Updated: Oct 21
Have you ever heard the word "Canboluay"? Canboulay was started during the period of slavery and extended into the post emancipation period in the British Caribbean. Trinidad has a rich heritage of Canboulay, and are well-known for the Canboulay riots of 1881. On the other hand, Canboulay has slowly faded away as a popular cultural tradition in Grenada until 2022.
For Spicemas 2022, Carnival Sunday has been dedicated for Canboulay. This year is the first year that Canboulay is being held as an official event of Spicemas. Canboulay activities would be held at every parish around the tri-island.
The word Canboulay or "Cannes Brulees" is a french word, meaning burning cane. The name is derived from the action of burning of the canes which was a typical practice done during the harvesting of the sugarcane. Sugarcane was burnt to get rid of insects and reptiles that hid amongst the cane during the field harvesting.
In the period following the end of slavery, the slaves incorporated Canboulay as part of carnival celebrations. Canboulay depicted a period of celebration of resistance and emancipation.
Canboulay activities is a potpurry of all the key cultural elements coming together in one large celebratory event. This includes:
Beating of drums - during the days of slavery, drums were a main form of communication amongst the slaves. Drums remain an important aspect of traditional music in Grenada.
Use of lighted touches or "Flambo" or "Flambeaux" or "Flambeau" - The word Flambeau or Flambeaux is of french origin. Flambo is a flaming torch, and symbols light over darkness.
Blowing conch shells or cow horns
Stick fighting - stick fighting or Kalinda is a tradition using long wooden sticks to fight in the streets. Stick fighting is done by men and accompanied by the beating of drums. It is a slave tradition that continued after slavery, and can be still found today to a small extent in Carriacou. In the parish of St. Andrew's, the Tivoli Drummers during their performances may on occasion incorporate stick fighting.
Preparation of food - traditional food is prepared and distributed in a "saraka" like format. Food is prepared using coal pots, wooden fires, and banana leaves and there is community eating and sharing.
Procession activities - Procession through the streets, village or community in which there is the singing of traditional songs and dances.
Picture illustrates a collage of the cultural elements that make up Canboulay:
Credit: Spice Island DigiContent 2022