If there’s one bunch that defines the parade of Cayman Carnival Batabano, it’s Swanky.
The mas band’s history with the event is proud and exciting, with many hundreds of people now drawn to the band as they bump and wine their way down the Batabano parade course. The costumes are always bright and inventive – and skimpy – and the beat is always irresistible.
Craig Fredericks, the brains behind the band, explains to Weekender that this year’s theme is very different to what the outfit has done previously.
“Our theme this year is called Wild Wild West: Cowboys and Indians. We have different costumes depicting different figures of the Wild West like Belle Star, notorious female outlaw, Calamity Jane as well and although she is from a different era, Pocahontas.
“And for the guys there’s Wild Bill – it will be awesome.”
If you’ve never experienced the essence of Swanky, it’s quite unique.
“Mas stands for Masquerade and what you can expect to see is a lot of colour, extravagant costumes, a lot of energy and a lot of fun going down the West Bay Road.
“We do a lot of interaction with visitors on the side of the road, dance with kids, take their pictures, it’s just about being let loose, enjoying your culture. Carnival is a part of Cayman’s culture. We are Caribbean and that’s one thing that a lot of people don’t even want to see or lose focus on. We’re smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean sea!”
It’s all about enjoying life, enjoying what the body and mind can do under the most gorgeous sun on the planet, which shines down on us all no matter what our background, race, income or preference. Swanky’s skill at portraying this through great soca music and leading literally hundreds of people through the dance is unparalleled.
The idea came to Craig when he was in college in Tampa, visiting carnivals in Miami, where he had a blast. Moving back home, he says he still had the buzz from the energy and vibe of being involved in such parties. Over the years Craig became involved with big bands and developing carnival bands such as Cayman Calaloo, and visiting carnivals all over the Caribbean and the United States.
“What I wanted to do was create an experience in Cayman where people of Cayman, Caymanians and non-Caymanians, could experience carnival on that same level, that same quality, through Swanky International and that was the number one driving force behind me creating Swanky International.”
The financial and time input into making it all happen, from international DJs to water trucks, is incredibly involved and rather expensive, says Craig, who adds that since 2007 things have grown exponentially.
“That first year we had 86 people which was a big crowd by Batabano standards, the second year we had 115 people in costumes, the third year around 180 and last year we were the first private band to ever put over 200 people in costume on the road for Cayman carnival.” The whole outfit, including DJs, staff, marshals and committee was more like 270, he says.
“It was a sight to see. I’ll never forget; I got on a wall outside Comfort Suites and looked down towards town. All I could see was Swanky International costumes and it sent goose bumps down my arms. Just to see how much we had accomplished in four years – and we have just started.
“All is just starting to roll. My goal is to see that Cayman Carnival Batabano becomes one of the top carnivals in the Caribbean and the carnival to come to in the Western Caribbean. With the product that we have, with Cayman being Cayman, the locale, the airlift and everything it’s all right there for it to absolutely blow up.”
Join the Swanky party at the parade: http://swanky.ky/