T&T Carnival and Tourism

Many people will believe that Carnival draws a lot of tourists to the island and many will beg to differ. However I would say that Trinidad does draw numerous tourists to the island around Carnival time but it would be nothing in comparison to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.  A number of the people claim that Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago lack artistry and move away from traditional costumes and characters hence the culture that Carnival was based on has lost its soul and this is what tourists, especially creative tourists crave, to feel connected to a country of their destination vacation choice and experience its culture.

Others claim that because of the fact that Trini Carnival includes the tourists and gives them a chance to partake in the revelry and excitement that this is what attracts tourists the most hence there is a large influx of tourists around Carnival. To me there is a boost in our tourism around Carnival time and this off course helps the economy but how much does it really help.

One website stated that

Industry reports indicate that within the past decades, the Trinidad and Tobago masquerade industry has become one of the flagships of the Carnival business landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. Carnival’s visitor arrivals have grown by 60 per cent since the late 1990s and continue to grow annually. Similarly, Government reports indicate that revenue from Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival exceeds on average US$100 million. The Mas industry also generates significant economic activity in a range of sectors in the local economy such as entertainment, media, hospitality and retail sectors. Additionally, overseas diaspora carnivals generate millions in revenue. Carnival therefore, has grown over the years into a viable and sustainable global economic industry supported by talent, expertise, skills and knowledge that are almost exclusively Caribbean.

 On the socio-economic level, Carnival generates business opportunities for singers, song writers, choreographers, costume builders and designers, make up artists and musicians, to name a few. Even more importantly Carnival has driven the growth and development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), many of which are skills-based services. These range from entertainment services related to cultural art forms such as dance, to the production of local crafts, cuisine, and the display of folk arts such as Lapeau Cabrit (playing of drums lined with goats skins), the orchestration of steel pans (pan playing) and portrayal of ‘traditional carnival characters’. 


Whilst other articles state

The annual influx of visitors for the season is made up of migrants, other citizens of the Caribbean carnival diaspora and those with the linkages of friends and family. The Tourism Development Company and all its earlier incarnations has either lacked the inclination or the budget to create international recognition of the Trinidad and Tobago carnival.

The conservative marketing of carnival, along with the comfortable cushion provided by an energy-based economy, has resulted in a festival which is best enjoyed in the company of a local.


And newspaper articles claim

Two myths that won’t die are that Carnival is a tourist attraction and makes a profit.


For more information visit







Carnivals…around the World.

They are many Carnivals that occur around the world, some that we are not even aware off. In this blog post I will talk about these Carnivals and its comparison to Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival.

First of all there is the Carnival of Laza, Spain. For more information visit http://www.carnavalexhibit.org/laza.php

This Carnival is a play is acted out through music, dance, and feasting. Ritualized aggression involves participants whipping spectators and throwing ash, flour, water, and dirt filled with ants on one another. Makeshift floats express social and political commentary as does the public reading of a testament that provides comical, satirical, and exaggerated statements about the actions of the townspeople during the past year. 


In addition to this there are carnivals in Basel, Switzerland. http://www.carnavalexhibit.org/switzerland.php

Basel’s Carnival, or Fasnacht, is a three-day celebration beginning at 4:00 am on Monday when all of the city lights are turned off. Hundreds of groups begin circulating through the narrow streets of the city playing fifes and drums in a spectacular event known as Morgenstraich(morning tattoo). This cacophony of sight and sound continues until dawn, when weary masqueraders make their way home for a few hours of rest before the next event. Participants choose their own costumes for the Morgenstraich parade, often representing traditional Basel masquerades.


In Tlaxcala, Mexico http://www.carnavalexhibit.org/mexico.php

These featured men wearing satirical masquerades of the wealthy Europeans and performing square dances they learned from watching the upper-class Mexicans. This springtime celebration gained popularity in the Indian villages and today it is the most important festival of the year, coinciding with traditional ritual practices related to the coming agricultural season. Groups go through the streets of their neighborhoods, performing in front of the homes of their families and sponsors. The Carnival play still focuses on satirical masquerades and square dancing, but now young women are allowed to join in as dance partners.


In Oruro, Bolivia http://www.carnavalexhibit.org/bolivia.php

After Bolivia gained its independence from Spain in 1825, upper class citizens of Oruro largely ignored the indigenous population and each group had its own Carnival celebration. In the 1940s, with the rise of a socialist movement in Bolivia, members of the upper class came to view the Indian lifestyle and culture as the model for an idealized society.


In Venice , Italy http://www.carnavalexhibit.org/venice.php

Some of the masquerades worn in Venice Carnival today are characters from the famous 16th and 17th century Italian theater, commedia dell’arte. Arlecchino (Harlequin) played the role of a faithful valet – patient, trusting, passionate, and playful. His costume is decorated with brightly colored triangles and diamonds and his black half mask has tiny eye holes and quizzically arched eyebrows accentuated by a wrinkled forehead.


In New Orleans, U.S.A they celebrate something called Mardi Gras this is one of the biggest and popular Carnivals in the world. http://www.carnavalexhibit.org/neworleans.php

Carnival in New Orleans is known as Mardi Gras – French for Fat Tuesday. The celebration was introduced by French groups from Europe and the Caribbean who settled here at the beginning of the 18th century. Following aristocratic European models, the festivities took the form of private balls sponsored by wealthy citizens. On Sunday afternoons enslaved and free Africans, who had been brought here to work on the plantations, were allowed to congregate at a place called the Congo Market. Here they celebrated their own Mardi Gras with music, song, and dance. In the mid-19th century uptown society men began to form secret male societies, known as krewes, that put on public Carnival parades of floats followed by elegant balls for their members

images (1)

Another popular Carnival is that of Notting Hill Carnival that takes place in West London, England around the month of August. I am yet to experience this Carnival but my cousins always brag about it being the best. For more information visit http://thenottinghillcarnival.com/about-2/.

Every year the streets of West London come alive, with the sounds and smells of Europe’s biggest street festival. Twenty miles of vibrant colourful costumes surround over 40 static sound systems, hundreds of Caribbean food stalls,(make sure you visit Mama’s Jerk Station on the corner of Portobello Rd and Oxford Gardens) over 40,000 volunteers and over 1 million Notting Hill carnival revellers.

download (1)

In addition to this there’s the famous Labor Day parade of which I was lucky to be apart of, even though I was like, ten years old!! But I sure had fun though!!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_Day_Carnival 

The main event is the West Indian Day Parade, which attracts between one and three million participants.[1] The spectators and participators watch and follow the parade on its route along Eastern Parkway. Some of the Caribbean islands represented in the parade include Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti,Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and Grenada. Also represented are South American countries such as Guyana and Suriname and Central American country known as Belize.

images (2)

There is also Caribana which takes place in Toronto, Canada http://www.torontocaribbeancarnival.com/

The Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival, formerly and still commonly called Caribana, is a festival of Caribbean culture and traditions held each summer in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is a Caribbean Carnival event, that has been billed as North America‘s largest street festival, frequented by over 1.3 million visitors each year for the festival’s final parade and an overall attendance of 2 million.

download (2)

There are also Carnivals that occur in the Caribbean such as Barbados’ Crop Over , Grenada’s Spice Mas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Vincy Mas, Bahamas’ Junkanoo, Jamaica’s Independence Festival,  Martinique Carnival, Haitian Defile Kanaval. Cayman Islands’ Batabano, St. Kitts and Nevis Carnival among many others. http://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/articles/a-celebration-of-roots-the-best-carnivals-in-the-caribbean-/

Even though all of these carnivals are popular and big in their own right, one of the biggest, most popular carnivals in the world is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s Carnival. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_Carnival 

The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revelers, floats and adornments from numerous samba schools which are located in Rio (more than 200 approximately, divided into 5 leagues/ divisions). A samba school is composed of a collaboration of local neighbours that want to attend carnival together, with some kind of regional, geographical common background.

There is a special order that every school has to follow with their parade entries. Each school begins with the “comissão de frente” (“Front Commission” in English), that is the group of people from the school that appear first. Made of ten to fifteen people, the “comissão de frente” introduces the school and sets the mood and style of their presentation. These people have choreographed dances in fancy costumes that usually tell a short story. Following the “comissão de frente” is the first float of the samba school, called “abre-alas” ( “Opening Wing” in English ).

images (3)

Many people would say that Rio’s Carnival is the best Carnival in the world, and even though they have more popularity and bring more tourism and revenue, and even though its arguable that Trini’s Carnival costumes are becoming more and more like Rio’s Carnival costumes by the year,  I would stay true to my Trini roots and choose Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival over Rio’s Carnival any day. One of the major reasons being that in T&T Carnival the people of the country get to partake in the actual Carnival in contrast to Rio’s Carnival where the procession consists of  dancers that are members of various dance groups in the country. Another reason being that I am off course Trini to the bone!

For more information visit









The music that is our culture.

The music of Trinidad and Tobago is vital to our being. Calypso, Soca and Chutney are our national music and culture.

Calypso music started in the early to mid 20th century in Trinidad and Tobago.

Hollis Liverpool said that calypso had its roots in the West African custom of griot court singing (187). The griots usually sang songs of praise and derision and were storytellers. According to Liverpool (185), calypso contains characteristics of these West African songs including:

  • The percussive rhythmic beats
  • The call-and-response pattern
  • Extemporaneous singing
  • Satire

It is believed that these songs were introduced during the French settlement of the island of Trinidad. Gros Jean, an African slave, is reputed to have been the first calypsonian, having been named ‘Mait Caiso’ (Master of Caiso) by the Diego Martin estate owner Begorrat in 1790 (Mitto Sampson qtd in Daniel Crowley: 61). In the early days, the songs were sung in patois, in the extempo genre and usually involved colourful and aggressive language. There was also the trading of insults among performers, a form called ‘Mepris’ that later developed into the ‘war calypsos’ (Liverpool: 192).

I grew up listening to some of the greatest calypsonians to ever grace Trinidad and Tobago such as Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, Calypso Rose, Lord Invader, Lingo, Lord Pretender among others. This music has been vital to the Carnival season even though some might say that Calypso is becoming a dying art form and that it is hard to stay relevant with the rise in soca music.

Some Calypso sings

th (1)


Soca music has become an epidemic in the past years, it started in 1970s when calypsonian Lord Shorty (Garfield Blackman) began experimenting with East Indian rhythms, using instruments such as the dholak, tabla and dhantal and fusing them with the calypso beat. Soca artistes such as Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano and others music are heard blasting all over the country especially when its Carnival….in fetes, on radio stations and especially on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

Some soca songs are

th (2)


Chutney is not only part of an Indo – Trinidadian culture, but the Trini culture itself. One of the greatest chutney singers to come out of Trinidad that I grew up listening to was Sundar Popo.

Sundar Popo modernized the music by including western guitars and early electronics into his music. Although Popo became known as the “King of Chutney,” the art of singing songs in “Chutney” style was introduced by a singer named Lakhan Kariya, from the town of Felicity, who preceded Sundar Popo. Other artists, such as Sam Boodram, followed in his footsteps by adding new modern instrumentation into their music. Chutney music until then remained a local music in Trinidad, Guyana & Suriname. However, this was all about to change and Chutney music was about to become an Industry.

Now chutney music has become even more modernized and has crossed over to mix with soca music and has become international thanks to the various chutney bands that tour the world such as Karma and Dil – E- Nadan among others.

Here are some links to listen to some chutney songs


For more information behind calypso, soca and chutney music visit these links.





Fete after fete!!

Trinidad and Tobago is an island known for feting. A fete is a big party which takes place in an outdoor area or inside a club and it goes on for the entire night straight to 4 or 5am. There are many fetes that occur all year round, but majority of these fetes occur around Carnival which emphasis that playing mas and going to fetes is a marathon that you must be prepared for.

I have attended my fair share of fetes since i became legal and I must say that these fetes are awesomeeee!!!!….One thing for sure is that if you want to last for the entire fete you must have energy and pace yourself! Some of these fetes are filled with so much hype and excitement you won’t want to leave! Thousands of people attend these fetes which range from all inclusive meaning that you pay for food and drinks when you buy your ticket, to cooler fetes where you walk with your own drinks in your cooler. There are also water fetes or ‘wet fetes’, foam fetes, fetes that happen on boat rides. There is even a fete for Panorama Semi Finals where there are thousands of people attending and half of them are actually there to listen to the pan music! In some fetes, soca artistes perform, usually around Carnival but in all the fetes there are off course DJ’s playing the hottest music and entertaining the crowd. Trinis will make a fete out of anything.

th (1)

I don’t have a preference when it comes to which type of fete I like, to me, fete is fete!!! As long as the music is hot and the “vybes nice” I’m good to go. Last fete i went to was Blue Range cooler fete which was hotttttt. The music, the DJ’s, the crowd, the friends, everything was enjoyable, I even reached home around 6am after the fete.

Me and my cousin at Blue Range cooler fete.
Me and my cousin at Blue Range cooler fete.
Part of the crew for Blue Range cooler fete.
Part of the crew for Blue Range cooler fete.

It’s no surprise that we Trinis love to party, and even though we like to say that we don’t have any money, we sure do have that money when there’s a fete to attend. We love to lime and have a good time! And I would recommend attending a couple fetes especially around the Carnival season. You’re certain to jump and wave and mash up the place and drink a little corn soup or eat some doubles when you’re done.


Have a look at these sites for more insight into fetes.




Lewwe play ah Mas…..

After J’ouvert and Monday evening there comes Carnival Tuesday which in my opinion, is the day, when all the “bachannal” takes place. and trust me you’re going to need all the energy you can muster for this whole day event.

download (4)

There are numerous bands for Carnival ranging from Tribe; Fantasy; Harts; Paparazzi; Island People; Pulse 8; Ronnie and Caro; Trini Revellers and more. Each carnival band has their own sections ranging from frontline to backline depicting whatever theme they chose to go with for the current year. Full costumes are worn on this day in addition to whatever accessories you want to use. The various bands have to pass through many judging points where they are given points for their costumes and presentations and proceed to the final stage being the Socadrome which is in the Queens Park Savannah or SAPA in San Fernando (depends on where you are playing mas). Road March contenders are also judged on that day by the number of times their songs are played when the various bands cross the stage.

download (1)

I remembered my first Carnival as a child. My parents took me to the city of San Fernando, I was thrilled and off course being so small everything seemed larger than life to me, the feathers and beads and there were masqueraders whose costumes were supported by wheels because they were so big and heavy. I was thoroughly amazed stating that when I grew up I would want to play mas too!! Ha!…What a dream!…Has not happened yet but it will soon because it’s good to experience at least once in your Trini life.


I have however experienced the big street lime there is on Ariapita Avenue where may of the bands pass before making their way to the Socadrome. If you’re not playing mas but still want to have some sort of feeling of it while enjoying the “pump” from all the bars then Ariapita Avenue is the place to be. Being on the avenue was definitely an experience as well seeing all those masqueraders and of course being older myself made me want to play mas even more and knowing my behaviour I would be wotless if i got the chance to play mas however I don’t know how these masqueraders can tolerate the hot sun mixed with traipsing all over Port of Spain and San Fernando on their feet for the entire day!! I guess that’s why some of them don’t turn up to work for a week!


images (7)Carnival Tuesday is a day long marathon and if you’re taking part in it you NEED to be ready! After the bands cross the stage some lead their masqueraders back to various locations to take part in ‘las lap’ where they party till midnight..or whenever the police shuts it down. This day competes for the title of The Greatest Show on Earth and many people compare it to Brazil’s Carnival stating that Brazil’s Carnival is better but as a proud Trinbagonian.. Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is The Greatest Show on Earth!!!


For more information and images






♫I wanna go……J’ouvert J’ouvert!!!♫



In my previous post I focused on the traditional aspect of Carnival and my experiences of it when I was a child. In this post I will talk about the J’ouvert experience and why Trini people love their J’ouvert. and hopefully persuade you, the reader, into experiencing J’ouvert as well.

J’ouvert, was derived from French patois meaning ‘daybreak’, commences the beginning of Carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago and believe it or not J’ouvert evolved from Canboulay where the white owners carried flaming torches, marching and dancing through the streets in mockery of the forced laborers that made their wealth possible. It usually begins around 3am Monday morning and ends… well whenever you’re ready to go home, but usually around 12pm.  Some people go to fetes on Sunday night and from the fete changes into their J’ouvert wear and head straight to J’ouvert to meet their respective bands such as Red Ants; Chocolate City; Caesar’s Army among others,  and continue the ‘lime’ there!

In J’ouvert there are usually mud, oil, paint, baby powder and believe it or not chocolate!!! for revelers to smear and throw on one another in the spirit of enjoyment.

The first time I played J’ouvert was “besssssss”… the mud, the paint, the music!!! Soca music is hands down.. the best!! Parading on the streets with “meh friend an dem,” having fun and feeling intoxicated when the music truck blasts all the hottest soca songs is really an experience that should have if at least once in your life. Even though once won’t be enough because you will become hooked and want to play J’ouvert every year!


download (1)

For more information and images you can visit :-




Ole Mas

Ole Mas is, as the name suggests, old mas which consists of the traditional characters portrayed in Carnival long ago. Some of these characters are still present in J’ouvert such as jab jabs and jab molassies. While other characters are seen in Monday mas that occurs on Monday evening after all the J’ouvert celebrations. Thousands of people come out in sometimes part of their costumes to have some fun on the streets. Here is where one gets the opportunity to see some traditional mas.  there are also ole mas that takes place in certain areas of the country.

download (3) download (2)

I had the opportunity to witness ole mas in Gasparillo when i was a child, and even though it was a long time ago, the memory still burns bright within me. That was a very thrilling experience for me. I was thoroughly frightened by the Jab Molassies and Jab Jab with their whips and fire breathing, but at the same time i was intrigued by them, let’s just say it was a mixture of fright and excitement. I had the opportunity to see some of the most amazing characters that many children may not even be aware off today. There were characters like the Fancy Indians and Cow Bands and don’t forget the moko jumbies!!… I’m not really afraid of heights but seeing them up there on those stilts created a definite fear though! I was amazed as to how brave they were to walk around on stilts some really high and some that were normal, there were even children on stilts! I definitely envied them wondering if I had the courage to walk around on these things without walking into someone or something or even being tripped by something. Wow! Some other characters were also more interesting to me such as The Bookman and the Midnight Robber, I loved listening to his story. There were also some really funny characters like the Dame Lorraine , Negue Jardin and the Pierrot Grenade.

Being part of an experience like this was informative as well as entertaining. I believe that kids these days aren’t really aware of the history of Carnival or its traditions and culture, and this stigma isn’t even conditioned to children alone but youths and adults as well. Everyone is more attracted to the various fetes that they want to attend and which mas band has the best “costume” for them to parade in on Carnival Tuesday. There was also an article found in the Trinidad and Tobago Express Newspapers talking about bringing back the old time days which you can read here http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Bring_back_old_time_mas_-111306329.html                                                            Don’t misunderstand me Trinidad Carnival is the greatest show in the world but do we as Trinis really appreciate our traditions and how this culture all began.

Below there are descriptions of some of the traditional characters along with links for more information. Enjoy!!

The Bookman

The Bookman, also referred to as the Gownman or Ruler, is a feature of devil mas portrayals. The other two groups of characters in the devil bbookmanand are the imps and beasts. He is the principal character in the devil band, and, in keeping with his status, his movement is waltz-like, with constant bowing.

he has a flowing cape embroided with biblical scenes and on his head is an oversized head mask which contains small horns and carries a demonic expression. The face of this mask is supposed to mirror the face of the devil himself. The bookman carries a pen and a large book in which he write the names of prospective souls for the devil.

Dame Lorraine or Dame Lorine

dame lorraineThe Dame Lorraine or Dame Lorine was a mas character played by the 18th and early 19th century French planters, who would dress up in elegant costumes of the French aristocracy and parade in groups at private homes/yards and Carnival Sunday night.



dragonInspired from the Jab Jab or Devil Mas, the Dragon (sometimes refer as King Beast) mas is one rooted in the understanding of good and evil and all its elements. The Dragon is designed as a dragon, an overall costume of scales, a dragonhead with a movable tongue and a long scaled tail. Chains are tied around the beasts that are also held by Imps, in order to restrain it.

The Dragon is the fire-beast from hell, coming to earth as a bringer of destruction. Dancing through the streets, the aim of the “Dragon Dance” is to captivate and frighten its audience.

However, when the Dragon is unfortunate enough to come across a pool of water in the road, then the real dance begins. Water or holy water being of heaven leaves the Dragon in a state of frustration, he cannot ‘cross the water’ to continue on his journey. Instead his Imps, usually led by the King Imp, taunt him and finally the Dragon must dance in submission and then with much effort leap over the water in order to continue.

Jab Jab

jab jabThe name of this mas is derived from the French patois for ‘Diable Diable” meaning a pretty devil mas resembling a mediaeval jester’s costume.
Jab Molassie

jab molasieJab is the French patois for ‘Diable’ (Devil), and Molassie is the French patois for Mélasse (Molasses) is one of several types of devil mas. The simple costume consists of short pants or pants cut off at the knee, with a wire tail, mask and horns and a pitchfork. The jab molassie would carry chains, and wear locks and keys around his waist, and carry a pitch fork. The whole body is smeared with grease or mud, red, green or blue paint. The jab molassie “wines” or gyrates to a rhythmic beat that is played on tins or pans by his imps. While some of his imps supply the music, others hold his chain, seemingly restraining him as he pulls against them in his wild dance.

Midnight Robber

midnight robberThe Midnight Robber is one of the most beloved colourful traditional carnival characters. Midnight Robber, is immediately identifiable by his extravagant costumes and distinctive speech, called “Robber Talk”

The “Robber Talk” is derived from the tradition of the African Griot or storyteller, and the speech patterns and vocabulary are imitative of his former master and is characterised by its boastful, mocking style was derived from a variety of sources: the Bible, literary texts and school readers and speaks of the Robber’s invincible ancestry as well as his terrifying exploits.

Moko Jumbie

moko jumbieThe stilt dancer known throughout the Caribbean, is a traditional folk character that was originally brought from West Africa. The word “Moko” is derived from the name of a West African God and “jumbie” or “ghost” was added by liberated slaves after Emancipation. It was believed that the height of the stilts was associated with the ability to foresee evil faster than ordinary men. The Moko Jumbie was felt to be a protector of the village.

Negue Jadin

negue jardinThis character, which is now extinct, goes back to the pre-emancipation era. During that period, Carnival was observed by the upper classes mainly. While the slaves and free coloureds were not forbidden from celebrating carnival, they were compelled to stay within their own stratum of society and not presume to rub shoulders with the aristocracy. The planter class on the other hand, often imitated the dress and customs of their slaves during the carnival celebrations. One of their favourite disguises was that of the Negue Jadin or field slave.

Pierrot Grenade

pierrot granadeThe Pierrot Grenade is a descendant of the Pierrot known for his elegant costume and fierce fighting prowess with a whip or bull pistle, and was followed by a band of female supporters who fought on his behalf against other Pierrot groups..

Pierrot Grenade was a finely dressed masquerader and deeply supreme scholar/ jester proud of his ability to spell any word in his own fashion and quoting Shakespearean characters as Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Othello at length. Pierrot Grenade, is a satire on the richer and more respectable Pierrot.

Read the original article here: