We all know that Trinidad and Tobago is the “Land of Carnival” which is “The Greatest Show on Earth” but how did this spectacular event come about? Before i engage you with my experience of seeing mas for the first time I believe that I should give you a brief history of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago as I am aware that some of you may not know your history.
Mas started in the late 18th century when the French slave owners would organize masquerades and balls before the endurance of Lent. Lent is the forty day season of pray and fasting which starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. It is normally celebrated by the Catholic community and is used to prepare for the Lord’s Jesus Christ Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Slaves who could not take part in these festivities formed their own celebrations called “Canboulay” which is French for burnt cane. After the abolishment of slavery, Carnival took to the streets. People from all around the world started taking part in this event and added a new flavor, the one we know as Carnival.
On Carnival Tuesday I decided to go see the Carnival parades in San Fernando with my family. It was my first time ever experiencing this. Yes I agree, it has taken me far too long. I was a little disappointed at first since I really wanted to go to the capital city, Port- of- Spain and witness the parades on the “Grand Stand” but on arrival my mood quickly changed.
On approaching San Fernando the sweet sound of soca music filled the air and just as we got a place to sit I heard the judges announce that the first band was making their way to the judging point. My family is known to be very “frontish” as Trinis say. We like to be where the action is so we ensured that we got a spot directly opposite the judges this way we could see the bands portrayal.
As the first band approached I could hear the sound of steel pan and calypso music. This was relaxing to know that the fellow citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have not forgotten about the start of Carnival. The bands were in full costume that was beautifully designed with lots of feathers, beads and capturing colors and I could see why they say that Carnival Tuesday is for “Pretty Mas.” The bands would strut in front the judges in their costumes portraying their concept whether it be mythical, historical or some recent issue in the country. The masqueraders were definitely enjoying themselves as they danced to the latest soca songs, mostly that of Machel Montano.
At around 3 p.m they announced that Ivan Kalicharan’s portrayal for Carnival 2015 was up next. I was most excited as I knew he produced the band of the year in San Fernando for twenty- two times. You could clearly see the amount of preparation that had taken place before this day as each section knew what they were supposed to do. The designs for the costumes were amazing. I could definitely see why people enjoyed playing mas with this band. They had trucks with D.J.s, portable toilets and tight security. Watching their portrayal made me consider playing mas myself.
As the day came to an end and all the bands had passed the judging point, “las lap” began. This is where mas turns into a party. Masqueraders, as well as the spectators began to take over the streets and party together for the last time. They all “wine” and “chip” to the music as the Carnival celebrations came to an end.
Seeing mas for the first time was definitely an experience. It has made me more knowledgeable about Carnival celebrations in my country and how bands go about their portrayal. The harmonized feeling you get seeing everyone partying together is definitely a great one. It makes you truly believe that Trinidad and Tobago is filled with love and unity. It is a celebration of artistry, life and color. The experience is a most memorable one and I most certainly intend on seeing mas again and even have hopes of playing mas in the future. It goes to show that T&T is indeed an “Island Paradise.”