Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago – Not Just a Celebration but a creative expression of Self

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What is your perception of Carnival? Especially Carnival in the country of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad Carnival undoubtedly is the ‘Mother of all Carnivals’ of the Caribbean and there is no other country in the region who brings the type of vibe quite like its citizens. Are you captivated by the vibrant multi-coloured, glamorous and festive colours? Or moved by the high-tempo, musical vibrations the different soca and carnival artistes bring to the festivity? Not to mention the sense of unity seen widespread throughout the country when culturally diverse individuals mesh together to explore their artistic capabilities in dance as they showcase their freedom of movement and right as a people to ‘escape from reality.’

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Carnival is a festive season in which individuals dress in vibrant costumes, listen to upbeat music, participate in competitions and dance, booze and partying (a.k.a, feteing). This festival was introduced in Trinidad and Tobago in 1785 by the French and since its introduction it has been a phenomenon in the lives of not only the Caribbean people, but the world as many individuals travel to the country to share in the celebration which lasts five days.  These days constitute many large festive activities inclusive of Mas (masquerade), Dimanche Gras and J’ouvert from Sunday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday in the period of Lent.

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As a result of Carnival, music variations in keeping with the season’s activities are created, some of which include Calypso, Chutney, Chutney-Soca, Rapso, and Soca and famous artistes like Destra Garcia, Maximus Dan, Machel Montano and Kees, Shurwayne Winchester and Patrice Roberts, to name a few, are able to showcase their talents.

Truth is, the biggest achievement of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is that it brings together men and women alike in harmony and one cannot deny that although the country faces racism and segregation, for that period of time, the colour of your skin becomes inconsequential once you get ‘taken by the music’. The music gives individuals the opportunity to go wild and crazy, as the Trinidadians normally say “the music have dem bazodee”, meaning they are disoriented by the music.

The country is blessed, in that they have taken a festival for forefathers to express themselves from both the standpoints of the French and slaves and made a legacy for generations to enjoy. Making the country the premise on which they reproduced their customs and traditions, the predecessors who introduced Carnival to the country brought aspects of themselves which included dance, dress, music, revelry which quickly was transformed by their progeny into a modern day representation of their traditional way of life.

Carnival is now an expression of honour and gratitude to our descendants. It reflects not only the faces of immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa, India and China to name a few who share the same sentiments, but also the ancestors who have fought to keep freedom of dance and unity alive through this unique celebration of art and self,  a virtue the world will share in for centuries.

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Photo Credits: REUTERS/Andrea De Silva

By: Alexandra Daley

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