It is possibly the most surreal experience that needs to be witnessed in person and not just through hearsay. An explosion of colour amalgamating in an eruption of energy punctuated by radiant beauty only found in the multicultural melting pot of the twin island of Trinidad & Tobago. Nothing quite prepares you for the phenomena that is known as the greatest show on earth and whilst this great festival has spawned numerous smaller carnivals around the world it is the passion and pride felt in the people of Trinidad and Tobago that makes this carnival a world wonder of Trinidad, an exceptional and special experience.
It is the break of dawn in Port of Spain and around the Savannah the carnival’s central location, a few stragglers from the night before casually jaunt past the barely empty stalls that will in a few hours be bustling with passers-by attracted by the array of spreads showcasing local delicacies such as aloo pie, doubles, buss up shot and bake and shark to name a few. On the corners shielded by colourful feathers neatly propped up against the wall, masqueraders quietly carry on with their last minute affairs patiently awaiting the final curtain call that will signal their marked entrance to the Grand Stand as trucks laden with the heaviest of bass speakers prepare and test their sound systems in readiness for the long day parade. Normality seems to reside here as traffic diverted in a different way continues past the growing excitement, naturally adding to the energy that is slowly building. Inside the Savannah as decorations and banners flutter by in the casual breeze, officials are busy tempering with last minute preparations, cleaning the stage and checking that all is sound before the madness of carnival erupts. This is the day that all have been waiting for, this is the culmination of a year’s run of hard work, intense promotion and preparation that has seen tears mesh in with joy, frustration and impatience, this is Carnival Tuesday.
Over the course of the day, small to medium and large sized bands of different categories, will take to the stage in competition to be crowned the best. Some are just here to play mas, others here to make their debut whilst some are intent on reminding the world watching abroad and at home that the old tradition of mas still exists. There is nothing that prepares you for the euphoria that erupts as the first band slowly earmarks its way to the stage, snaking along the designated path leading to the Grand Stand. Nearby a few eager visitors slowly gather and sit scattered across both sides chattering and muttering to themselves as the first rays of sunlight pierce through the open spaces. Outside the Savannah littered around the park, faces jostle for the best seating spot away from the harsh sun that will make its mark by noon, anticipating the parade that will soon cover the streets of Port of Spain. Carts laden with refreshments groan under the weight of assorted drinks as hawkers drum up business. On cue and on time as the last resounding note of the national anthem is sung, trucks line up in readiness of the magical entrance and the song that will ultimately be crowned the road march is repeatedly played as each section jumps up pushing the barricade of security aside with each individual vying to be seen by the judges sitting nearby. Faces beaming with joy filling the air, elaborate designed costumes with beading and jewellery shimmering in the light, feathers plumped up for maximum effect, hands flung in the air and legs pacing and prancing raising the dust off the ground this is the moment that all have been waiting for to cross the big stage and be captured by the live recording of the television broadcasting the carnival to millions around the world.
The searing sun thumping along the ground does nothing to perturb the thousands of bodies swaying in the sweltering mirage of swirling heat and mesmerising scenes of sultry dances and choreographed acts lend a hand in entertaining and showcasing the best of Trinidad & Tobago carnival. Surprise appearances from artists such as Machel Montano only fuel the fire of masqueraders intent on clamouring back to the stage and staying past the designated time allocated. The sweet fragrance of powder adds to the air as steel pan bands and sailors respectfully make a nod to their past, celebrating the return journey to their ancestral homes. Beautiful depictions of mas meld in with satirical productions of traditional mas as moko jumbies daring in heights tower past the bands swaying in the wind, with native Indians spontaneously breaking out in a war cry. A riot of colour, an explosion of energy, a melting pot of races, this is just part of the greatest show on earth; Trinidad and Tobago carnival.