Xhosa Barbados Band Launch 2016

Xhosa carefully picked the ground on which to make its assault. For its sophomore year, Xhosa marched onto the Kadooment band battlefield armed with the third place prize in the 2015 Traditional Band Section, a “From Royalty to Redemption” theme that pays homage to Barbados’ 50th anniversary of independence and laudatory remarks from the Director of the Cultural Industries Development Authority for positioning the Xhosa brand as a Barbadian cultural product. But there is more. Setting Xhosa apart is its decision to continue with the Xhosa Cares initiative, where proceeds from one of its sections will be donated to the children’s charity, Precious Touch Foundation. The Xhosa tribe too has seen significant growth since inception with the inclusion of three new section leaders under its banner. And to top it all off, or rather, to further sharpen its Kadooment blade, Xhosa proclaimed that while other contenders have chosen to outsource designers, they have subscribed to the Barbadian adage that home drums must beat first and have strategically chosen to employ the creative expertise of Barbadian designer Carla Gittens of Calori Designs. Fashioned and strengthened by the aforementioned, on the night of May 15th Xhosa marched onto the Kadooment band battleground for its launch.

And Xhosa truly did march onto the stage with an opening tribute by Dancing Africa accompanied by a marching band of drummers, which truly set the stage for Xhosa’s intent to give a presentation of Barbados’ history. The clamors from the large crowd proved that Xhosa had made the right move. Furthermore, in times when we rebuke band launches that lean more towards exclusivity and applaud those that are as close to the free end of the fiscal scale as possible so that all might attend and bask in the spirit of Kadooment, Xhosa launched with a $60 BBD-priced cooler party. A surprising move but based on the crowd size, clearly a successful one. Add to that, in recent times when sneak peeks are the currency with which Kadooment bands trade, in exchange for maintaining a high level of interest in their launch and by extension their brand, Xhosa launched without even a morsel of a costume sneak peek. A surprising move but one that only fine-toothed analysis will determine if successful. 

The decision to host the launch on the historic grounds of St. Ann’s Fort in Bridgetown and its Historic Garrison, quite in keeping with the band’s theme and breathing fresh life into the location of Barbados’ military and colonial past, also proves that Xhosa is skilled in the art of Kadooment warfare. While this was certainly commendable, along with the presence of friendly security and a designated parking area, the entrance to the launch involved traversing a long unlit hill saturated with uneven terrain. Consequently, if walking alone the area felt unsafe and we can only imagine the number of falls when inebriated revelers were attempting to leave the venue. The question of whether this was a worthy sacrifice remains. 

Time and time again, Xhosa has shown that it truly lives up to its mantra, “We Don’t Pose We Party” and this year’s launch was no exception. The band, which bears the namesake of a South African tribe, perfectly concocted the right mix of vibe, music and atmosphere necessary to have a great party. The presence of a food station, bar and photo booth were welcomed additions to the party atmosphere. On this note, we fault Xhosa only for the inclusion of hip-hop music at a certain point during the costume presentation, quite the blasphemous undertaking considering the plethora of groovy soca songs that currently propagate the airwaves.

Xhosa’s costume presentation, undoubtedly the maker or breaker of any band launch, was straightforward, to the point, well organized and a joy to watch. The models traversed the stage in a timely fashion and for the most part, they adequately showcased the costumes while dancing and projecting the vibe to be expected from Xhosa on Grand Kadooment Day. The energy was infectious.

The costumes themselves were solid, clearly creative and definitely a step up from last year. We saw elements such as a head wrap and intricate beading, which are virtually foreign to the modern masquerader who thrives on feathers and bling. Xhosa must also be commended for the inclusion of a plus-sized model in its showcase. With so many women clamoring for body representation it was a sure fire hit for Xhosa to tap into this market and appeal to this desire. Body positivity is a hallmark of festivals and carnivals across the region and Kadooment is no exception. Women must feel welcomed and included in Kadooment band launches and Xhosa strategically hit the nail on the proverbial head with this move. 

While Xhosa delivered a beautiful costume collection was one of the few bands that heralded the 50th anniversary of independence and celebrated the history of our island, there are a few discussion points to be had. Firstly, we note a continuation of the inclusion of Monday Wear-like designs in Kadooment collections. In our opinion this cheapens the designs, gives the costumes an unfinished look, deprives them of a certain oomph and does not herald the contributions, creativity and celebration that is Kadooment. Such designs lack the explosion of colour, pomp, pageantry and festiveness that Kadooment represents. Sugar Rush was one section that not only truly embodied Xhosa’s theme but also the spirit of Kadooment. This section was intricate and ornate and more designs along this line would have served Xhosa well. Moreover, we did notice that the chosen print of the Riot section is identical to that of the Era X section offered by Spektrum Foreday band last year and the design is particularly similar. 

To add, while Xhosa made claims of being a cut above the rest by insourcing rather than outsourcing its designers, in keeping with its tribute to its homeland, we did note the use of foreign designers for its collection. Many may argue that though such designers may be able to recognize such a momentous occasion, they may not be able to treat it with the same gravitas as a Barbadian designer and therefore would not be reflected in the creativity of the costumes produced. We must go even further to point out that using foreign designers to create costumes that are aimed at celebrating the 50th anniversary of independence and by extension the celebration of Crop Over as a function of the former, speaks volumes. Xhosa should have primarily used Calori Designs and other Barbadian designers, with foreign designers taking a far more secondary role. Needless to say, such points are moot and we are sure will spark much debate. 

However, one thing is near-certain, while such observations are worthy of consideration, in the eyes of Crop Overites far and wide, Xhosa’s launch has proven that although new, this Kadooment band intends to rival those considered at the top both with reveling experience and with costuming. 

For more information about Xhosa, costume packages and registration details, visit:
Facebook: Xhosa Barbados
Instagram: @xhosabarbados