Carriacou boasts one of the most fun, safe and authentic carnivals in the world. It takes place annually around the end of February / start of March until just before the start of Lent.
After skipping 2021 and 2022 due to COVID, and with 2023's event having been a BIG success, the Carriacou Carnival 2024 (aka Kayak Mas) is set to take place from February 08 to 13, but with plenty of pre- and post-Mas events. See below for the full schedule for 2024!
WARNING! The best accommodation on Carriacou books up quickly before Carnival so make sure to book early! Check out Carriacou's best places to stay.
Kayak Mas 2024 | Transportation Grenada <> Carriacou
About Carriacou Carnival "Kayak Mas" 2024
The Carriacou Carnival comprises street dances, soca gigs, band parades, partying at dawn (Jouvert morning) and a wild masquerade (Jab Jab).
But Carriacou Carnival’s highlight has got to be its utterly unique Shakespeare Mas.
Shakespeare Mas is a poetry competition / duel the likes of which you have never seen before and unique to this festival.
This must-see event allows you to witness the one of a kind “battle” using lines from some of William Shakespeare’s plays. Men dressed in bright colors engage in a battle of words hoping not to fumble their lines, otherwise surrendering to a stroke of his opponent’s stick.
The battles occur at the crossroads of villages and in the main street of Hillsborough, the largest town. The Shakespeare Mas is a verbal “duel” between two participants to see who can recite the most verses in a back-and-forth exchange. These all-male performances (sorry, ladies) begin early on Shrove Tuesday morning when Shakespeare Mas' players wearing traditional Pierrot-like costumes jump out to join others in the first of several "clashes" at hilltop villages in the northern part of the island.
A player announces his readiness for the challenge when he jumps out by saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, do you admire my garment?" Players will challenge other players from different villages to recite Shakespearean passages. A player who repeats poorly or inaccurately is hit with a stick by his opponent. People from each village gather to cheer their players.
After several rounds of challenges, the players go to the next village for "combat" with the players there. The audience increases at each village and follows the players to the next crossroads. The ultimate winner of the battles is crowned the Carnival King for that year.
Although Shakespeare's folk performances were once similar throughout the Anglophone Caribbean, the Carriacou Shakespeare Mas is unique today. Although it has had a long history on the island, little documentation exists about it before the 1950s.
Another stand out of Carnival is the wild Jab Jab, when men (and increasingly women) cover themselves in black oil and wear helmets with long cow horns. Some people also hang heavy chains around their necks and carry mock weapons. You’ll also see people complete the Jab Jab look with a fish or octopus in their mouth.
Others choose to paint their bodies in cheerful colors and use masks to not be recognized.
Although you may see local folks decked out for Jab Jab at any time during Carnival, the most popular time is during Jouvert Morning celebrations. This is a celebration that kicks off at dawn with no shortage of rum and laughter for the whole day. Party-goers in Jab Jab trappings will start at the Hillsborough jetty and march through the town for hours in long human chains.
Jab is patois for “devil”, so Jab Jab literally means “double devil”. But the devil is not represented by those in the costumes you see. On the contrary, the Jab Jab is meant to mock the evil of the white colonialists who perpetrated untold evils upon the black African ancestors of those engaged in the Jab Jab. So, it is the colonialists, not the masqueraders, who are the devils.
This short video will help you understand the origins of Jab Jab (though its about the tradition on Carriacou's larger, sister island Grenada).
These colorful Carnival parades should not be missed!
Monday Night Mas happens at night, where all those present use electric coloured wands, giving it a joyful party atmosphere. A seemingly endless caravan of floats of dancing people enjoying loud local music is contagious.
Shrove Tuesday closes with the Fancy Mas, where women of all ages parade fancy costumes with bright colors loaded with gemstones and feathers. Like the parade the previous evening, trucks and trailers are used as colorful floats with teams (often by village) of fancy dressed ladies walking ahead of, behind or even on the floats. Music accompanies the celebrations every step of the way.
The costumes require a lot of preparation and those wearing them are extremely proud to see the hard work pay off.
During these two days of Mas celebration, you will of course hear plenty of island music, calypso and soca, everywhere.