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Tuesday 17 September 2019
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Jab jab – a devil like no other

Jab jabs whip each other at Whipmaster Avenue, Balmain, Couva under the supervision of Ronald Alfred during a visit by members of the Eastern Horticultural Club in July. PHOTOS COURTESY THE EASTERN HORTICULTURAL CLUB
Jab jabs whip each other at Whipmaster Avenue, Balmain, Couva under the supervision of Ronald Alfred during a visit by members of the Eastern Horticultural Club in July. PHOTOS COURTESY THE EASTERN HORTICULTURAL CLUB

JAB jabs have claimed a place of their own among the devil masqueraders of traditional mas. Jab jabs – double devils – are the court jester of the devil mas. Traditionally, they have dressed like a mediaeval European jester with shiny satin or taffeta shirts divided in half by two bright colours. For accessories, they often wore bells, mirrors or rhinestones and a cape with a hood and stockings. Modern jab jabs usually wear a satin headpiece with two horns., as well as a facemask

Jab jabs know the fine art of making whips that maximise sound. Originally, they used short whips made from plaited crocus bags. Just so people know to take them seriously, jab jabs crack their long, plaited hemp whips with a loud, whistling snap. Some prefer short whips with their whirring, whistling sound. Jab jabs earn their reputation and respect from how well they can crack those whips.

They meet foes well prepared, traditionally wearing an iron pot under the hood of their capes so that they will be protected in battle. They present threatening speeches that somewhat resemble a shorter version of a midnight robber’s speech.

Jab jabs ruled the road in the 1930s. They were popular among the East Indian population and well-known bands came from Aranjuez, Tunapuna, Curepe and Laventille. The bells they use on their costumes were thought to be a cultural retention associated with bells used in Hindu temples, but it is also thought, from the clothes they wear, that they borrowed some elements of costuming from the European pierrot or clown.

In recent times, one of the largest jab jab bands comes from Couva and is led by Ronald Alfred, the Whipmaster.

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