Carnival Calabar 2016, The Thrills And Colour
Carnival Calabar 2016 writes ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA was a box office affair as it generated a lot of motions, colours and excitements.
The excitement was turbo charged and Calabar, the theatre for the Calabar Festival 2016, was filled with colours and people of all colours, races, statuses and backgrounds who have abandoned all businesses and engagements to be part of the savoury broths that was served in the course of the over two weeks long celebration.
The festival lived up to its billing with different events, ranging from musical concerts, drama, seminars and workshops, beauty pageant to cultural feast of all sorts with the city’s cultural centre hosting a suffusing display of different entertainment activities.
Night life took on a different colouration as well with many of the entertainment spots playing host to high numbers of guests visiting to harvest the traditional and legendary entertainment for which the city and people have become famous. Even eateries, bars and club houses were not left out as many of them enticed the teeming crowd of visitors with rich and colourful gourmets and gastronomic treats. Hospitality homes and sundry businesses in the city witnessed unprecedented boom in patronage.
Following the increasing numbers of visitors who had thronged the city from the different parts of the world to experience the many offerings of the yearly festival that has put Calabar and Cross River State on the world map of a must visit destination to explore in the month of December because of the people and government’s close attention to the promotion of its unique and attractive tourism offerings.
A befitting prelude to the staging of the Carnival Calabar 2016, the 12th edition, was the Bikers’ show headlined by the governor of the state, Professor Ben Ayade.
Held on Tuesday December 27, the entire day was devoted to the harvest of fun following the cultural street party and the pool party, an all-white attire affair held at Tinapa.
But the show stopper for that day and perhaps, a most exciting prelude to the carnival day celebration billed for the next day.
The show was very exciting and colourful with notable bikers from across the city, with the roll call including the former governor of the state, Donald Duke and his wife, Onari, Charlieboy and famous Nollywood actor and former Director General of Rivers State Tourism Development Agency, Sam Dede.
The street of Calabar on that day witnessed different make of power bikes bestriding the scene with gaily dressed riders, males and females, displaying their adept at manipulating the metallic machine with a number of them per-forming near-death stunts that kept the throng of audience in ululation and celebration mood.
Smarting from the joy and excitement harvested from the bikers’ show, the streets of Calabar on Wednesday December 28 was yet again in celebration mood as people of all ages and colours took to the streets to witness the Carnival Calabar, which has continued to serve as a climax of the festival.
Tagged the biggest and largest street party in Africa, the carnival presentation took on a different format from the past 11 editions where the carnival band and everyone processed from the Millennium Park parading through the 12 kilometres stretch of carnival route, terminating at the U. J. Esuene Stadium for the final rounds of display.
Instead, what was witnessed this time around was more of a roving or circuit show of some sorts as the five bands emerged from different points parading through the adjudication point at the governor’s booth.
This format afforded the people to the opportunity to follow through any of the band they favoured while a lot more ended up at the governor’s booth area to witness all of the bands on parade.
In all, it was a beautiful, colourful, exciting and fun filled presentation by the five traditional bands and others. There were a lot of drama and theatrics, dance, music and acrobatic displays.
There were also the use of costumes and stage props by the bands in their bid not only to aptly represent the theme of the carnival, which was climate change but also to outpace each other for the coveted carnival’s crown and entertain the people who had lined the streets to savour the entertaining, artistic, colourful and energetic displays.
The first band to showcase its presentation was Masta Blasta then followed by Passion 4, Bayside, Freedom and Seagull bands.
The audience was also entertained by displays from South Korea, South Africa, Brazil, Ghana, Rwanda, Nigerian Army Forces and Ayade Cocoa Bite band.
Others included the Governor’s Band, which was uniquely populated by Nollywood actresses, including Hilda Dokunbo, Shan George and Helen Paul while another section of the band also included a parade of the most beautiful girls across Nigeria, made of former and reigning beauty queens.
At the end of the enthralling presentations, Seagull Band, which was led by the band leader, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, was declared the winner of the coveted crown.
It was an exhilarating and fulfilling moment for her and the team to eventually emerge the celebrated winner after so many years of hard work and commitment.
Passion 4 Band, which has won the trophy for seven times placed second while Masta Blasta Band was named the third best performing bands.
During the flag off of the carnival, an elated Govenor Ayade who in his army camouflaged costume, described Carnival Calabar as the melting pot of Africa’s hospitality.
He said that the carnival, which had gained international recognition over the years had continued to grow bigger, better and bolder.
“The flag off of the grand finale of the 2016 Carnival Calabar represents the true beginning of African enjoyment. “As we have started today, this is the beginning of a new dawn in Africa.
Carnival Calabar remains the largest street party in Africa. As a government, we will continue to promote and sustain the hospitality and tourism that the state is known for,” the governor said.
The government and people of the state, he said, would continue to invest hugely in the carnival because of its vast and rich potential, which according to him, included adding value to the economic development of the state and the people, endearing peace, unity and stability as well as offering a veritable platform for youths of the state to engage creatively.
International Carnival Calabar
The excitement continued the second day (December 29) with the International Carnival version heralding the scene.
It was a night affair with the presentations staged at the U. J. Esuene Stadium. For many, it was one of the most colourful, entertaining and well-staged presentations of the festival’s many events in recent years. Apart from Team Nigeria, 11 foreign countries took part in the presentation.
The list included Croatia, Rwanda, Burundi, Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ukraine, Ghana, Turkey, South Africa and Brazil.
Unfortunately, the team from Zimbabwe couldn’t make it to Calabar as they were stranded in Lagos due to flight cancellation arising from the bad weather that prevented flight to Calabar throughout the period of the carnival.
An appealing and exciting performances were put on by the various teams as they each gave a good account of themselves through their well-choreographed presentations as the audience was treated to what could be described a potpourri of mesmerizing and enthralling rich and colourful theatrics ranging from the exciting, powerful and energetic drumming feats by the team from Rwanda and the Ghanaian team responding very powerfully to the surprise of the audience with the sensual and appealing drumming and dance skill on display by their lade dancers.
The block buster performance of the night was that by the Thobias Vai Vai Band from Brazil. The samba ladies in their body hug specially made costumes accompanied by the magical rendition from the brass band and the two singers, a lady and a man, changed the mood and set the atmosphere on fire with their scintillating performance.
They obviously displayed their adept at carnival show with their apt renditions. It was not surprising that at the end of the day, the team placed first followed by Ghana and Rwanda in the second and third positions respectively.
For many, it was a most befitting way of closing the carnival presentations of 2016 as the participating teams at the international carnival certainly gave the audience something to enjoy and look forward to in the coming years.
The International Carnival debuted last year with the organiser of Awkaaba, Ikechi Uko, as the consultant and coordinator of the section.
He delivered on the promise this year despite the challenges and his effort at adding international flavours and colouration to the carnival was acknowledged and commended by all.