The word J’Ouvert stems from the French ‘Jour ouvert’ meaning ‘opening of the day’. It is tradition in the Caribbean to launch Carnival just before sunrise, continuing into daybreak. Following steelband floats, carnivalists bring buckets of mud or oil to douse themselves with in a display of complete disinhibition, abandonment, mayhem, revelry and pure ‘bacchanal’.
J’Ouvert morning is one of Notting Hill Carnival’s best kept secrets. Droves of hardcore revellers converge onto the streets of Notting Hill in the very early hours of the morning to celebrate the opening of carnival, to dance and get messy. Expect to see colourful paints and powders in place of the mud and oil of Caribbean tradition, but the high energy and party pandemonium is universal.
Traditionally Carnival is opened by local residents and participants, accompanied by the organisers and local government officials. There are performances from local children and musicians before the parade is officially opened and the mas bands begin the parade.
This year we will return the Sunday to the children, encouraging increased participation with a range of family-friendly activities and events, with the main event being children’s mas. It’s an undeniable joy to see the next generation carrying the Carnival baton – dancing in the streets wearing their carefully crafted costumes.
Get down and ‘dutty’. Just like J’Ouvert, this mas is for those that enjoy the mayhem. As a spectator you can expect to be splashed with brightly coloured paints and powder or even melted ‘chocolate’. It’s pure revelry, and you can’t deny the infectious hyped energy of the party-hard participants, ‘chipping’ and ‘wining’ recklessly to the bass-heavy sound of the ‘mile-high’ mobile speakerboxes.
If you love to dance in the street but don’t want to be ‘on di road’ then Sound Systems are where it’s at. Sound systems are a well established and integral part of Notting Hill Carnival specifically. Notting Hill Carnival’s Sound System tradition is rooted in Jamaican culture and Reggae music, at today’s Carnival you can hear everything from Rare Groove to House to Samba.