Carnival Tuesday

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.”

One of the bands with their steel orchestra.
One of the bands with their steel orchestra.
Kalicharan's masqueraders making their way to the judging point.
Kalicharan’s masqueraders making their way to the judging point.
One of the sections from Kalicharan's band doing their portrayal of "TSUNAMI"
One of the sections from Kalicharan’s band doing their portrayal of “TSUNAMI”



J’ouvert Morning

In my last blog entry I mentioned that I have reserved a special post just for Carnival but after long deliberation I have decided that this deserves not one but two blog entries as I am most eager to write and share my experiences playing J’ouvert and seeing Mas for the first time. Today I have chosen to share my first ever J’ouvert experience with you.

As we all know, Carnival is one of the main events in Trinidad and Tobago and it was recently celebrated. It has played a major part in shaping our culture. It has helped to develop tourism as visitors from all around the world come to our shores to be a part of this spectacular event. Out of curiosity I decided to take part in J’ouvert.

What I learnt is that J’ouvert is a french word which means dawn/day break and is an important aspect to our Carnival as it marks the start of the two days parade. This event takes place in the streets on Carnival Monday from as early as 2 o’ clock until the sun rises.

My friends and I got up at around four a.m and headed to Rio Claro, our hometown. As we made our way to the town we could hear the sweet sound of soca music. There were lots of trucks with D.Js. The bands on J’ouvert morning mainly consisted of ole mas portraying jab- jab, mud mas or images of individuals. At J’ouvert you would definitely understand what is meant by “Who playing mas, cant be afraid of powder.” There were lots of powder being sprayed around, even mud, paint, and yes, chocolate. The use of alcohol seemed to be a must. Most of the people taking part appeared to be highly intoxicated. However, I must commend the protective services, for being on high alert and for ensuring that things were under control at all times.

At this time one can scarcely resist “wining” and “chipping” to the sounds of the music. I myself, seemed very involved for a first timer. It was nice seeing locals and foreigners dancing and partying together. It was as though everyone was stressed free with no worries in the world. I liked the fact that everyone could be at harmony. People were painting each other, dancing together and chanting along to songs of Machel Montano, Patrice Roberts and Bunji Garlin, just to name a few of the popular soca singers in Trinidad and Tobago.

They say, time passes by when you are having fun and it definitely did on J’ouvert morning. Before I knew it the sun was up and at promptly 10 o’ clock they announced that J’ouvert was over but trust me, this wasn’t the case. As people left the streets they flocked to bars and beaches. This was the start of Carnival. Two days of enjoyment and entertainment followed. Two days to forget all your worries and be part of an experience of a lifetime. This was my first but definitely not my last.  It marked the start of “The greatest show on Earth” taking place in the home of Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago.

A picture of me before J'ouvert and after.
A picture of me before J’ouvert and after.
My mother and I at J'ouvert.
My mother and I at J’ouvert.
The police on high alert.
The police on high alert.