Our friend in the Caribbean, Traci, has always been telling us how great Carnival is for a while now (not that we need convincing or anything—we've seen the pictures), so we asked her to put together a photo diary for us, for you… our readers. And she did of her participating this year. If you've never been (we haven't either), there's a few things you should know about the cultural significance of the Carnival. We'll let Traci tell you in her own words:
Famous for their fusion of rich seasonings and spices, Trinidadians love to eat. Everything from Creole—pelau, callaloo, boil corn provisions to East Indian curry pleasures like roti, curry chicken, polourie and chutney. After all the splendid dishes; a true Trini enjoys a cold lightly lined jellied coconut water around the Savannah Park in Port of Spain. The archipelago is renowned for being the birth place of Calypso music. From this genre followed several variations of it like Reggae, Soca and Rapso. Soca is a blend of Calypso with beats and rhythms from Indian music. This leads way to our annual Carnival known as “the greatest show on earth.” Tourists from all over the world make it their business not to miss the sea of masqueraders.
The display of colorful costumes on Carnival Monday and Tuesday was amazing. The atmosphere and general vibe was extraordinary and unique and nothing can match it—thousands of people together jumping to the beat of soca music (the music alone is infectious—it gets into your bones)...friends, family, everyone wanting your picture, crossing the stage. Super Blue and Machel Montano tied for first place at the International Soca Monarch finals. Usually one or the other will win the road march (that's more the people's choice as such), which Super Blue did by a huge margin this year in fact, even though Machel Montano is probably Trinidad's biggest international soca star, but there were other great songs by other artists like Blaxx with "Leh Go" and Bunji Garlins's "Differentology"—Destra was also good with "Call My Name" and Denise Belfon had a spectacular year with "Wining Queen." My personal favorite for the season was being with my friends and hearing our favorite song by Blaxx "Leh Go" on the road. It was full of excitement each time it played. To me—it's honestly the happiest I have seen Trinidadians. I have been partaking in Mas for the past seven years and will do it over and over again for years to come. I am a true Trini to the bone—merely spectating defeats the purpose—you have to LIVE the experience!
"J’ouvert," or “Dirty Mas,” takes place before dawn on the Monday (known as Carnival Monday) before Ash Wednesday. It means “goodbye to the flesh” or “welcome to daybreak.” Here is where revelers dress in old dirty clothes and cover themselves in mud, oil paint and body paint.
Carnival Tuesday is when the main events of the carnival take place. On this day full costume is worn complete with make up and body paints/adornments. Each band has their costume presentation based on a particular theme, and contain various sections (some consisting of thousands of revelers) which reflect these themes. This year the band I was in was Tribe, their theme being "Butterflies, Beasts and Bachannal." Here the street parade and eventual crowning of the best bands take place. After following a route where various judging points are located, the mas bands eventually converge on the Queen’s Park Savannah to pass “on the stage” to be judged once and for all.