One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival takes readers behind the scenes of one of the world’s least known and most colorful carnivals. Similar in many ways to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the Cape Town Carnival is unique in its history, which is rooted in South Africa’s troubled past, and in its music, which is propelled by the mesmerizing ghoema beat.
In 2006, writer and photographer John Edwin Mason joined the Pennsylvanians Crooning Minstrels, one of the best known of Cape Town’s sixty-plus Carnival troupes. For the next four seasons, he took part in the troupe’s rehearsals, street marches, and competitions. He also spent time with other troupes, getting to know their members and traditions. This unprecedented access allowed him to photograph every phase of the troupe’s life—the spectacular parades and grueling late-night practice sessions, the frenetic workshops of drum makers and tailors, the rituals of donning costumes and makeup, and the joy and agony of inter-troupe competitions. John's photos simultaneously dazzle the eye and engage the mind.
Click on the arrow below, and watch a preview of the sights and sounds of Carnival, taking from the grand parades in the heart of Cape Town to the late night rehearsals in the clubhouses in the townships of the Cape Flats. Make sure that you have your speakers turned up high, and dig that ghoema beat!
All of the photos in the preview are from One Love, Ghoema Beat; the music is provided by the band of Cape Town's Pennsylvanians Crooning Minstrels, the Carnival troupe with which John spent of his time. Under the leadership of Richard Stemmet, the Pennsylvanians have won championship after championship for well over a decade.
One Love, Ghoema beat is available at all fine bookstores and, of course, at Amazon.com. It's published, in South Africa, by Random House Struik, and in North America, by the University of Virginia Press. You can read a review in the South African magazine Amandla, here.
You can learn more about the Cape Town Carnival (also know as the New Year's Carnival or Minstrel Carnival), by clicking here for John's Cape Town New Year's Carnival Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
Photos and slideshow copyright John Edwin Mason, 2006-2010.