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 TRINIDAD, CARIBBEAN

TRINIDAD CARNIVAL!

Carnival in Trinidad is the mother of West Indian style carnivals everywhere else in the world. People really let loose in the streets enjoying fetes  for weeks before the actual day of the parade.

Leading up to this the focus of the parade, the entire society changes, more calypsos are played, steelbands fill the air and bandleaders promote their costumes.

Around Trinidad music blares, crowds gather and the beer flows at the Fetes (an all night party which starts very late at night and lasts until morning), making for huge traffic jams and the morning remnants of massive garbage strewn along the roads.  One such very large Fete, called the Insomnia Fete, took place on shore at the anchorage and was very loud, finally ending just after breakfast! Some of the boats actually left that evening to moor on an outer island to escape the racket!

Feb 6

Panorama Single Pan Competition

Jesse dropped us off where the streets had been blocked off for the Panorama Single Pan Competition. This is the zenith for achievement for the Steel band, the goal of all steelbands to play, the night when the music has the fans roaring at their virtuosity.

pans

pans

The pan, the National Instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, is a pitched percussion instrument made from a 55 gallon oil drum. In fact, drum refers to the steel drum containers from which the pans are made; the steeldrum is correctly called a steel pan or pan The pan is struck by a pair of straight sticks tipped with rubber.

37 bands competed, each band consisting of up to 30 players. These are know as the Single or Small Bands.  The groups beat on the various sized pans to produce an amazing sound of music,  the Trinis all bopping and bouncing to the beat with energy and enthusiasm. The bands themselves consisted of men, women, boys and girls of all ages, all looking like they were having a ball playing their instruments.

pans
pans pans   The groups set up their pans and practice in the streets, pushing their "mobile" bandstands along between sets, toward the judges as their turn to compete comes up.
 pans

The venue was a fantastic people watching spot. Check out the HAIR. Almost everyone has hundreds of tiny braids or long dreadlocks, a competition itself to get the most interesting "doo."

The braids, colored, beaded or spiked, wrapped around heads in a maze of unique arrangements. The Rastafarians with manes of twisted cords reaching down past their waists, the ropy locks  tied, twisted or piled high on their heads.

 pans

hat

The braids are colored, beaded or spiked and wrapped around heads in a maze of unique arrangements. The Rastafarians display manes of twisted cords of hair, reaching down past their waists. The ropy locks are sometimes tied, twisted or piled high on their heads. One fellow tucked his hair in his pocket. Some of the beards are even dreadlocks of considerable length. Hairstyles that would seem ridiculous at home just work in Trinidad. It is their culture, their look.

And then there are the hats! Cat in the Hat hats, toppling over from the weight of the hair contained within. Colorful woollen watch caps pulled down over the ears in 80 degree summer heat. Or rags and scarves confining the huge hair.

pans

pans

Everyone was into the beat of the pans. I love the old character (left) banging away on his rendition of a pan drum.
A vivacious Lolita shows off her modified bike and other things! (right)

We enjoyed all the energy in the streets but after 3 hours, only half the bands had appeared before the judges and it was time for us to head back to the boats. A fun intro to the Carnival with lots more to come!

Feb 11

Roots Reunion Jammin with David Rudder

David Rudder produced a show of Calypso and Soca music which took place at an exclusive hotel, seats on the grassy area under the palm trees. The area around the chairs was vibrating with dancers and people that couldn't resist moving to the beat. The calypso phenomenon and pioneer "Calypso Rose" made her appearance and sang some songs.

Calypso is a combination of social and political commentary all set to a lively rhythm. It was near impossible to understand all the words but easy to get the message.

rudder

Liming: (hanging around/partying with friends)

Visiting the Pan Yards

Jesse took us liming to various parts of Port of Spain to tour some Pan Yards where different bands were practicing for the competitions.

Beginning as a single "ping-pong" drum hanging around the neck playing a few notes, the Pans have evolved to cover the full western scale in bands topping 100 players. There are 3 types of Pan Bands. The small consist of up to 30 players, the medium Pan Bands have up to 80 and the large Pan Bands are know to have 120 players!

pansIt is amazing what a diverse and unique sound and variety of notes can be produced just by banging on the various sections of the pan, each pan carrying its own tune.

Each of the bands had their "groupies" bopping to the music and cheering the pan men (and women) on.

pans pans
panspans
pans We visited the camp of the Silver Stars, last years winner and a favourite contender for 2010. We managed to get their just when the political leader of the Opposition had arrived so the band put on a first class showing, playing a selection all the way through, led by the most energetic and gyrating conductor, leaping and bouncing across the stage and getting everyone in a similar lively spirit.
pans pans pans

 Mas (masquerade) Camps

We then visited some of the Mas Camps, a behind the scene look at what makes Carnival the spectacle that it is,  where the beautiful costumes are made. Words cannot even begin to describe the magnificent brightly iridescent costumes some of which extended 20 feet into the air and 20 feet or greater around.   Thousands of birds must have been sacrificed to provide the multitude of feathers used to create the head dresses, costumes and floats.

mas
Glennis, Ginny, Sarah, GB, Gord, Glen

Each band designs costumes around a particular theme and color scheme, usually within keeping with their Queen's costume. Hundreds of workers slave over the costumes from before Christmas onward. Costumes are displayed by individual bands. (band: a group of similarly costumed people) They can be purchased up to $700 US  and the locals save all year to join in playing mas: (joining a mas band in parade) with their favorite band. Bands vary in size, we were told up to 9000 can be in a band, with divisions on themes, etc. The bands are led by a Carnival Queen, usually with an elaborate float and also represented by a Pan Band.

mas

Feb 13 Panorama Finals

We piled in Jesse's van and headed to Queen's Park Savannah to attend the National Pan Band Finals. Many great bands were contesting for the title but Silver Stars Steel Orchestra won in the conventional large band category, retaining their title by playing a scintillating rendition of "Battle Zone,"

Norm arrives

After a gruelling flight in cramped quarters for brother Norm, we were happy to see him arrive at TTSA shortly after we returned from the Panorama Finals. Although tired, we had so much catching up to do that it was soon 5 am before we realized we should call it a night!

The following morn we took a walk to Chagaramus to seek out an ATM. Unfortunately the closest one was out of money so it was a hot walk along the road to the next machine. Back at the boat, we prepared for our night out attending Dimanche Gras.

Feb 14 Dimanche Gras

This show, held in the Savannah, displayed the contenders for the Carnival King and Queen finals. The floats were stunning and beyond description. The Kings and Queens are like moving artwork across the stage. The only limitation was that they had to not exceed 25 feet high because they would not fit under the overhead wires in the Parade Streets. Points were deducted if the max height was exceeded. Even with this restriction, several floats toppled over, despite the solid frame and wheels on the base. Simply too much for the grand King or Queen to manage, if only across the stage.

 The remainder of the evening was dedicated to an overabundance of Calypso, which we soon recognized as music that wasn't our cup of tea!

 

February 15 & 16

Carnival Parade

The final Parade is when the Mas really comes to a high. It  is the big day of judging on the streets, DJ music on the trucks, steelpan bands filling the tropical air with the latest calypsos'. Spectators cram the streets to see the costumes as the mas players prance and dancing in wild abandon, in all their glory of glittery spectacular costumes.
 

carnicarni

carni

 carni

Trucks pump out music that makes your chest vibrate and your eyes water and everyone joins in following the parade. Explosion of color, gaiety and good vibes!
Carnival in Trinidad is the biggest outpouring of energy and creativity ever witnessed.


carni 

 carni

 carni

 carni

 carni

carni

carni

The costumes are elaborate & creative, but despite the expense, the glittery, sequinned masquerades are discarded right after Carnival.

sticks Introduced to Trinidad in the late 1700 by the French, Carnival has evolved from the elaborate masquerade balls to the present spectacle on the streets.

 carni

 carni  carni
The festival is part of the Trinidad tradition and heritage encompassing excitement, colour, music and pageantry
carnival

carnival

carnival carnival

Each group of immigrants adding its own touch, Carnival has developed into a nationwide party reflecting the country's multi-ethnic nature. A kaleidoscope of color, cultures and artistry encompassing all creeds, races and classes. 

 carni  carnival  carnival  carnival  carnival We had a great time wineing with the players is the streets, something you apparently cannot do at the Carnival in Rio, so this was a special event for us.  Here I am playing with the Spice Band!
The floats that glided through the streets were mind-boggling in their color and imagination, each followed by their band of players.

 carnival

carnival 

I loved this version  of Spiderman! 

 carnival

Norm was popular with the girls here! 

 carnival

 carnival

  carnival

 carnivalUnfortunately all good times must come to an end. Jesse (right) did a good job of rounding up the group of cruisers, very reluctant to leave the scene. But we had a huge traffic jam facing us to get back to the boats, and Port of Spain does get dangerous after dark.
 carnival

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