Happy Ash Wednesday to all who celebrate, and happy “Discover which of your coworkers is Catholic” to everybody else. Ash Wednesday marks the end of a strange karnaval/carnaval/carnival/Mardi Gras season, one marked by violence and the threat of a pandemic, but nevertheless, music persisted, which we'll get to.
In Venice, Italy they shut down carnevale because of the coronavirus. I, for one, cannot blame the Venetians for being a little squeamish about introducing a new plague to the rest of Europe. Here's hoping everyone's washing their hands a lot, feeling better, and wearing those weird crow-doctor masks if they have to go out.
In Haiti, the opening ceremony for karnival was called off when soldiers and police officers got into a gun battle outside of the presidential palace. The police have been striking for the right to unionize and marching for better working conditions, but there has been a simmering political crisis over corruption in the Jovenel Moïse administration, contested election results, as well as a rise in kidnappings and gang fights. Protesters were shouting “No money for police officers but enough money for carnival,” according to The Guardian.
Down in Brazil, carnival's roots as a way to slide in political satire and critique toward the ruling classes were on full display. I recommend checking out the costumes in this beautiful Atlantic round-up, and this essay on Rio's carnival in the New York Times. In an era with a neo-facist government and a neo-Puritan mayor of Rio, partying is an act of resistance.
In Trinidad, Iwer George and Kees Dieffenthaller’s “Stage Gone Bad” made good on the promises in the lyrics as it mashed up, shelled down and turned over any competition en route to winning the Road March 2020. Trini-born rapper Nicki Minaj showed up and showed off as well: