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The Art & History of J'Ouvert: Steelband as Resistance

Saturday, August 25, 2018 | 1-5 pm | FREE

Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch

10 Grand Army Plaza




1 pm - 5 pm

We’ll kick off the celebration with a conversation with artists and activists about the history of steelpan movement-- how it traveled from Trinidad, Harlem, and to Brooklyn--and where the future of the craft lies.

Then, join us out on the plaza to experience the music and dance of J’Ouvert in all its pulsating colors — with steelbands, rhythm bands, mas bands, and limbo. Make your own mask, join a procession, and dance to Brooklyn’s top Caribbean musicians!

Schedule includes:

  • Introduction by BAC Folk Arts Director Christopher Mulé, J'Ouvert City International President Yvette Rennie, and Mervyn Taylor
  • Ray Allen and Dale Byam coordinating a discussion with Lennox Leverock on the History of the Steelpan, featuring a film excerpt of Charysse Tia Harper’s "Panomundo,"
  • Jesse Lampton and Oscar Williams demonstrating Crafting and Tuning
  • Kendall Williams on Arranging and Composing
  • Count Robin and Anthony Joseph on the History of Pan Yard Migration
  • Sandra Bell and Yvette Rennie on Strategies of Resistance for the preservation of J’Ouvert traditions

Performing groups:

  • Hearts of Steel
  • Rhythm Masters
  • Ole Mas with Tankalanka
  • Brooklyn Jumbies
  • Fanmi Asòtò
  • Something Positive
  • Greenhouse Jab Jab
  • Cheryl Thomas



About J’Ouvert  

Brooklyn is home to the largest West Indian community outside of the Caribbean; nearly 20% of the borough’s population. Around Labor Day, the West Indian Day Parade attracts more spectators than any other event in the city, drawing close to 2-3 million annually. The evening before the Parade is J’Ouvert, a celebratory procession that runs two miles along Eastern Parkway--traditionally starting at 3 am (now at 6 am) and lasting to daybreak. J’Ouvert, from the French meaning “break of day,” is described as a religious experience; the dance from dark to light before the West Indian Day Parade. Costumed bands and revelers wearing mud, paint, or festive attire doubling as commentary on sociopolitical injustices, dance through the streets until the daytime carnival commences.

Unlike the electric sound systems that are signatures of the West Indian Day Parade, expressions for J’Ouvert revelers are steeped in traditional music (steelpan, Haitian rara), and dance and costuming (masquerade). Unfortunately, this cultural tradition has recently been marred by violence.  This event, along with the Steelpan Yard Tour--hopes to help to reclaim and reaffirm that tradition and foster pride of place. 


This program is presented by Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn Public Library, J’Ouvert City International, The Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music and the Caribbean Studies Program at Brooklyn College, and Something Positive Inc. With curatorial assistance by Mervyn Taylor and Keith Getter.

Thank you to Blue Mango, LLC for their initial program support in 2017. 

Brooklyn Arts Council events and programs are made possible, in part, through public funds from: National Endowment for the Arts; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council. Major corporate support for BAC Folk Arts is provided by TD Bank. The Art & History of J'Ouvert is sponsored by a Humanities New York Action Grant.

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