Grenada Jab Jab Masqueraders portray Historical Characters about Slavery and Oppression


By Hudson George

Oppression and slavery are the basic reasons why Jab Jab masqueraders spell words incorrectly and they are able to attract large followers and continue to dominant the two days of Grenada street carnival celebration. However, there are historical evidence to prove why they portray themselves as characters we can identify with.

Basically, Jab Jab masqueraders, are just characters celebrating the Emancipation of Slavery in their own ways. It is very easy to see the characters they portray as they travel to the various villages in the parishes before they enter the town in their parish or neighouring parish.

The most amazing thing they portray is the words they pretend to be spelling from the books that they are carrying but the words are not written in the books. However, even though their method of spelling some words are vulgar with obscenity, they are portraying the characters of free black men and women who were not given the opportunity to attend school to achieve a proper education during the days of slavery.

They are showing how black people were treated during slavery because, after slavery was abolished on August 1st, 1838, it was a day of celebration for an oppressed people who were not able to read and write, so they were illiterates not by choice.

It is obvious that the former slaves were mimicking the slave masters reading newspapers and most likely teaching their white children how to spell words to become literate and intelligent.

So, while some conservative Grenadians tend to looked down on Jab Jab masqueraders as vulgar citizens, there are some strong elements of historical truth they exposed in two days carnival on the streets across the country

In addition, there are some Jab Jab masqueraders from Mt. Rich village in St. Patrick parish, who have a unique way of mimicking the slave masters’ evil deeds towards the slaves as they perform their street theatre. They are so creative, they know how to put on a theatre show on the street by attracting  travelers in motor vehicles and local villagers. And this is the way they make their money by singing and spelling words for persons who pay them for a performance.

In their street theatre performance, even though they are vulgar, the way they organised the cast is very professional. For example, one particular member of the band portray himself with the wooden stick to command the spelling session. His character role is a person with authority and dominance as Massa.

On the other hand, the other member who always leads the songs with the nice singing voice, portrays himself as an intelligent person, who is very assertive of his role. His role is to make spectators believe that he is scholar by calling out the number of the songs in the book.

This unique band of Mt. Rich jab jab sing and rhyme words in a poetic way about women, police and church leaders. But what is amazing about their street theatre as they move from village to village is that, their main spectators are mostly women who enjoy the way they spell words and how they wear their short pants, jockey shorts and sometimes female underwear to draw spectator’s attention. It is obvious that some women enjoy the way these jab jab whine and gyrate as opposite sex in a sexual manner.

Additionally, the bigger bands of Jab Jab tend to attract larger followers as they beat the drums and sing. And as they parade through the streets their numbers grow bigger as spectators become jab jab converts and join the bands. However, after they are initiated with the blackness of the Jab Jab uniform, they start enjoying the musical sounds from the drums, conch shell and bell as full pledged members.

However, I think it is very important for us Grenadians to protect our rich unique Jab Jab culture. If we keep our traditional Jab Jab culture in the rural communities and make Grenville town the central place for a big Jab Jab celebration during carnival, it will be  very good for the rural economy. It will attract visitors to come to the big parish to see the roots of pure Grenadian culture.

It is a known fact that St. Andrew and St. Patrick are the two parishes that have the original Jab Jab drum players and the best Jab Jab spelling entertainers too.

So, it is very important that the Spice Mas Corporation (SMC) make Grenville the Jab Jab City during carnival celebration. If the SMC do the right thing, St. Patrick jab jab masqueraders can enhance the activity by participating Grenville celebration.


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