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Blue Devils in Toronto Streets.
By: Ricardo McRae
In Trinidad J’ouvert is traditionally played at night between midnight and sunrise. J’ouvert (aka Dutty Mas) is where it all got started, it’s the foundation of Carnival as we know it today. It’s widely believed that when the Africans were freed from slavery they celebrated for 2 days straight, however they did not have much, but in the spirit of making something from nothing they covered themselves with mud, molasses, ash and even blue, and dressed like devils to mock their enslavers.
The tradition continues to this day in Trinidad and around the world. It’s really dirty, a little scary and embraces the abandoning of all social restraint, when you’re completely blue, something changes, and you’re allowed to be a bad as you want to be, that is exactly why it’s done at night.
The prince and the popper are both covered from head to toe in mud and you can’t tell the difference, and that is the whole point. When we remove all of the trappings of society we are all the same, and at J’ouvert nothing else matter except the mud. This experience is J’ouvert
It was late July 2004 when my friend Darren Baptiste said: “ Ay Ricardo! We keep talking bout doing dis Blue Devil ting. Yuh want to do it fuh Caribana this year?” My Immediate reaction was “Yeaa dat soundin’ nice… Leh we do it!” So without much more thought than that we were off to the races.
Within 24 hours all it took was a few phone calls, peppered with some fly by the seat of your pants excitement we were now a section in a band with Mas Players International. We had a spot in the parade, now all we need are some people who are willing to dress like devils and blue up in broad daylight. Sounds easy right? We’ll it was very easy! We put the word out and the die hard Trini’s were ready to blue up for Caribana, and 4 brave souls stepped up.
We had no idea how the general public would react to seeing “Blue Devils” in the Caribana parade, well they loved it! We were immediately mobbed by photographers and people wanting to take pictures with us. The crowd went mad when we took the stage at the EX. They were screaming as we were acting like… well, like devils. We were waving our flags, throwing powder and blue on everybody, even the judges were ducking for cover as we crossed the stage. On the road the old timers caught on right away came running from the sidelines asking us to blue them up. They could not believe it was J’ouvert Blue Devils in Toronto in broad daylight.
That was the first year in 2004. We made every local and national newspapers, Blue devils were featured on websites like Toronto lime, Trini Jungle Juice and too many to mention. We even did a live to air broadcast on Flow93.5 from the Blue Devils mas camp on Caribana morning. Over the years we have grown from a small band of six to more than 45 Blue Devils.
We have since expanded the experience of our culture beyond Caribana, and were proud to announce that Blue Devil Mas has been in the Luminato Arts festival, Gay Pride Parade and The Fire walk on Toronto Island.
We do everything to maintain the pure traditions of J’ouvert and we boldly declare that you haven’t played Mas until you have played J’ouvert Blue Devils… It’s really dirty, a lot of fun a little sexy and an experience of a lifetime! If you are brave enough you can join us any time, we are always looking for a few bad men and women to play de devil.
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