By Eve George
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- In the sun drenched West Indies lies the twin island republic called Trinidad and Tobago with its captivating landscapes, home of the best Carnival in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is celebrated before the commencement of the Lenten season. From 1873, for half a century, the French developed their Carnival, which was noted to be a season of happy and elegant festivities extending from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. These festivities consisted of dinners, balls, concerts and hunting parties.
The Africans started to participate in the festivities from 1833 after the Emancipation Bill was passed. The Africans brought the Canboulay to its festivities. Canboulay was first played on August 1, Emancipation Day, but subsequently took place after midnight on Dimanche Gras, the Sunday before Carnival.
In early celebration of the festival by the masses, activities were held over the three days preceding Ash Wednesday. However, in the face of over 60 years of criticism from the upper class about the low standard of Carnival and strong feelings expressed about the desecration of the Sabbath, in 1943 Carnival on the streets was restricted to the Monday and Tuesday.
Carnival celebrations were banned for the duration of World War II.
Central to understanding much of the Trinidadian psyche is to understand the festival culture of the islands, and no festival is greater than the Trinidad Carnival. The dynamism of the festival has sparked its reproduction throughout the rest of the CARICOM island chain and as far away as Toronto, New York, Miami, and Notting Hill in London.
But everyone knows that Trinidad is the mother of all West Indian Carnivals, which attracts visitors from all over the world, including celebrities such as Halle Berry, Idris Elba, Gerard Butler, Will Smith, Chris Tucker, Nikki Minaj, Amber Rose, Danny Glover Mick Jagger and more.
Carnival really isn’t just the Monday and Tuesday. It’s a whole season that essentially starts the day after Christmas Day. Carnival parties (or fetes) begin, and the radio airwaves and local TV music channels are inundated with the latest soca music. It is the irresistible rhythms and infectious melodies of soca -- pioneered by Garfield Blackman (aka Ras Shorty I) in the 70s as a fusion of calypso and East Indian music -- that are the driving force on the road Carnival Monday and Tuesday and in all pre-Carnival parties.
The steel pan or steel drums were created in Trinidad in the 1930s, but steel pan history can be traced back to the enslaved Africans who were brought to the island during the 1700s. Innovators throughout steel pan’s history that made significant contributions to the development of the instrument are: Winston ‘Spree’ Simon, Ellie Mannette, Anthony Willams and Bertie Marshall.
The festival has developed in size and ingenuity and in recent years has become a feature of Trinidad. Happy people dance to the intoxicating rhythms, shops close, people take time off to watch and if possible take part in the long awaited festival. At this time, personal interests are forgotten, everyone gives their all for the privilege of sharing in this experience, typical of the unquenchable spirit that makes the Trinidad Carnival an unforgettable experience.
The colourful highlights of Trinidad Carnival: