The true heart of the Bahamas is reflected in the lively festivals, music, art and dance of its people. Bahamian goombay, the Bantu word for rhythm, also refers to the goatskin drum used to create the echoing “goom-bahh” beat found throughout the islands. Goombay can be traced back to the days of slavery when music and dance were used for story-telling. Using their own ingenuity, slaves made use of what they had. Rakes and saws scraped with metal files (rake and scrape bands), drums made out of pork barrels and goat-skin, seed-pod maracas, rhythm sticks and “violins” made from a wash tub, stick and string. The fast tempo beat is contagious and you can feel the energy it exudes rocketing through your body.
Junkanoo is one of the most entertaining street carnivals in the world! The extravagant parades are a frenzy of colour as brightly costumed dance troupes “rush-out” to the mystical beats. Moving through the streets of downtown Freeport, generally between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m., Junkanoo spectators are almost as energetic as the performers, they can be seen dancing in the streets, from balconies and even in trees! The event is meticulously organized over several months with new themes planned for every parade. As many as 1,000 groups may take part, competing for cash prizes at these massive events. Traditionally Junkanoo was held on New Year’s Day, Boxing Day and Independence Day in Nassau, but due to its popularity parades are also held on Grand Bahama Island, Eleuthera/Harbour Island, Bimini, The Exumas and The Abacos. Shows are also offered by many hotels as well, and now during various summer festivals, so chances are good that you’ll be able to experience some of the rush.