‘During the Carnival no Person shall play the Masque known as “Jab Jab” or “Vie Cour”.’
This particular prohibition was included in the 1973 amendments to the 1958 Carnival Regulations Act.
For fans of Jouvert and Jab Jab it must be delectably ironic that in the year when, essentially a ban was declared on Jab Jab, the person we have now ordained the ‘King of Jab’, was born.
1973 is the birth year of Wilt ‘Tallpree’ Cambridge the Artiste who is single-handedly responsible for expanding and extending the most unique component of Grenada’s Carnival.
As the late Sir Eric Gairy battled for political survival against the youthful and dynamic New Jewel Movement in the early 1970’s, measures were implemented to ensure no challenge to the autocratic rule of Gairy’s GULP. And as with everything else that happens in Grenada, Carnival had a role to play, albeit the unfortunate occurrence of the out-lawing of Jab Jab and Vie-Cour.
The prohibition however, had the opposite effect of that desired by Gairy, with people taking to the streets to demonstrate their commitment to carnival in general and Jab Jab in particular. It was out of that movement that Tallpree got the hook for his 2000 road march winner. ‘3 things we doh fraid- the Grave, the Jail, the Hospital’ was the refrain used as Jab Jab in record numbers took to the streets to claim and play mas the way they wanted to.
The beginning of 1974 must have been bitter-sweet for Sir Eric as he was able to guide Grenada to independence, but not without contention, massive demonstrations, blackouts etc. At least he did not have Jab Jab to deal with as carnival celebrations in 1974 were cancelled altogether.
Thereafter Grenada’s carnival moved along in the shadows of Trinidad’s until our celebrations were moved to August in 1981. However, the Jab Jab movement continued to grow, with one of the highlights of carnival during that era being the descent of the Jab Jab bands down Market Hill.
With the move of Carnival to August a cultural/carnival explosion took place once our celebrations were unburdened with the competition from Trinidad. However, it wasn’t until 1991 that the boost needed to make Jab Jab a more contemporary part of our carnival celebrations was provided.
Moss International, with the innovations of the Charles Brothers and Singing MC providing lead vocals recorded the quintessential Jab Jab tune, ‘ Jambalasie’. It was also the first time the conch shell, a major element of Jab Jab, was recorded in song. The song went on to prove the power of the Jab movement easily winning the coveted road march title, although the song was released during Rainbow City celebrations, just one week before Carnival. Along with the road march title Moss International also earned for themselves and all other Bands to follow, a prohibition from being road march contenders. Ban or no ban Moss had broken new ground and carnival and calypso in Grenada would forever be influenced by their pioneering achievements of 1991.
Lightning struck again, for the Jab movement in 1999, when Tallpree recorded his mega-hit, Ole Woman Alone. The effects of that song, utilizing the conch shell, rhythmic drumming and an old Jab Jab chant, has been felt wherever carnival is celebrated and wherever soca music is played, listened to and performed.
With recent hits such as Wicked Jab, Just Jab and now in 2013 Jab Nation and What is Jab, Tallpree has permanently cemented the crown of the Jab King over his distinctive spiked hair-do.
Tallpree’s international success has given Grenada’s Jab Jab and Jouvert an appeal that is once again allowing us to distinguish ourselves with a product that can stand out among the many carnivals taking place in region and beyond.