorporation of elaborate skirts and shoulder-pieces fashioned from cardboard. These pieces were decorated with fringed crepe paper and worn over the traditional pants and shirts. The Bahamas Junkanoo Revue gradually adopted this style of costume.

In addition to using costumes from Nassau, the Bahamas Junkanoo Revue creates its own outfits in Miami. The style and construction of these costumes continue to show the influence of the Nassau tradition, due to the ongoing contact between Junkanooers on both sides of the Florida Straits. Members of the Bahamas Junkanoo Revue return to Nassau each year to participate in the Junkanoo parades on Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day. In addition, Junkanoo performers come from Nassau to South Florida to join in the Goombay Festival in Coconut Grove, the Martin Luther King, Jr., birthday celebration in West Perrine and the Orange Bowl Parade.

The creativity that members of the Bahamas Junkanoo Revue have shown in the decoration of their costumes has, in turn, influenced Junkanooers in Nassau. For example, they have established the practice of painting their costumes, instead of covering them with fringed crepe paper. They also make use of felt, satin, mylar, beads and colored plastic jewels (known as “tricks”). Nassau-based Junkanooers have adopted these practices, but on a much smaller scale, since they are restricted by rules governing their performance in the parades in Nassau.

Junkanoo parades are highly spirited performances, involving not only costuming but dance-like body movement and music. The standard instruments include hand-made goatskin “goombay” and bass drums, tom-toms (derived from trap sets), cowbells, small one-note horns, whistles and, more recently, trumpets, trombones and sousaphones.

- Nina Wood

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