Carnival in Trinidad&Tobago is different now from when I was growing up. I have been around during the evolution and revolution of our culture, our mas. Evolution is about change. A revolution is the taking over of something which exists, making it different.
Getting ready to ‘play mas’ for J’ouvert starts on Carnival Sunday night, most times after a party. Arriving at the meeting point for 2:00am Monday morning and partying in the streets. The costumes for this event are covered in paint, mud or signs describing our local political or social controversies.
As the band, comprising ten to one thousand or more persons parade the streets, the steel-bands and DJ’s play music to ‘chip or trot/jump’ dance.
The Monday road party changes around noon as masqueraders return home and change into a part of their costume for Tuesday masquerade! The party continues until very late, sometimes stopping after 10pm.
Tuesday comes and the city comes alive. Everyone makes their way to a major city, for the road parade. Port of Spain is the main city, and its where over fifty thousand revelers adorned in full costume are ready. They all want to pass the ‘big’ stage in the Queens Park Savannah. The dance starts and goes non stop until midnight. This is how we party. This is how Trinidadians have fun. The spectators line the streets and mingle within the masquerade bands. Everyone dances, even children.
There are many discussions about whether we have gotten better and improved our carnival. The older folks think maybe we have lost ‘our’ perspective on what makes ‘real mas’. Others, the younger folks believe its a great revolution of creativity. I have played mas many times. The masquerade is an experience which one should know to understand how it affects our society. I love costumes, and becoming a different character to dance and party on the road – our streets, our stage.
A couple years ago I discovered a picture of me playing mas when I was 20 years old and at the time my costume was considered risque. As my kids looked at the picture they said, “mom that’s a lot of costume!” I laughed, I recalled the costumes now, many are beads, feathers and adornments for swimming suits, with a headpiece. My son, chuckled and advised some women have started using pasties and body paint. In fact, I did see this a couple days later in our daily newspaper.
The YouTube video above is the best illustration of what will be seen for carnival 2016 ongoing as I write.
Machel Montano has been making music from a very early age. He has won, the Soca King of the world many times. His music, is quite similar to zouk – a French Antilles tempo. It invokes rhythmic sensuality and Machel Montano never misses a beat! His lyrics are mostly about revelry, culture and freedom of happiness and enjoyment!
I would love to see more costumes and less swimsuits.. simply because it is exciting to capture the story. It’s also good to be in character, as acting the dance creates something for the imagination to dream about. The creativity and the designers have this challenge. Give the people what they prefer (nudity) or tell the story and maybe the economics will be affected. Innovation is good, mas is good, storytelling is our culture!
Trinidad&Tobago a destination for carnival!
Artwork: Artistree -firstname.lastname@example.org
Credits: YouTube machelmontanomusic