These Gombey Warrior replicas are made totally from scratch, using a combination of wire, stuffing material and cement to mould the body and creating an authentic-looking Gombey outfit with tassels, velvet cape and peacock feather headdress.
History of Bermuda Gombeys
The Gombey dancer is one of the island's most enduring and uniquely Bermudian cultural icons. The Gombey (pronounced gum-bay) tradition here dates from at least the mid 18th century, when enslaved Africans and Native Americans covertly practiced a unique form of dance
Gombeys name originates from a West African word which means 'Rustic Drum'. The masked, exclusively male dancers move to the accompaniment of Congolese-style drums and shrill. whistle-blown commands of the troupe's captain. The dancer's colourful costumes include tall headdresses decorated with peacock feathers, and capes covered with embroidery, ribbons & mirrors.
The Gombeys tradition is passed down from father to son (some of the dancers are as young as 6 years old), and many of the same families have been involved in Bermuda's troupes for generations. Bermudians are extremely proud of their musical heritage. The sight of the colourful troupe's ducking and twirling to the mesmerizing rhythm of the rapid drum beat is an amazing sight.
The Gombey tradition remains at its most marked during the Christmas season but performances are also held on New Year’s Day, Easter and other local and international festival celebration. Their appeal is immediate and infectious; "The Gombeys are lively, colourful, and rhythmic dancers.... When they appear on the streets at Christmas, New Year’s Day, and certain other holidays, often accompanied by a crowd of followers that will throw coins to Gombeys while they dance, and chant in rhythm with the drummers. The appeal of their performance leads to congested streets and slow traffic, an effect they apparently have had for years.”
YouTube Behind the Mask to see them dance.