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For the Baha Men album, see Junkanoo (album).
Music of The Anglophone Caribbean
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Junkanoo is a street parade with music, dance, and costumes in many towns across the Bahamas every Boxing Day (26 December), New Year's Day. The largest Junkanoo parade happens in New Providence, the capital. There are also Junkanoo parades in Miami in June and Key West in October, where the local black American populations have their roots in The Bahamas. In addition to being a culture dance for the Garifuna people,[1][2] this type of dancing is also performed in The Bahamas on Independence day and other historical holidays.

Dances are choreographed to the beat of goatskin drums and cowbells.


Picture of Igbo masked dancer from the early 20th century
Igbo masked dancer from the early 20th century depicting a spirit of a girl.

The origin of the word junkanoo is rather obscure. Douglas Chambers, professor of African studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, suggests a possible Igbo origin from the Igbo yam deity Njoku Ji referencing festivities in time for the new yam festival. Chambers also suggests a link with the Igbo okonko masking tradition of southern Igboland which feature horned maskers and other masked characters in similar style to jonkonnu masks.[3] Many of the colonies Jonkonnu was prominent, Bahamas, Jamaica, Virginia, had a relatively high percentage of Igbo people among the enslaved African population.[3] Similarities with the Yoruba Egungun festivals have also been made.[4]

It is believed that this festival began during the 16th and 17th centuries.[citation needed] The slaves in The Bahamas were given a special holiday around Christmas time when they would be able to leave the plantations to be with their family and celebrate the holidays with African dance, music, and costumes. After emancipation, this tradition continued, and junkanoo has evolved from its simple origins to a formal, more organised parade with sophisticated, intricate costumes, themed music and incentive prizes.

Parades in The Bahamas are judged in various categories; A (or Major) Category, the B Category, Individual costume, and fun groups:).

Popular culture[edit]

The Junkanoo parade has been featured in multiple media properties.

  • The parade was featured in After the Sunset.
  • The parade was featured in Jaws The Revenge.
  • A Junkanoo parade is featured in sequences of the James Bond film Thunderball that occur in Nassau, Bahamas. The celebration was staged specifically for the movie since it was filmed at the wrong time of year, but local residents were enthusiastic, creating elaborate floats and costumes and involving hundreds of people.[citation needed]
  • In Top Chef: Allstars Season 8, episode 13, "Fit for a King", the chef-testants danced at the Junkanoo parade, learned about its history, and competed to make the best dish for the Junkanoo King.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ericka Hamburg (December 23, 2007), Free to dance - Belize's liberating Jonkonnu celebration recalls a slavery-era tradition, Los Angeles Times, p. 3, retrieved October 15, 2013 
  2. ^ Gene Scaramuzzo (April 28, 1989), African-Caribbean Music Takes Off, The Times-Picayune, p. L21 
  3. ^ a b Chambers, Douglas B. (March 1, 2005). Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia. University Press of Mississippi. p. 182. ISBN 1-57806-706-5. 
  4. ^ Allsop, Richard (2003). The Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press. p. 776. ISBN 978-976-640-145-0. 


  • Bethel, Clement. Junkanoo: Festival of the Bahamas. Macmillan Caribbean, 1992.
  • Nissenbaum, Stephen. The Battle for Christmas. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.
  • Wisdom, Keith Gordon. Bahamian Junkanoo: An Act in a Modern Social Drama (Dissertation)
  • Wood, Vivian Nina Michelle. Rushin' hard and runnin' hot: Experiencing the music of the Junkanoo Parade in Nassau, Bahamas (Dissertation)

External links[edit]