This is the Alpha of the Omega,
The beginning of the end,
As it was in the beginning,
All good things must end, my friend.
This is the last hoorah,
The end of a long chapter,
Giving thanks for all the lessons that we learned along the way.
– Jammin’ by 3canal
After 30 years of tradition, rapso group 3canal is bringing out its last J’Ouvert band. But the music will go on.
Singer Wendell Manwarren said it took the trio of himself, Roger Roberts and Stanton Kewley a long time to come to terms with the end of their J’Ouvert band, but they realised 30 years was a generation, and times were changing.
“It’s time to bring down the curtain, to take one more bow, one more chip, one more jam on the road.
“It’s not the end of 3canal, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just the end of 3canal J’Ouvert, which is big, because J’Ouvert is a big part of our identity.”
The story of 3canal (originally 3 Canal) began in 1994 with Manwarren, Roberts and artist Steve Ouditt, and the J’Ouvert band Jocks to Pose.
Manwarren said he never imagined Jouvay by 3canal would last three years, much less for 30. But the popularity of the group’s first song Blue in 1997, with Kewley and the late singer, actor and director John Isaacs, cemented its music to J’Ouvert.
Manwarren said its members learned J’Ouvert was tied to emancipation and traditional mas, and the ways it changed over the years, the way people treated it superficially, was counter to their perspective on the significance of J’Ouvert.
He explained for them, it was an annual ritual, but there was now a J’Ouvert party “every month.” Also, the band’s route took them east, welcoming the rising sun, towards the Savannah, but every year they saw more and more J’Ouvert bands heading west.
He said Jouvay by 3canal was one of the few bands that crossed the Savannah stage, but that was becoming more challenging, as the masqueraders often met infrastructure from the Dimanche Gras show still on the stage.
And most significantly, an increasing number of people were asking if the band was all-inclusive.
“For me, J’Ouvert and all-inclusive and rope and fence – that don’t make no sense to me.
“And then we realise we are like the cheese that stands alone. Everything else going on in the next direction.
“I always say there are eras and chapters in the Carnival. When you look back, there was the George Bailey period, followed by the Wayne Berkeley and Peter Minshall period, followed by Poison and Tribe and whatnot.
“So to have a run for 30 years, I think that’s significant and solid. And 31 doesn’t sound so exciting. We’ll quit while we’re ahead, as they say.”
He especially thanked the Laventille Rhythm Section, which was with the J’Ouvert band from the beginning, and others who supported them from early on.
Dutty sailor mas
The band members had a reputation for recognising origins and histories and sharing what they learned. So, as the muse for their 30th and final anniversary, 3canal chose the Dutty Sailor, the original bad-behaviour sailor that came out of Hell Yard, Port of Spain. The mas came out of the band SS Bad Behaviour, led by Walter “Sagiator” Drayton, who controlled the docks.
Manwarren said his 90-year-old father died last year, so the mas was also a homage to him and those of his era, as well as others along the way.
He said there were gangs and violence when his father was a youth, but they tried to channel their energy into something creative.
Although sailor mas was around since the 1800s, Dutty Sailor was a commentary on the American sailors stationed in TT during World War II who would get drunk, fall on the ground, roll around and “get on.”
The local youths made mas from that and made the actions into a dance form with awkward, jerky and offbeat movements, turning parody into innovation.
He said Dutty Sailor started with a war and now there were two ongoing wars in the world.
But sailors were always onshore somewhere, Manwarren said, and, in a way, that was an escape from the fighting. So, in his mind, for this mas, the sailors ran away from the wars to come to play mas in Port of Spain.
And since “yuh cyah play mas and ‘fraid powder,” white is their colour this year. With pearl being the symbol for a 30th anniversary and white the colour used in their first Jouvay band, it has come full circle.
Making mas, Manwarren said, afforded the people of TT a “Carnival imagination” as Carnival had to be filled with something. At the moment Carnival was being filled with feathers and beads, but before that, people were creating forms that kept evolving.
“I think the idea of being able to make a mas on something – we’re losing that. So, in many ways, it’s just recognising that creative spark that leads young people to say, ‘Leh we play a mas.’ And over time that evolved into what became the fancy sailor and others.”
The show must go on
For its 20th edition, the 3canal Jammin’ Show will return to Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s this year on February 4 and 5, allowing the group to do a theatrical show rather than just a concert.
It will include two drunken sailors telling the story of the original SS Bad Behaviour sailors, and the story will be reinforced by the song selections, including 3canal’s ,three 2024 songs Powder, Jammin’ and Vibes We Like.
Written by Jason “Shaft” Bishop and Roberts, Powder was produced by Kyle Phillips aka BadJohn Republic. Manwarren said 3canal told Shaft the group needed “something special” to commemorate the end of 3canal’s Jouvay, and he sent Powder a few days later. There’s also a video, their first big video in years, directed by Walt Lovelace.
“Powder really is in celebration of that spirit and energy of that Bad Behaviour sailor. And the verses were on point celebrating the spirit of the J’Ouvert.”
Jammin’, written by 3canal and produced by Neil Bernard, speaks to the band’s decision to end their J’Ouvert run, which is not something they take lightly or flippantly.
Manwarren said he had a dream and woke up with the song on his mind. He immediately recorded the melody as a voicenote and could not get it out of his head. Eventually, he sent it to Bernard and they all worked on it together.
Vibes We Like, written by Shaft and Manwarren, is a song celebrating good vibes and the release of energy that happens during the Carnival season.
“A friend of mine told me she was tired of going to fetes and everybody saying, ‘It have no vibes.’ You have to bring the vibes.
“I think we have reached a stage where people want everything provided to them. They don’t understand that we are part of the transaction. Your energy is part of the transaction. So it’s important you arrive in the space ready to bring the vibes.”
Produced by Shot Master J and Body Roc, the song, Manwarren said, was dedicated to Antiguan soca artist Ricardo Drue, who died in December. He said it was originally written for Drue, who, when he heard it, said the song “sounded like 3canal” and suggested it be sent to them.
Manwarren said the members of 3canal will figure out what was next for them later but their leaving the J’Ouvert stage is an opportunity for others to step up and they will be there to guide, mentor and influence those who take over.
In addition, he said the group still had things to do, including documentaries and books.
“With God’s grace, and with the energy, we could focus on that.”