‘Kuska’ marches to the Beat of the Navy Band

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Donna Collins

SWAKOPMUND-The coastal town of Swakopmund wouldn’t be the same without its frolicking week of ‘Kuska Carnival’ activities, which this year celebrated its 32nd year winding up with the popular carnival float street procession on Saturday morning. Donna Collins reports.

A total of 18 brightly decorated floats with over 350 carnival procession participants danced, sang and marched their way past the throngs of people who gathered on the pavements to join in the merry-making.

Once again all eyes were on the Namibian Navy Band members, who struck up the beat and as custom has it, led the carnival with their big brass instruments glinting in the sun. Men and women, all meticulously dressed in crisp white navy gear topped with black hats, marched to the sounds of their blaring ‘big band’ music, which announced the arrival of the carnival convoy to the excited onlookers. Behind them, a bevy of leggy ‘Garde Girls’ strutted their majorette’s moves, in traditional Kuska attire of mini-skirts, bright red blouses and feathered head gear, in synch, as they snaked their way through town.

In fact, the Namibian Navy band has become an integral part of this traditional annual German celebration, and has been invited to lead the Kuska float procession for many years now. Band master, Commander Jason Markus, who also plays the clarinet, says that of the 64 Navy band members, he only chose 33 of the musicians for the Kusaka.The Navy band is able to play a wide variety of March music, which depending on the occasion will determine what they play. “Throughout the year, we are invited to perform at state functions for the different ministries, which calls for a more military style repertoire, to what we played on Saturday,” he explains, saying this was around the ninth year they have led the Kuska Carnival procession.

“It is really a wonderful experience to play for such an occasion, because of the interaction with the crowds, who really enjoy our music,” he says, adding, it takes a lot of practice to keep it up. Markus says they rehearse their music for hours each day, as well as participate in a physical training regime, as they need to be in shape to both play and march at the same time. “On an occasion like Saturday we covered a distance of over four kilometres from start to finish of the parade, and some of the instruments like the Trombone and drums are quite large and heavy, so you need to be fit to pull it off.”

Markus says the Namibian Navy Band, which is based in Walvis Bay, first started off with 26 members, and has grown into Namibia’s pride and joy. Many of the members have learnt to play their instruments through facilities such as the College of the Arts, and perform on request. Meanwhile, Mark Nederlof, one of the main 2017 Kuska organisers, says that the Navy Band is a perfect attribute to the Kuska carnival activities, which sets the pace for the ‘Garde girls’. He said that the band is a huge draw card with the public, and that the organisers were really happy that they were part of the festivities again this year.

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