is, according to Trinidadians, the world’s second largest after the Rio de Janeiro’s one. The build up towards the Carnival climax gets under way many weeks before the actual event. In fact, we were told that as soon as a Carnival finishes, the preparation for the next Carnival starts. I can tell you that in anticipation of Carnival there were lots of parties with loud music; people having a grand time everywhere, especially during weekends.
Trinidad is not only famous for Carnival, but also for steel pan bands
. This type of music originated in Trinidad. It is based on a single instrument, the bottom bit of a steel oil drum, cut out and bent to produce different musical notes in different sections of the pan when hit by the mallets of the musician (or pannist). At Carnival time, the different types of steel pan bands compete in a Championship. The bands practice and practice and then practice some more. One pre-Carnival evening, we visited several of the pan yards (where the bands have their headquarters and practice grounds). We thoroughly enjoyed the experience (ear plugs are indispensable) even though most of the bands would spend the whole time practicing a few bars of a song over and over again. I had a preference for the smallish bands (some of the bands can have up to 100 or 120 pannists) and the single pan bands. The pannists without exception looked as they were having a great time, dancing as they played.
On the same night, we visited some of the shops providing the outfits for Carnival. Local famous designers often design the outfits. Each “shop” provides the outfits for a Costume Band or “Mas” Band, short for Masquerade, participating in the Carnival parade. Mark was particularly fond of wings and skimpy bikinis. I preferred the costumes which had a more defined theme, such as Creole times or African origins. A&R were noncommittal and probably too embarrassed to elicit an opinion (Lies! – comment by Roan). The price of the outfits (average $4000 or $5000 Trinidadian dollars, equivalent to $600 to $800 US dollars) includes the outfit, a place in the parade, and food and drink for the 36 hours of Carnival.
A kid’s parade opened Carnival weekend on Saturday. Competition finals for steel pan bands and the Queens and Kings of Carnival were scheduled during the weekend. Carnival proper started at 4:00 AM with the J’ouvert parade
, which includes waking up at 2 AM and getting smeared in paint and mud during the parade. The 2 AM waking time was enough of a put off for us (never mind the mud and paint) that we gave it a miss - we got mixed reviews, so I wasn't too disappointed by missing it. The big day, however, was Tuesday, when all the different Mas Bands with their outfits were judged. We got seats in a stand, which it was thankfully shaded, and tried to absorb the whole Carnival experience.
I saw Trinidad Carnival as an equal-opportunity whole-day street party. The parade started around 9 AM and continued for 12 hours or more (we left around 5 PM, when the party was still in full force). When one thinks on Carnival, images of beautiful women in suggestive and sexy clothing dancing to hot Latin music comes to mind (at least to mine). Well, this was not it! Here, everybody, and I literally mean everybody, was participating: kids, grand-mothers, teenagers, fat, thin, bold, hairy, short, tall, body-builders (few) fat-jiggling-bodies (many); about 80% women and 20% men. I was in awe of their confidence and courage. Often, it was not quite pleasing to the eye, yet I loved the “who cares, I am having fun” underlying message. I was also expecting some sort of choreography to local music. Nope! This was really a street party; for the most part people danced each one to his/hers best ability - often with seductive and clearly sexual moves. Another surprise for me was the choice of music, 90% of the groups danced to the same songs. The result: we heard the same songs over and over again from 9 AM until we left at 5 PM - I could not bear listening to those songs again for days afterwards. The only way that I could have danced for some many hours to the same songs is by being heavily intoxicated, which tells you I am not really a Trinidadian, because most of them did not look drunk - they look as they were having the time of their live.
We completed our Trini Carnival experience by going to the Carnival Champs performance the Saturday after Carnival. The Champs show included all the winners of the different competitions: steel bands, calypso singing and the Kings and Queens of Carnival. I am not good enough with words to describe so here you have a link to it: Champs 2015
Life was back to normal a couple of days after Carnival with everybody recovered and getting ready for the next one. We, and our painting crew, resumed our work on Por Dos.