Guyana Masquerade

These Masquerade Bands parade down the street at Christmas time

Masquerade is probably the only original form of music and dance from Guyana.This session was videotaped live at the National Park in Georgetown Guyana.

The masquerade has it’s origin in Nigeria’s Yoruba and Ibo traditions.  Check the Lagosion (Lagos, Nigeria), tradition of Eyo and the stilt dancing.  The Fife and quick steps are very Ibo.  I saw it in Nigeria and immediately knew that this was one tradition that was not completely erradicated through slavery – comment from viewer

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Comments

  • Ken Corsbie  On 12/27/2010 at 7:01 pm

    You manage to consistently post unique and interesting items.. Thanks and congratulations.. Please somehow keep it up – I know how much it takes to keep updating.
    My Video of the Week. Dec.26th-Jan.1st.The protective Seawall that stretches the length of the coastline, and the complexities of Government processes effect most aspects of Guyanese life.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IijMF4ROKjw

  • Chris  On 12/27/2010 at 7:19 pm

    There was too much concentratioin on the musicians and too little on the dancers which are the main attraction to the Guyanese public

  • Ken Corsbie  On 12/27/2010 at 8:17 pm

    Are there distinct drum and fife echoes from Scottish/Irish military music? and I think, but not sure, that stilt dancing also has ancient roots in some European cultures? .. that perhaps the masquerade, tuk of Barbados, and similar music of Tobago and other island, are creative examples of African based creole adaptations leading to a distinctly new artform? a kind of patwa or kweyole music. I may be wrong about all ths of course.

  • Sheila Matthias (Ula Best)  On 12/28/2010 at 1:00 pm

    Masquerade was thought to be extinct when I was a little girl living at 223 Camp Street. My father, David Best known as Dada re-resurrected the Masquerade band. I remember him gathering the original band members, Little, Boyie and others at our home in Camp Street, the making of the costumes with the beads and pretty colours. My mother at that time thought it was too much and you can imagine some of the family members thinking with false pride that he should not be bothered with this Masquerade. However, I’m very proud that he started this back up and I got to know the likes of Little and Boyie — Little was one of the best dancers and Boyie was on the stilts. Nowadays, we call this good choreography.

  • Gerald De Freitas  On 12/28/2010 at 9:43 pm

    Hi Cyril,

    Are you absolutely sure of the origin of Guyana’s Masquerade.

    I seem to remember my Grandmother telling me about the Portuguese Festivals in Georgetown which the British frowned on but did not try to prevent.. She said the Portuguese gave these up when they became more British than the British and the African population in British Guiana who had always enjoyed it, then adopted these celebrations, which included lights, costumes, music etc along with aspects of their own cultural traditions..

    I also understand these Festivals from Portugal were the origin of Brazilian Carnival although, admittedly, the Portuguese had also adopted some customs from other cultures.

    Have you done any research on this?

    Sincerely,
    Gerald De Freitas

    • guyaneseonline  On 12/28/2010 at 9:46 pm

      Hello Gerald..
      I have made no personal comments regarding this video. I have also done no research on it. I just posted the video as I do remember these bands in Guyana during Christmas.

      The statements and comments come from the video as it is posted in the YouTube video website, where there are also other comments…. just click on -view on Youtube – and you will see the comments there.

      this music is popular in Barbados as well as in other islands, with Mother Sally, stilt dancing etc. In Barbados they call them Tuk Bands.
      I expect a comment from someone who may know more about this music, and it will be posted when I get it.
      Regards

  • Ken Corsbie  On 12/28/2010 at 9:55 pm

    Perhaps Vibert Cambridge can/will give us a researched comment on origin(s) of masquerade, tuk, jonkonoo, speech bands.. He has done and continues to do an enormous amount of research into Guyanese music. A masquerade archive (including video of course) would be the ideal vehicle for the perpetuation and devleopment of this folkart that is interpreted slightly different throughout the Caribbean.
    Great work Cyril.

  • Ken Corsbie  On 12/28/2010 at 9:59 pm

    Our choreographers have used the masquerade music and dance into their work. A Bajan caypsonian has incorporated the music of tuk into his compositions. I’ve seen a bit of the Belizean version of masqeurade and their footworks have similarities to ours. The videos of the various Carifestas would/should have detailed recordings of all the various Caribbean “masquerades”.. shoulda coulda woulda but nada..

  • ann wishart-eudoxie  On 12/28/2010 at 10:00 pm

    I remember these from Berbice when the stilt-man, Mother Sally and the cow man used to scare the crap out of us!!!
    Nice to see that it still lives.

  • Shammie  On 12/29/2010 at 5:03 am

    Things like this makes me want to go back home.

  • Gus Corbin  On 12/29/2010 at 8:13 pm

    One can surely admire this aspect of the Guyanese Culture. Ours is unique even more unique because of the flute which stands out. More needs to be done with the dance movements with more base drums, kittle and tassa to fuse a Cultural diversity as Terry Nelson would would have suggested.

  • Ken Corsbie  On 12/29/2010 at 8:33 pm

    Guyana’s masquerade is unique, like all the adaptations in the Caribbean are unique, only in details. It would be a revelation to experience all of the versions together, if not as live performances, but at least as a video movie, complete with comment, explanation. Treated as high art and necessary educaton. Throw in the Tassa as counterpoint and there you have art, theatre, education, joy.. To see our art as intrinsic to the region’s cultural quilt.

  • Eusi Kwayana  On 01/01/2011 at 8:51 am

    my comment.
    Masquerade is of Nigerian origin and came down to the present with little change. If it can be so and still original, good. It is NOT the only form of dance from Guyana. The observer will have to account for other forms of dance present in various widely separated locations. For example there are, or have been, vibrant “Cormantin” and Congo traditions, and more. Masquerade is really a form of street or open space theatre. Even this addition does not treat these activities as they deserve. Will the author consider saying some more about “dances” and where they come from socially.
    (eusi)

  • Joycelynne Loncke  On 01/13/2011 at 4:33 pm

    While I was in Cote d’Ivoire, I was privileged to witness the performance of a group of villagers consisting of ‘flouncers’, ‘flautist’, drummer’, ‘bull head’ and pregnant lady which were exactly the same as what we know in Guyana, as the masquerade. I was made to understand that it was part of a ‘fertility rite’.

  • ROBERT GRAHAM  On 01/20/2011 at 2:02 pm

    Not sure of its origins but it seems african.

  • Jacob Bristol  On 01/21/2011 at 3:01 am

    I haven’t given much thought to this subject. However, from the discourse I have read it seems to be going in a positive direction. I never knew the the Portuguese people were so involved as least from a historical perspective. Looking back, these was a Portuguese guy in Guyana who was a very good Masquerade dancers. Thanks for the lesson. I now know where that came from.

  • guyaneseonline  On 12/23/2012 at 1:35 am

    Reblogged this on Guyanese Online and commented:

    This blog entry was added on December 27, 2010. We re-blog it here so you could enjoy this unique music and culture. Merry Christmas!

  • Team-GABI  On 12/24/2012 at 10:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Guyanese Association of Barbados Inc.

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