With excitement building for Montserrat’s 50th Annual Festival this December, the Waka Waka Mas band has begun showcasing their presentation, “The Treasures of Alliouagana,” which was inspired by the rich culture and history of the island.
Alliouagana is the Amerindian name for the island of Montserrat and its cultural heritage is regarded as its most valuable Treasure. On New Years Day 2013, Waka Waka Mas will present three of these treasures in the form of distinctive and colorful costumes on the streets of Montserrat.
Section 1: Oriole (Orange) – represents Montserrat’s African heritage and the national bird, the Oriole.
Section 3: Sarobei (White) – represents Montserrat’s Amerindian heritage, and the silky Sea Island cotton that was once a major export of the island. Sarobei is also the Taino/Arawak word for cotton.
The words “Waka Waka” are an African rally cry that translates to “Do It“, as in a task, which embodies the attitude of Waka Waka Mas. In this their first major initiative, they hope not only to encourage Montserratians to come home, but also to spread the excitement of this year’s festival to non-Montserratians particularly from neighbouring islands to come and join in or witness what will be a memorable 50th Anniversary celebration.
U.S. based band leader Dudley Skerritt was inspired to create the group based on his early memories of the Montserrat Festival. He reminisces, “I have such fond memories of being at the street parade trying to keep up with the people dressed up in vibrant costumes and the revellers enjoying themselves to the songs of Cepeke and other calypso artistes.” He says, “The Treasures of Alliouagana is a chance for those who participated back then to bring back the glory days — pre volcanic eruption and pre Hurricane Hugo — and for those like myself who were on the sidelines, we can finally take part, to create new memories and at the same time remind the youths about our culture.”
Canada based band member Terrance Jemmotte, was inspired to get involved because, as he says, “I see Montserratians, including myself, playing mas in so many different places around the world and I wonder, why not Montserrat? What could be better than paying mas at home?”. Waka Waka Mas hopes that many will answer the call to play mas this year or just visit Montserrat during this special festival celebration and help boost the local economy which is still recovering from the devastating volcanic eruption some 17 years ago.
Skerritt states, “We are organizing this event to encourage Montserratians not only to take a long overdue trip home but to participate to make the 50th celebration a memorable one for all. Despite the challenges the island has faced over the years, the island has much to offer and there is still no place like home. As the official slogan goes, “It’s time to celebrate the Talent, Culture and Creativity, Montserrat Festival 50.”
Registration for Waka Waka Mas is via website at wakawakamas.com and is now open and goes through Friday, August 31st 2012.
Waka Waka Mas is a non-profit masquerade band, supported by a large team of volunteers across the globe. Its goal is to promote the rich cultural heritage of Montserrat by re-energising the New Years Day parade with the pageantry and dazzle that so many of us remember. Our funding comes through corporate sponsorships which helps us to reach the wider community while raising our sponsor’s profile both at home and abroad
For more information about the Montserrat Festival please visit montserratfestival.com.