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Carnival in Seychelles makes news in Soca News in the UK

Carnival in Seychelles makes news in Soca News in the UK ( “The competition is going to be a lot stronger this year." That was the prediction of Alan Mason, boss of a leading tour company in Seychelles. More importantly, on February 9 - the day of the third Carnaval International de Victoria - Alan is the leader of Mason's Travel mas band.

Alan was right: the Seychelles mas bands have upped their game and the standard of costumes and presentation has definitely improved from last year. Mason's band, which took the “Blue Economy” as its theme, made a splash in their blue, white, and silver costumes and had a splendid whiskery Neptune as their king. This was a band that could definitely have held its head high at Notting Hill - a remarkable achievement after only three years. As Alan noted, the Seychellois are creative and adaptive, so despite having no carnival mas tradition in the country and only minimal outside help, they have been quick to learn the art and science of mas.

Those skills were evident in what must surely be Mason's chief rival for the local band honors, JJ Spirit Foundation. Its vast seabird, with moving head and a beak that opened and closed in time to the music, was a show-stopper - as was the fluffy chick that emerged, newly hatched, from an egg on the float. JJ Spirit's masqueraders, all in white, definitely had the carnival spirit.

The Carnaval International de Victoria takes place in Seychelles, but the participants come from all over the globe, drawn from carnivals and festivals in the UK, Brazil (for the first time this year), Madagascar, China, Indonesia, Italy, Belgium (another first-timer), Zimbabwe, Zambia, India, and Kenya, among others. Perhaps the most surprising and welcome new entrant was Seychelles' Vanilla Islands partner Mauritius. The Mauritians looked good in blue tee-shirts and beautifully made main costumes in sea green to promote the country's Carnival of the Sea in August. Soca News will bring you more details of that event closer to the time.

The Sao Paulo-based samba school Rosas de Ouro (Golden Rose) stole the show at the opening night's stage event, so expectations were high for carnival day. However, the queen was on the truck and the group was certainly not of the standard of, say, Paraiso or London School of Samba at Notting Hill. Indeed, Soca News learned that when Notting Hill's samba dancers challenged the Rosas de Ouro girls to a dance-off at their HQ on Eden Island, just outside Victoria, the Londoners had all the best moves.

Eden Island put out a lively band of its own, all in red, and the beautiful mas of the Air Seychelles/Etihad group, whose truck was topped by a magnificent red dragon, showed that corporate doesn't have to mean dull. The hotels also rose to the occasion with imagination and humor - the woman enjoying a massage on Kempinski's float was one “masquerade” who wasn't going to break into a sweat or have sore feet at the end of the day. Like those following Four Seasons Resort and Le Meridien, Kempinski's crew were clearly having a great time.

Other local bands worth a mention were Seychelles National Youth Council, which, like several other trucks, had an excellent live band, and Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, whose control tower was a truly impressive construction. As for the Disney Girls, the moralistic Walt Disney was surely sent spinning in his grave by the sight of their fishnet stockings and sexy outfits!

Notting Hill brought up the rear of the procession and looked big in every way - a big band, with big costumes that made a big impression on the crowd. Masqueraders were drawn from a variety of bands, including Ruff Diamond, Flamingo, Beeraahar Sweet Combination and Mahogany, with steelpan from CSI Steelband. Chances are high for a third win in the international category.

However, Claire Holder, head of the Notting Hill Carnival Roadshow Company, echoed Alan Mason in saying that the competition was stronger this year. The white-attired Reunionnais stiltwalkers following the Waki Band were striking and the Tambours Sacre de Reunion produced a great steam train beat, performing with verve and enthusiasm. South Africa had a smaller entry this year, but the minstrels from Cape Town delighted the crowd with their face-pulling antics. Stiltwalkers from the Province of Namur, Belgium, need to be robust, as their display consisted of a game of “last man standing” as each battled to push the others down to the ground. The African groups engaged in some superb, hair-raising acrobatic displays that thrilled the crowd.

As for the crowd itself, it seemed bigger than last year - every street in Victoria was crammed with revelers turning this tiny capital into carnival city for a weekend. In such a compact, well-defined space it's impossible to escape the carnival vibe. The carnival's success does cause a few problems, particularly in the dangerously narrow access into Freedom Square, where the major stage acts take place (there's another stage behind the food stalls next to the National Stadium). Fortunately, the Seychellois are calm and polite, so you don't see the sort of pushing and barging that occurs elsewhere, but the risk of a crush is very real.

Lima Calbio headlined the Freedom Square stage show and once again put on a storming set of high-energy soca. She clearly loves the Seychelles and the crowd loves her back - she seems to be the only performer, local or foreign, who can get the normally rather static Seychellois into following commands. Sega Elle reprised her lovely “Envoyez nou sega” and so the party went on into the early hours of the morning, both in town and on Eden Island.

Author: Stephen Spark / Photo © Stephen Spark


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