For many, Trinidad Carnival is a ‘must attend’ in their annual diary. Considered by many to be the number one carnival in the world, and known as one of the greatest shows on Earth, the event excels for many reasons. The carnival encompasses not just the official two days on the road – the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – but many weeks leading up to the culmination on those two day.
For those who are uncertain, and weighing the inarguably high costs involved along with other factors, here are probably the top five reasons why thousands of people make this an annual ‘pilgrimage’:
If you’ve ever looked at photographs of carnival, in the media or a friend’s snaps, you’ll come to the understanding that during Trinidad Carnival you will be surrounded by some of the most beautiful people in the world. ‘The world?’ I hear you say. Well, yes. Apart from the usual Caribbean people - the Trinis, Bajans, Jamaicans, Lucians etc - you will rub shoulders (and other parts) with people from Europe, Africa, Asia, Canada, America and more. It’s not like that for one party, but day and night for weeks, at fete after fete after fete. Just listen out for the roll call in any party you attend: ‘Anybody from Miami’… ‘Yeah’, ‘Antigua’… ‘Yeah’, ‘China’…‘Yeah’, ‘St Lucia’…‘Yeah, Martinique’…‘Yeah’! Many of them have been living in the gym for weeks, if not months, to ensure that their bodies are slim and toned. Though don’t get me wrong, everyone parties; you can expect to see every skin tone, shape and size in attendance, a true rainbow of people.
Breakfast fetes, all inclusives, semi-inclusives, blockos, calypso tents, panorama, limes (not the fruit), cooler fetes and more. You can find yourself partying from the time you get off the plane until you get back on it – unless you drop first. I kid you not, Trinidad Carnival is the most exhausting and exciting fun you will ever experience, if you plan properly. But pace yourself, especially if you are a newbie; many a first-timer has slept through most of carnival because they just couldn’t keep up and crashed too before the climax of the .
In the early hours of Carnival Monday morning you will find people assembling on the streets in various modes of dress and undress. There are ‘ole mas’ portrayals (costumes from yesteryear), mud, oil, chocolate, T-shirt, paint and sailor mas; j’ouvert is a must, whether as a spectator or participant (though be warned that an attempt to be a spectator does not guarantee your clean return home. But of course, seeing is believing, and believing is made easier through experience, so join a j’ouvert band. I promise, it’s something that you will gladly add to your list every year.
Calypso, soca, chutney, steelpan, rapso, tamboo bamboo, and many other derivatives make the mainstay of carnival. It’s hard to explain the types of music that can be heard during carnival, and one extraordinary thing about it is that most of the music was written and recorded just for that season, and will be considered ‘old’ in just a few months time. Of course, it’s not all new music, as some of the best loved music is the vintage calypso - or kaiso, as it is affectionately called. Music is the heartbeat of carnival, and is sure to get you in the right mood for whatever event you are attending, whether it be stick fighting, calypso tents, fetes, liming, panorama, j’ouvert or cultural functions. One thing is certain: no matter the type, you are sure to form a love for at least one, if not all, the various genres that may be heard blasting from radios, cars, store fronts, and even street corners throughout the season, as people live and work in eager anticipation of the culmination of ten months of preparation.
Monday and Tuesday
The culmination of it all takes place on the two days before Ash Wednesday, here commonly referred to as Carnival Monday and Tuesday. This is when the months of hard work by mas men come to fruition, and where thousand dollar costumes are worn by scantily clad women and men.
But it isn’t just about the costumes. The two days are seen as a release, and it’s a time for the humble man to behave in a way that he would not usually, let alone in the streets. It’s about freedom, pent-up frustrations, stress and more are released. It’s about the roads being ruled by dancing men and women, steelbands, DJs, live bands. It’s about us as a people – that’s people, not Trini, Bajan, European, American etc, just people - enjoying the full essence of life.
Visit socanews.com/music for the music and sounds of carnival.