The Trinidad Carnival—the annual festival of music, dancing and parading through the avenues of Port of Spain dressed in outrageous costumes—rivals Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The five-day Caribbean extravaganza can make Mardi Gras in New Orleans seem like a Shriners’ convention. The world is preparing to join the fun and the Miami Herald has just published an informative article about the forthcoming events, which ends on Fat Tuesday—this year scheduled for Tuesday February 16—with the main event, the Parade of the Bands. SO here are some excerpts from the article:
In 1783, the French brought Carnival to the island. Back then the event was celebrated with elaborate masquerade balls. Excluded from the revelry, African slaves held their own version of Carnival. They mimicked their masters’ behavior while incorporating their own rituals. When slavery was abolished in 1838, the freed slaves took their festival to the streets of Port of Spain. Soon, immigrant populations began pouring into the city, adding new crinkles to the celebration until Carnival became what it is today.
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Each “band” is an organized group of tribe members wearing identical costumes that represent a historical, mythological or tropical theme. You might see bands dressed in the colorful feathers of a legendary Indian tribe or in the galactic white gowns preferred by a race of imaginary space aliens. There might be bands of pirates or goblins or scantily clad Las Vegas-style showgirls and showguys. The largest bands — with names like Poison, Legends, Harts and Barbarossa — are comprised of more than 6,000 tribe members and divided into several sections.
Powered by bone-rattling soca music from a truck packed with steel pan musicians, each tribe flaunts its stuff before a panel of judges. The idea is to show tribe unity and spirit. The winner is branded masquerade champion of the year and gets bragging rights until the next Carnival. En route to the judging platform at the Parade of the Bands, tribes march through the jam-packed streets, beckoning others to join them. Here’s where you’ll find the true spirit of Carnival. Beneath a sweltering sun, thousands of revelers collide in a melange of color and pageantry. You’ll see young and old, black and white, foreign and domestic. Pedestrians mingle among the swarming tribes, singing, dancing and “wining” to the pounding soca beat.
Wining is an impromptu dance of which your mother would not approve. Basically, two people grind front to back, front to front, front to side — you get the idea. When things get crazy, Carnival-goers sometimes wine in groups of five or more. Wining notwithstanding, J’Ouvert might be Carnival’s most provocative undertaking. At 4 a.m. Carnival Monday, tens of thousands gather at various staging areas around the city. After covering themselves in mud, paint and grease, revelers dressed as monsters and devils parade through the streets behind soca-blasting trucks.
J’Ouvert (pronounced Jou-vey) is a Creole corruption of the French jour ouvert, which means “day open.” It’s a continuation of the previous night’s fetes, and the cleanest “dirty fun” you’ll ever have.
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Officially, Carnival takes place each February on the Monday and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. But in Trinidad, the party gets started during the spirited King & Queen Contest the previous Friday night. On Saturday, the big event is the Panorama Steel Band Competition, when the island’s best steel bands play all day.
Sunday is for Dimanche Gras (Fat Sunday), a mind-boggling series of performances by world-famous singers.
Throughout the five-day festival there are numerous fetes, both public and private. The parties last throughout the day and well into the next morning.
With so many back-to-back events packed into Trinidad’s Carnival, you’re probably wondering when revelers sleep.
For more from the article go to http://www.miamiherald.com/living/travel/story/1411192.html