Last year my cousin mentioned going to Trinidad Carnival* 2018. I mentioned it to my sister and some other cousins that some of the cousins are going and maybe we should go. By August I had definitively decided that I was going to Trinidad Carnival 2018. I was instructed by my cousins that I needed to listen to DJ Private Ryan on Soundcloud. I started with his Post Carnival Relief 2017 mix. That mix was the first entry to my carnival prep playlist on Soundcloud. The bands launched in August/September and I was told which band we were playing. I skipped a major part. My cousin has played Trinidad Carnival 20+ years so she is what you call a Feteran*. So I basically had a travel agent who knew all the ins and outs so I didn’t have to pick a band I was told which band we would play. I was told the website for our band and I picked a costume and made a deposit. I paid for my costume in full before heading to Trinidad in February. I was told which fetes* we were attending so now we had to get tickets to them. All the fetes sell tickets online but they also sell out quickly. Thanks to some frequent carnivalers I was able to get all the tickets I wanted.
Ready for the Road
I had been forewarned that carnival entailed lots of walking and winding down the road. Well I walk 6-10 miles a day most days so no big deal. The only concern is going to the bathroom. Well the band has a truck that has port-a-potty’s on it. I am not the fondest of those so it just so happens that I did a little PSA for Always Discreet last year and so I wore my liners on the road and no one knew but me. I didn’t have any bladder leakage problems on the road and I drank all day but as I mentioned in this article you can retrain your bladder. Also very important was sunscreen we used this great spray sunscreen and sprayed each other everyday. I had all my emergency meds with me and now we are ready to have a GOOD TIME!
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I attended AMbush – AMbush = Morning bush we were driven to one location got out went thru security and then got in a shuttle that took us to the bush where the fete was. This party is similar to j’ouvert* they throw paint and powder on everyone. We walked thru along side the DJ trucks and drink trucks in the bush until we reached the end and there were food stations at the end and live music from some of the soca artists whose music we were jamming to on the road.
I attended DJ Private Ryan’s 5th Annual Soca Brainwash – This year it was an Alice in Wonderland theme. My sister and I were in Alice in Wonderland many years ago so I got excited about the theme and decided we should go. Plus of course we had listened to his mix from 2017 Soca Brainwash and were anticipating 2018 Soca Brainwash.
My favorite Fete was Sunnyside Up – It was a breakfast fete 6am – 11am. This fete had LIVE music and DJs! The best part of the fete is when the soca artist came out and sang their songs. The food was delicious and didn’t run out at this fete. It is a smaller fete which I think is another reason why I had such a good time it wasn’t so massive. The best news about this fete is the same promoters do this same fete in Brooklyn during Labor Day Weekend.
Playing mas means joining a band and becoming a masquerader in the actual Carnival. Carnival is always the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Carnival Monday you chip down the road for many miles thru Trinidad, along side your band. The band has several trucks a couple music trucks, drink trucks, food trucks and a bathroom truck. We played with Rogue, this was the first year they were on the road but they are an off shoot of a larger band so they definitely knew what they were doing and we had an amazing first carnival experience.
If I have slightly got you interested in wanting to play mas at carnival and you don’t know where to start. Please feel free to comment below. There are lots of companies out there that will take care of all of your carnival needs for you so you can just enjoy the experience. I can recommend Carnival Crew to handle your carnival needs. Also check out my West Indian sister and Trini friend Vanessa James blog post about carnival. Please check out my Caribfluencer sister Mikelah Rose (it was her first time too). When we landed in Trinidad there were billboards everywhere saying it was the Greatest Show on Earth. By the time we left carnival we totally agreed.
*feteran one who has attended lots of fetes and carnivals
*fete an organized group entertainment, esp a party or a dance. usually outside
*J’ouvert which can also be written and pronounced as (Juve or Juv `e) is a broken down version of the French Jour Ouvert, the morning time referred to as day open. J’Ouvert also know as jouvay originated in Trinidad with the festivities of Canboulay, which was a time when sugarcane field caught on fire and slaves were still forced to harvest the remaining crops before complete destruction. That event was reenacted and male slaves were mocked by their masters. However after emaciation the salves mocked the masters mocking them. the festival begins way before the crack of dawn and proceeds a little pass sun up traditions include paint, mud and oil being spliced on participants of the event. J’Ouvert is also a very colorful event where paint and powder contribute color rather than just costumes. – Source Music and Cultures of Dorchester
*Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is celebrated before the commencement of the Lenten season. From 1783 for half a century, the French developed their Carnival , which was noted to be a season of gay and elegant festivities extending from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. These festivities consisted of dinners, balls, concerts and hunting parties.
The Africans started to participate in the festivities from 1833 after the Emancipation Bill was passed. The Africans brought Canboulay to its festivities. Canboulay was first played on August 1st, Emancipation Day , but subsequently took place after midnight on Dimanche Gras, the Sunday before Carnival.
In early celebration of the festival by the masses activities were held over the three days preceding Ash Wednesday. However in the face of over 60 years of criticism from the upper class about the low standard of Carnival and strong feelings expressed about the desecration of the Sabbath, in 1943 Carnival on the street was restricted to the Monday & Tuesday.
Carnival celebrations were banned for the duration of World War II. ( Andrew Carr, “Carnival” from David Frost Introduces Trinidad and Tobago, London: Andre Deutsch, c1975 )