Who are ExMyF?
ExMyF is a French association based in Toulouse which aims to promote the carnival of the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean in France.From their website it seems that the Exmyf association was born in September 2016 thanks to its founders themselves in love with this thing called soca. From America to China, from the Caribbean to Oceania, ExMyF expects to bring together all the lovers of soca scattered around the world. Because it is the soca that flows in our veins …”When you see me on my road … please EXcuse MY French! ” That’s what the website says anyway…. 🙂
So Why Paris Carnival?
In my travels to carnivals around the world, I decided that I would also pay attention to carnivals in Europe. Berlin is now a successful yearly event, Geneva sprouted up this year so why not join ExMyF for their initiation onto the roads of Paris.
ExMyF promoted on Facebook and I found myself drawn to the this little socafam. Really cool guys who I accidentally bumped into in Berlin without ever meeting them before!
They followed the general theme of Olympiad of Cultures and this band had 5 Sections. I chose the Africa section with it zebra type print and feather skirt. I thought it was expensive at over £200 pounds but worth it for the experience of dancing in Paris for the first time. There was a t-shirt section available for a package of 75 euros also, but I just couldn’t do tshirt, however my friends did.
Registering and payment for the costume was easy after making my deposit and now I was excited about my impending trip. The t shirts came out some weeks later and registration was just as easy.
Communication with the team was good and they answered any questions I had in a whatsapp group, such as meeting points and costume fit. The problem was that we were only in Paris for one day only, we were literally jetting in, in the morning and leaving on one of the last flights. So it was tight to get to them, change and get on the road in time.
Getting to Paris Carnival
Getting a flight was easy, but I know that if we had booked more in advance we would have tickets cheaper than £77.50 on Easyjet. We left on an 08.50 flight from Gatwick and got in Charles de Gaulle at 10.30. Since we had no baggage we got through immigration and into a taxi swiftly. The taxi cost us around £50 euros to get to Paris centre and once there he dropped us off as far as he could take us. From there it was only a 5 min walk to the carnival area.
Sunday 2nd July 17
Paris Carnaval Tropical
Paris Carnaval Tropical is the name of the Paris carnival, with the theme being the “The Cultures’ Olympiad” or the Olympiad of Cultures. This carnival theme is in actual support of Paris’s application to the 2024 Olympics, a welcoming nod. The carnival in itself attracts over 4,000 carnivalists dressed in magnificent costumes, embracing around thirty floats from all over the world. From my research, Metropolitan West Indians supported the event in its early stages, but now it involves more and more varied countries and cultures: China, Vietnam, Brazil, Colombia, England and Holland now join the party. For two days, costumes, and in particular the choreography, floats and colors will represent overseas cultures and heritage. (www.sortiraparis.com, 2017)
Once we got there, we encountered a small difficulty as you needed your wristband to enter the enclosure where all the bands where. However, thank god that international roaming is included in your minutes so we could whatsapp and like that he came to our rescue with our packages. Upon entering it was heaving with people from so many different kinds of culture music. This was by no means a soca event, this was a full blown multi cultural event with us just being one element of it. I mean there were people all over the world representing and celebrating their musical culture and theme.
I did not have time to suck in all the spectacular costumes, so I headed on into our tent to change. Thankfully the costume fit perfectly, but it was skimpy and it was not a warm day. However, us West Indians don’t care when its time to go on the road. In rain , wind or snow, we will don our shorts and cut out tops and wuk down the road! With just 15 mins to get myself together, as we leaving to go on the road at 11.30am, we shuffled ourselves out to collect our goodies bags. We was not sure what to expect but it was usual standard, a free freebies such as chocolate or biscuits, condoms, a cup and small bottles of whisky, rum and vodka. Great you think, some samplers to get you ready. How wrong! First and most importantly for those thinking of going, You cannot drink on the road and I mean that literally. You cannot drink alcohol nor soft drinks. Paris has strict laws on rubbish and conduct, therefore drinking in public down the Champs d’Elysees is strictly not allowed. You cannot even put the drinks into a flask or canister as you cannot sip from it – it’s that strict. Some of us rebelled though and mixed up some of the rum and drank inconspicuously on the road. We did get caught a few times by the stewards and had to put it away. Oddly enough as we nearer the top end of the route we were greeted by stewards with trays of water in recyclable cups. Felt like I was en route a marathon stopping for a water break.
The route itself was a straight road down the Champs d’Elysees, with a close breathtaking view at the end. Once you reach the top you literally go back down the road. So on one side bands were dancing up the road and on the opposite side, bands were heading back down the road to the carnival camp. This meant that you got to view the costume and the stunning choreography that each band had to do for the judging point and/or en-route. Our band also had a routine which we had to perform. Admittedly the band leader made an error and because I was not based in France, I had missed the opportunity to practice the choreographed routine. In fact, they sent it to me only 2 days before I was due to leave. Adverse to choreography I was not going to do it but having watched it, it was really nice, simple and they looked like they were having a good time doing it. I really did not have time to practice but the routine looked simple enough to pull off on the day and we did! However, the other choreographed routines from the other bands were stunning and stopped to have a look and dance many times. So in essence whilst it is carnival it is very different to the Caribbean carnivals that we normally attend, nevertheless it is growing and evolving with it attracting over 200,000 visitors!
Our carnival ended when the float finished on the route at around 3pm and headed back to the carnival tent to get changed. The area surrounding held a party vibe and finished bands would still be dancing to choreographed routines to whatever sounds were playing. You could choose to hang around the carnival camp, but we chose to get something to eat before our flight home. We chose a lovely french restaurant, ate local food, drank wine and departed in time for our flight home.
Paris carnival was an enjoyable experience, but the fact that you cannot drink on the road makes it hindrance to the feters that do. I almost feel encouraging others to come en mass would ensure that rules are flouted thus spoiling the carnival image. I am not saying that all like to drink, we but do like to drink. Rum and feting almost go hand in hand…. I am still not sure but whatever the case, I loved it, I had fun, I had a chance to wuk on the road and witness a fantastic carnival of cultures. I would definitely go again.
At 8.40pm we jumped on our flight home.