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The Tribe Goes To Trinidad- Drhrunanne (Dru) Woodrooffe
Dru Woodrooffe has known Sokanista almost her entire life. We had the chance to recently talk with Dru about her lifelong friendship with Sokanista and what it means to be joining the Tribe in Trinidad for Carnival 2019.
(Interview has been edited for length)
Thank you for talking to us today! Can you talk about how you know Sherm and Soka Tribe?
It’s so funny because I don’t even know her as Sherm, but as Shermica. I grew up with Shermica and we all went to the same Catholic church. It has a very Caribbean culture (Trinidadian, Haitian, Grenadian)- masses in different languages, including a Haitian Creole mass. My mom and her mom were close and we all grew up in this church and Shermica lived two blocks from me. She later moved to Crown Heights and every time I take the train to Crown Heights now, I run into her mother so often, I always expect to see her when I get off the train there.
Shermica’s father had a mas band was very involved in the culture. So I would play in his band and my grandmother would encourage me to get involved.
So you all definitely go way back. Is this your first trip to Trinidad?
So I had been to Trinidad before during summer breaks. But let me be clear, it wasn’t like a luxury summer vacation type of thing. So I would go as a child-my family is from Trinidad and then in college and after, I would go a little more often. I have always wanted to go to Trinidad for carnival, but money was a factor. Like you can normally get a flight for Trinidad for a third of what it costs to go at Carnival. I’ve done a lot of traveling as a Fulbright Scholar and while getting my master’s but my pre-family bucket list item was to do Carnival in Trinidad. No husband, no kids. In the meantime, I always had inherent access to the culture by Trinidadian, and for example, I can catch a Private Ryan fete here in New York.
Now that I’ve gone to many of the places I’ve wanted to already, we have the money and time to do Carnival in TNT as it should be done. I can go with friends and not have to worry about relatives asking me why I’m leaving out so late to go to a fete and what time I will be back. (laughs) I’ve been following Soka Tribe for a long time, and seeing all the photos and videos- I know that these are folks not afraid to sweat and party and have a good time and know that you should have on an old pair of sneakers in the fete because they aren’t worried about somebody mashing up their shoes.
I know with what Shermica is doing with bringing the culture to the masses and what this means to and for her brand, she is totally vested in this being a trip of a lifetime.
Trinidad Carnival has become a global phenomenon. You now have all these groups coming to carnival- Americans, other Caribbean people, Africans, Europeans and the costs have become increasingly expensive. And it makes cost prohibitive for Trinidadians on the island to participate in an integral part of their own culture. Can you talk about that?
What I tell people is that locals in Trinidad will always find a way. They may not be able to jump in the big expensive mas bands, but they will find a small band on the side. I’m encouraged by the fact that locals can still enjoy their carnival without having to spend $800 USD or whatever to jump. Even if you don’t have $150 USD to go to the Private Ryan fete, Trinidadians will find a lime in somebody’s backyard and have a great time.
Carnival isn’t tied to how much you spend. I also feel that there is an effort to make sure that everyone gets to participate in Carnival- you will see free lunchtime concerts with big time artists and similar type of events during Carnival. I also tell people you’re not just spending money on a big party, but on a cultural experience. Trinidadians know at heart that Carnival is for the people.
Your last statement brings me to my next question- a big part of Carnival in Trinidad is the reenactment of the Camboulay Riots- can you talk about that?
I think its important for people to know the oppression and history behind many things that we associate with Carnival and Trinidad in general. Like steel pan music came about because the playing of drums was banned. They had to find new ways to communicate. I know J’ouvert know has become this pretty thing, but I want the dirty mas, the mud, paint, and powder-its something about that feels very genuine to me.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview when Dru returns from Trinidad!