Known as the biggest street party on Earth- Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is officially celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday every year. The Carnival festivities start just after Christmas and continues until Ash Wednesday-loaded with dozens of high energy parties and premier cultural competitions.
Carnival Monday opens with J’Ouvert at 4 am, when revellers parade through the streets immersed in paint, grease, and mud until sunrise. Later in the day on Monday and all day on Carnival Tuesday, thousands of masqueraders flood the streets throughout the islands in bold, colorful costumes, dancing through the parade routes to the exhilarating sounds of soca, steelpan and calypso music.
From its diverse people and culture to its amazing biodiversity, Trinidad and Tobago break the mold of the typical Caribbean destination. These islands boast a year-long calendar of cultural events and festivals on both islands, friendly, multi-ethnic people, and amazing opportunities for eco-adventure: everything from birding to biking to hiking to diving and cave exploring.
If you want to take part in the parade, you can purchase a costume of your choice from the many Carnival bands available. Then, you can collect your costumes just before the festival. Many Carnival Bands are all-inclusive, which means on Carnival day, food and drinks and other amenities are provided. There are also package deals for the J’Ouvert, but remember to book early!
Held on the Saturday before Carnival at the Queen’s Park Savannah, the Panorama Competition is another significant feature of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival. Recognized as the pre-eminent steel band competition in the world, Panorama is an annual music competition open to both conventional and single pan steel bands in four main categories: Large Conventional Steel bands, Medium Conventional Steel bands, Small Conventional Steel bands, and Single Pan Bands. Up to 100 musicians rhythmically beat their pan sticks against the steelpans to create infectious music that seems to fuel the desire to dance. Created in the 1930s, the steel pan is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago and is widely accepted as the only musical instrument created in the 20th century.
The leaders of masquerade bands, King and Queen costumes can weigh between 50 – 200 lbs. and depict colorful themes from nature to fantasy illusions. Costumes are enhanced with lasers, fog, light shows, fireworks, and sound effects.
A massive cultural show, Dimanche Gras is held the Sunday night before Carnival at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain.
In addition, on the night of Dimanche Gras, 10 to 13 calypso singers battle for the title of Calypso Monarch against the defending title-holder from the previous year.
The official start of Carnival, J’Ouvert takes place before dawn on Carnival Monday, and bands of revellers dressed in old clothes cover themselves in oil, grease, paint, chocolate, or mud and dance through the streets till the sun comes up.
Masquerade bands consisting of thousands of people ‘jumping up’ (dancing) in glittery, colorful, and often revealing costumes rule the streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Each band has its own historical, mythological, or tropical concept with various sections depicting aspects of the main theme.
The costumes were worn by masqueraders on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, these costumes can be simple or elaborate in design.
Originating in Trinidad and Tobago, calypso music or kaiso is characterized by social or political commentary and/or satirical lyrics sung to ballad style rhythms.
Derived from calypso, soca’s fast beats and provocative lyrics provide the soundtrack to Carnival. Many of the lyrics are instructional in format, for example, “Jump and wave.”
These parties can be large or small and during the Carnival season feature live performances from soca musicians, with popular fetes attracting massive crowds.
A type of calypso where rival performers must quickly improvise entertaining lyrics, based on a given subject, before a live audience. Performers are judged on wit and lyrical ingenuity.
Chutney comes from Trinidad & Tobago. The infectious rhythms of chutney music is derived from a combination of Indian folk songs, Soca, and Bollywood songs. The lyrics are sung in Hindi and / or English.
The term “brass” refers to brass bands, but it is also used to describe massive concert type events such as the Caribbean Brass Festival and the iconic Brass Festival, which features performances from top brass bands.
The term “brass” refers to brass bands, but it is also used to describe massive concert type events such as the Caribbean Brass Festival and the iconic Brass Festival, which feature performances from top brass bands.
All-Inclusive Fetes are parties where the cost of food and drink (including alcohol) is incorporated into the ticket price.
Usually staged during J’ouvert celebrations on Carnival Monday, the popular Bomb competitions for steelbands refer to European, American, and other non-calypso music performed in a calypso style arrangement.
Written by: Nige