Trinidad and Tobago launches itself into its biggest outpouring of energy ever witnessed by the world. Indeed there are many who admit surprise at the intense creativity and industry involved. Truly this is a sight to behold. This is carnival. Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago has become not only the most outstanding national festival but the best and most colourful in the world today. Many have said it is the best of its kind in the world. Many of the other carnival-type celebrations have in fact been influenced by our own.
Carnival owes its origins to the French. From 1783 for half a century, they developed the Carnival, a season of gay and elegant festivities extending from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. The Africans officially began to participate in the festivities after the Emancipation Bill of 1833 was passed. The freed slaves took to the streets in a joyous expression of freedom - the street theatre as some would now call it, is an integral aspect of the festival.
The canvas is the body of the masquerader, the painter is the designer and the creativity of the mas players as they interpret the movement of the sections. The colours flash and swirl, music unites and the vision becomes reality. This is Carnival.
Thousands of hands move in unison creating harmony of sound from steel. There is an intensity unmatched elsewhere, as if with one breath the steel orchestras breathe and sing mighty songs that hum and sway, that reach into the minds and hearts of the people. The North Stand posse goes wild and the stands come alive. This is Carnival.
The stage of the streets witnesses many acts from Dimanche Gras to J'Ouvert and Nite Mas. All roads converge on the Savannah where the final acts are written and the opening acts played. In preparation the soldiers go into intense training for this is war and gymnasia are overwhelmed as the faithful prepare for the coming storm. Some admit defeat and perform lesser roles with equal vigor. Others reach that summit and enter stage left perfect specimens ready to bear witness. The audience congregates and performers stream from the ends of the islands and the eye cannot to the bear the vibrance of the mas. This is Carnival.
In the preceding weeks the excitement builds as calypsoes are sung in the Calypso Tents and steelband men practice in their Pan Yards. Calypso is one of the indigenous art forms which belongs to Carnival. In fact Trinidad has been aptly described as the "Land of Calypso".
Atilla The Hun, the first calypso historian, considers that the earliest calypso was a rebellious song of the slaves in which the blacks expressed their determination to worship the God of their choice. A vital part of the aural tradition, it is full of wit, innuendo and satire, covering every conceivable topic, both local and international. Each year a selected six or seven of the best of the Calypso talents compete for attractive prizes and the honour of being Calypso King or Queen on Dimanche Gras, the Sunday before Carnival.
Trinidad is the birth place of the world famous steelband. The steelband hailed as the only new musical invention of the 21st Century, plays a range of music from classical to contemporary, local and international. Its historical development is intriguing. Its earliest beginnings was simply the rhythmic sound made by banging on empty tin containers.
Later it accompanied the Tamboo Bamboo bands, which consisted of bamboo stems emitting various tones. During World War 11 sturdier pans became available and by the close of the War in 1945, the first melodic "pans" appeared on the streets of the capital city- Port of Spain- during the victory celebrations by the populace.
At day break on Carnival Monday, the streets become filled with masqueraders in various forms of dress for the 'Jour Ouvert' Parade. In the evening the beautiful costumes appear on the streets for the Parade of the bands competition and on Shrove Tuesday masqueraders parade for the entire day in even greater numbers.
Over a hundred bands of masqueraders accompanied by steelpans, brass bands, calypsonians or recorded calypsoes dance through the streets of Port of Spain, the capital city, with joyous abandon. This extravaganza is duplicated in the second city, San Fernando and other towns and villages throughout Trinidad and Tobago. As night falls the revellers party on till the early hours of Ash Wednesday morning making sure that they had their fill or 'las lap' of the celebration. It is truly a unique festival in which everyone participates regardless of race, colour, creed or class.
After dark things slow down. Well they are supposed to, but this is Trinidad after all. As the French say "plus ca change, plus ca meme chose". Energy is released as the lone voice of the calypsonian rises and the social commentary of the tents begins. No one is inviolate from comment - government, citizens and patrons alike. All may feel the mercy of the silver-tongued chantuelles and masters of the ceremony. This is Carnival.
Even after the last echoes of the mas have faded there lives on in the voices of the Talk Tent, witty recollections of a kinder, gentler time when the Oral Tradition of the land reigned supreme. This is the root source of all the creative energies that held sway during the Carne Vale - the farewell to flesh. That is Carnival. That was Carnival. This will be Carnival.
Carnival On De Net 96 was launched in the spirit of that industry and combines the creative elements of mas, steelband, calypso, events and all that goes into making the phenomenon that is Trinidad Carnival.
This is a work in progress and will strive to provide the moment by moment joie de vivre and energy that is alive in the capital city of Port of Spain, Carnival City. It is here that the creation starts each year, it is here that the focus of all energies are directed, refined and then directed outward to the Caribbean region, Europe and North America. We joyfully celebrate the expression, the theatre of mas as one designer put it and then take it on the road to Toronto, London, Miami and all points north. Here are the 2009-2015 dates for Trinidad's Carnival - or at least Carnival Monday and Tuesday, the "official" celebration days, although the party always starts at least the previous Friday:
- 2012: Feb. 20-21
- 2013: Feb. 11-12
- 2014: March 3-4
- 2015: Feb. 16-17
- 2016: Feb. 8-9
- 2017: Feb. 27-28
- 2018: Feb. 12-13
- 2019: March 4-5
- 2020: Feb. 24-25
Getting Upcoming events and Organizations to Contact:
For further information about Carnival events contact:
The National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago
For information on costume viewing and playing "mas" contact:
National Carnival Bands Association Of Trinidad And Tobago
Port of Spain Office
No. 1 Picton Street, Newtown
Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies
Telephone: 628-8650, 628-3143, 622-3951, 628-5527
San Fernando Office
No. 6 Upper Hillside, San Fernando
Carrington & Burnett St.
For further information on calypso tents contact:
Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco)
TUCO’s mission is to be the leading partner in the development of calypso and calypsonians in an efficient, profitable and caring manner. Its vision is to grow TUCO into a caring, commercially viable organisation, providing for the artistic, social and economical welfare of its members, while continually raising the standard and increasing the exposure of calypso to the people of the world.
TUCO NATIONAL EXECUTIVE
Address: #45C JERNINGHAM AVENUE, BELMONT, Trinidad and Tobago W.I.
TUCO SOUTH CENTRAL ZONE
Address: City Hall Compound, Harris Promenade, San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago W.I.
TUCO NORTH ZONE
Address: Unit #70 New City Mall, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago W.I.
TUCO EAST ZONE
Address: Arima Terminal Mall, Priority Bus Route, Arima, Trinidad and Tobago W.I.
ADDRESS: Unit #15 Fairfield Complex, Bacolet Street, Scarborough, Tobago
Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco) website: http://www.tucott.com/