This is a wonderful link that warms my heart. It is from the NYT's Dance in the Real World series, showing off the skills of the Moko Jumbi dancers from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.
Growing up and attending Trinidad's Carnival they were one of my favourite 'mas' players to see in the 1980s. They bring back fond memories of Port of Spain where we lived and times with my beloved grandmother and mother watching the mas players go by.
Our house, being in downtown Port of Spain by the hospital was a hub for activity during Carnival season with lots of visitors and food and music. Down one block from our house was the road all the bands had to pass through to go to the final big stage for judging of Carnival Band of the Year at the Queen's Park Savannah.
A quick history of Carnival in Trinidad can be found here-
Here is a more personal summary -
My grandma told me that the 'moko jumbi' dancers were the spirits from Africa that protected the revellers and other mas players. Towering above everyone they could also collect money and gifts from people on first floor balconies.
It is believed the tradition came from emancipated West African slaves with 'Moko' meaning god. 'Jumbi' is a local word for ghost or spirit.
Traditionally I remember them being dressed with large admiral style hat or a large black or white top hat. Always very skilled they seemed to watch out for the group and everyone around as well as having a good time.
Now Carnival seems to be overtaken by the Brazilian costumes and feathers. And they have a role, Carnival is about fun and bacchanal after all. But I know the heart of the country I lived in for a time. I know that along with the moko jumbi, other old time mas characters and mas bands like devil mas, sailor mas, jab jab, jab molassie and Dame Lorine will never be forgotten.