Jab Jab Culture in Grenada

Updated: Jul 22

Culture

Jab Jab is core to the culture of Grenada. In fact, the Jab Jab is uniquely Grenadian, and is an aspect of our culture that distinguishes the Spice Island from other islands within the Caribbean region. Grenada has been popularly called “The land of 100,000 Jab Jab” and has been marketed as such during the Carnival season to attract Grenadian abroad and tourists to the island.

Photo credits: Carib Voxx


Origin

The Origin of the Jab Jab comes from historic times dating back to the plantation life during the days of slavery. Carnival was during the Lenten period, and Carnival festivities were for the white ruling class or plantation owners. Jab Jab emerged as the mass of the African slaves on the sugar plantation. Jab Jab is a celebration of freedom including freedom from hardships. In the post slavery era, Jab Jab has remained and today forms a core part of Grenadian culture and rich heritage. The word, “Jab Jab” is a noun, that is French Creole in origin, meaning diable or devil. The literal meaning is not related to demonic culture, but spirits of our African ancestors.


Time of Year

While some may argue that Jab Jab can be played at anytime of the year, legally, Jab Jab is allowed during the Carnival season. Carnival Monday and Tuesday, in the early morning hours, is dedicated to Jouvert which is the festival for the Jab Jab to parade the streets of parishes through Grenada. The parishes of Saint George, Saint David, Saint Andrew and Saint Patrick have the biggest Jouvert mornings during the Carnival Season.


Appearance of the Jab Jab

The Jab Jab is dressed in black oil to give the appearance of black, shiny skin. The black oil comes from oil grease from old vehicles which the Jab Jab rubs over their entire body, covering their bodies in black. Those who do not like the oil, use black paint to paint their bodies. In the past, the black substance used were stale molasses – molasses is a by product of rum production from the sugar plantation. The Jab Jab also carries thick chains that are dragged in the streets, goat horns worn on heads of the Jab Jab, carry cucus bags in their hands, and display red tongues sticking outside their mouths. Other props used in Jab Jab include baby strollers with dolls seen in the streets being pushed by the Jab Jab, and also food such as saltfish in the mouths of the Jab Jab or other raw flesh. At times, Jab Jab players carry animals such as snakes, serpents and frogs around their necks or arms.

Photo credits: La Luna Resort


Music that accompanies Jab Jab

The music that accompanies Jab Jab is typically biscuit tins, oil drums and conch shells. Conch shells are blown, drums and biscuit tins are beaten as the Jab Jab parade through the street on Carnival Monday morning. The drum is directly linked to our West African heritage, and was one of the musical instruments which has lasted in the post-emancipation period, and today continues to form a core part of our musical rhythms and sounds. In fact, the heart of the Jab Jab beat is the drum. The conch shell is more symbolic of the Jab Jab culture, both the sound of the conch shell and the visual of the Jab Jab blowing the conch shell. The conch shell is a means of communication and is also tied to the days of Plantation life where the slaves had to communicate auspiciously so that the plantation owners or “massa” could not comprehend what messages were being shared.


Grenada - Welcome to the Jab jab nation or the Jab capital of the world!


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