Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago is simply awesome. You just need to book flights to Port of Spain, its capital city, and visit this Caribbean destination to experience the euphoria yourself and enjoy the stunning spectacle. Get ready to indulge in the explosion of colors, unprecedented revelry, musical frenzy, and creativity at its best that this festival brings along with it.
Carnival is celebrated around the world, but the celebration in Trinidad is unrivaled. It is quite often believed to be the greatest show on earth. The pulsating music, dazzling costumes, massive masquerade bands, and above all endless stamina for partying – all these factors are enough reasons to attract you to be a part of this huge celebration.
The celebrations in Tobago have however embraced most of the traditions prevalent in the Island nation of Trinidad & Tobago. There is undoubtedly much more than calypso, masqueraders and steelpan. The island’s celebrations such as African drumming, bottle and spoon bands, whip wielding devils called jab jabs, and speech bands have over the years been prominently incorporated in Tobago’s Carnival celebrations.
The celebrations in these two main parts of the island nation are however in stark contrast. Frenzied festivities characterizes Trinidad, while it’s somewhat laid back in Tobago.
When is Carnival Celebrated?
The 2-day climax of pre-Lenten Carnival celebrations in fact starts between 4 am and 5 am on Carnival Monday. It is kicked off with J'Ouvert or French patois announcing the opening of day. The J'Ouvert revelers are usually covered in mud. Men are primarily dressed as women or can be seen wearing nightgowns and frenetically waving chamber pots. They continue partying till daybreak on the streets of Tobago’s capital Scarborough. It’s a joyous frenzy on the streets of the city with revelers of masquerade bands. These bands mostly comprise hordes of women in revealing sequined and feathered costumes. They come out around noon on Carnival Monday and continue partying until late Carnival Tuesday.
Many cultural events are also held in Tobago in the weeks preceding the Carnival. The calypso competitions held across the island see avid calypsonians competing with each other for the coveted Calypso Monarch crown. Several calypso tents are put up where new singing talents show their creativity along with the steelbands who all compete to grab the prestigious title of Tobago Panorama Champions.
Major Carnival Events
An array of events are held to mark the Carnival celebrations. Some of the important events include Panorama, Kings and Queens Costume Competition, Dimanche Gras, J’Ouvert, Carnival Monday and Tuesday, Mas, Calypso, Soca, Fetes, Extempo, Chutney, Chutney Brass, Brass, All-Inclusive Fete, and Bomb Competitions. Let us have a look into some of these important events.
Panorama: The Panorama was first held in 1963. Each region of the island – Central, South, North and Tobago – host preliminary contests for the annual competition in the weeks finally leading up to the Carnival. The Panorama finals are held at the Queen’s Park Savannah on the Saturday just prior to the Carnival. The skills of various steelbands are tested and the winning bands are invited to participate in the final competition.
Kings and Queens Costume Competition: This is a unique competition in which the leaders of masquerade bands are invited to participate and are asked to wear the costumes of King and Queen. The costumes adorn colorful themes and typically weigh between 50 and 200 pounds. These costumes are further enhanced with sound effects, fireworks, light shows, fog and lasers.
Dimanche Gras: This massive cultural show is usually hosted on the Sunday night before the Carnival. The venue of this show is at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain. The prominent highlights of the event include calypso, steelpan, Mas and soca music. The Calypso Monarch competition event is held during the Dimanche Gras event in which around 10 to 12 calypso singers compete to win the title.
Chutney: The chutney music and its infectious rhythms originated in Trinidad & Tobago. This typical form of music has been derived from a combination of traditional Indian folk songs, Bollywood tunes and soca. The lyrics of this music are sung in Hindi and/or English.
Chutney Brass: The Chutney Brass is a big musical event where lovers of chutney music are primarily attracted. Top chutney bands give their live musical performances. The competing bands should ensure that their repertoire should have at least 60 percent chutney music.
Bomb Competitions: The popular Bomb competitions usually take place during the J'Ouvert celebrations on Carnival Monday. The steelbands during this competition mostly refer to American, European and other non-calypso music which is essentially performed in a calypso style arrangement.