Keith Getter, “The Engine Room: J’Ouvert Sounds On The Road from Night to Day” (© 2017 Keith Getter)

Most New Yorkers know about the West Indian Day Parade, a massive Carnival celebration that typically brings more than a million people to Crown Heights for a daylong display of dazzling costumes, vibrant music (coming from live bands and massive speakers), and food vendors all along Eastern Parkway. But I’d wager that far fewer are familiar J’Ouvert, the pre-dawn procession that takes place the night before. A program happening this Saturday, August 19, at the Brooklyn Public Library will offer an introduction.

Anna Mulé. “Steel drums” (© 2016 Anna Mulé)

Co-presented by the Brooklyn Arts Council, the Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music and the Caribbean Studies Program at Brooklyn College, J’Ouvert City International, Something Positive Inc., and the library, the event will focus specifically on Trinidad’s J’Ouvert, which began in 1783 when French settlers introduced their masquerade balls to the island but wouldn’t allow slaves to participate; the slaves responded by holding their own parties. Different Caribbean countries and expat communities have gone on to develop their own traditional takes on the annual festival, and the first part of Saturday’s program will be a discussion of the history of two Trinidadian staples: the steelpan instrument and “ole mas,” a form of street theater. After that, attendees will head outside for a concert/demonstration of J’Ouvert music, dance, and stick play. Five Brooklyn-based Caribbean bands will perform — Kutters, Legend Stars, Oil Downers, La Troupe Zetwal, and Something Positive, Inc. — and there will be a chance to make your own mask.

WhenSaturday, August 19, 2–5pm
Where: Central Library, Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn)

More info here

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...