from the spanish word ‘dandare’
Clock strikes twelve
‘I remember when I was a small boy that we couldn’t wait for the clock to strike twelve midnight. For traditionally every year at midnight our father started the family fireworks show with special crackles, rockets and much more. I was delighted to see how the colors and noise of our fireworks joined the rest of the whole island firing at the same time in what we call the ‘tiro’. I’ve always been told that the fire, noise and smoke of the fireworks is to chase away bad spirits called ‘fuku’.
I remember feeling sad about another year that has fled wishing for the good moments to return but filled with hope knowing that the whole island united as a big family in one celebration. And then again the island together with a lot of people around the world.
Then the noise of the fireworks dimmed making way for the familiar traditional musical sounds of ‘Dande groups’ in the distance. Then out of a sudden the music started at our doorstep; “Ay Dande nos a yega na bo porta. Ay nobé”
History has it that the music of ‘Dande’ started around 1880 on Aruba, by house slaves when their rightful freedom was returned by some king Willem II. Completely filled with joy as they were these slaves went traveling from home to home wishing the families a Happy New Year by singing and playing music on drums. Historians say that the word ‘Dande’ is derived from the Spanish word ‘dandare’ which means ‘traveling around’ . Words which are constantly repeated while singing is ‘Ay nobé’ that sounds like ‘Aña Nobo’ which means ‘New Year’.
Some say that Dande has started long before 1880 and has already been a part f tradition. Through time there hasn’t been much documentation about this tradition but what stories reveal is that some things have change in the ways Dande groups performed and received.
‘That small boy that I was has heard many ‘Dande’ groups. I remember that in every Dande group there was always one lead singer that on the spot improvised on some of the lyrics, giving one message in one sentence at the
time. The singer also always took off his hat and held it in his hand to receive whatever money people would give. I’m told that the m0ney part came later, that in the beginning the musicians were given food and/ or something to drink like a New Year’s toast. Only one drummer playing a single drum accompanied the singer. Every message sung was followed by everybody singing ‘Ay Nobe’ once in choir together lead by the drummer that was keeping the rhythm. ‘Dande’s’ that have made the the strongest impression on me were those of which the lead singer could vary his tone of his voice from a deep withheld energy to slowly growing outbursts of breaking free. The sounds of the drum and choir were like encouraging the singer to together reach that total climax of breaking free. The repeated switch from one single message in on single voice to the choir singing ‘Ay Nobé’ made my heart pound stronger and my blood rush faster. To rush kept growing and growing until reaching that climax of ‘Biba y biba e Aña Nobo’ where everybody breaks away and wishes each other the best for the New Year.
Today traveling Dande groups have grown bigger with musicians playing different types of instrument. Some instruments that were added to the drum were the wiri and the violin, or even maybe an accordion. To me the essence of listening to a Dande has always been at home after ‘tiro’. Therefore I’ve stayed away from Dande Festivals held on stage where bigger Dande groups compete. This year 2019 with the Bacchanal concept leaping into a new era of technology I’ve started covering several cultural events of Aruba including Dande Festivals. Dande Festivals that are being held for almost 20 years already. I must say that I feel proud that such a tradition is being maintained for I myself, at the festivals that I’ve visited and covered, was thrown back into that mystical feeling of breaking free, renewed energy and of fresh hope for a New Year.
With the utmost respect and admiration for all of you that dedicate time, money and effort in proudly maintaining Aruba culture I want to share with you what Bacchanal Culture has covered so far of the different Dande celebrations. Bacchanal Culture promises to continue doing so wishing you all the best for 2020.