Dedicated to preserving the tradition of the J’ouvert and The Blue Devils (a.k.a. Jab Molassie)!
J’ouvert (a.k.a. “Dutty Mas”) is the foundation of ribarnival, as we know it today. In Trinidad, J’ouvert is traditionally played at night between midnight and sunrise. It’s widely believed that when the Africans were freed from slavery they celebrated for two days straight. They didn’t have much, but in the spirit of making something from nothing they covered themselves with mud, molasses, ash and even blue paint, and dressed like devils to mock their enslavers.
“Dutty Mas” continues to this day in Trinidad and around the world. It’s really dirty, a little scary and embraces the abandoning of all social restraint; when you are completely blue, something changes, and allows you to be as bad as you want to be. That’s exactly why it’s done at night. The prince and the pauper are both covered from head-to-toe in mud and no one can tell the difference. That’s the whole point: Remove all of society’s trappings and we are all the same. At J’ouvert nothing else matters, except the mud. This experience is J’ouvert!
How the Blue Devils began in Toronto:
Late in July 2004, Ricardo McRae and friend, Darren Baptiste, decided to bring the Blue Devils to Toronto’s Caribana parade. 24 hours and a few phone calls later, they were a section in a band with Courtney Doldron’s, The Mas Players International. They had a spot in the parade, now all they needed were some people who were willing to dress like devils and get ‘blued-up’ in broad daylight. They put the word out and four brave souls stepped forward.
Unsure of how the general public would react to seeing “Blue Devils” in the Caribana parade, they ventured out and were immediately mobbed by photographers and parade-goers who wanted to take pictures with them. When they took to the stage at the Ex the crowd went wild, screaming as the Blue Devils acted like…well, like devils; throwing powder and spatterings of blue paint on people. Even the judges ducked for cover as they crossed the stage. Back on the road, elders caught on as to who they were and ran from the sidelines to the Blue Devils asking the group to “blue them up”. They couldn’t believe it was “J’ouvert Blue Devils” in Toronto – in broad daylight.
That first year, they were featured in every local and national newspaper, appeared on websites like Toronto Lime.com, Trini Jungle Juice.com, and did a Flow 93.5 live-to-air broadcast from the Blue Devils mas camp Caribana morning. They’ve grown from a small band of six to more than 45 Blue Devils, and have since expanded the experience of the culture beyond Caribana; Blue Devil Mas has been part of the Luminato Arts Festival, Gay Pride Parade and The Fire walk on Toronto Island.
They do everything to maintain the pure traditions of J’ouvert and boldly declare that you haven’t played Mas until you have played J’ouvert Blue Devils. It’s an experience of a lifetime. Feeling brave? They’re always looking for a few bad men and women to play de devil!