Happenings (January/February 2010)

A round-up of current events on the Caribbean calendar

  • A masquerader ‘making a joyful sound and jumping up in the air’. Photograph by Andre Alexander
  • Destra Garcia performing one of her many hits at UWI fete. Photograph courtesy Triniscene.com
  • Children petting sheep at one of the many exhibits at Agrofest. Photograph courtesy AGROFEST 2010

Madness everywhere: T&T mas

There’s something for everyone in the weeks leading up to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. Whether you’re looking forward to the veteran acts of yesteryear or you’ve eagerly embraced the changes, to get an idea how Trinidadians and Tobagonians feel about the islands’ trademark event, listen to Destra Garcia’s 2003 hit song, “Carnival”:

Carnival in T&T is so special to all ah we
Like we need blood in we vein
That’s how we feel about Port of Spain
When the posse dem come in town
Beatin’ pan and a bongo drum
Is madness everywhere
Carnival is your true freedom
Make a noise and a joyful sound
and jump up in the air

And this “madness” doesn’t only affect local people, since thousands come from all over the world to experience it. With more and more Carnival bands having a web presence, masqueraders (those who play in the masquerade, or mas bands) based in other countries can get a good look at the different costumes as soon as their favourite bands launch, even booking them online.

But the costumes aren’t the only attraction for those who plan their holidays around Carnival: let’s not forget the music and with it, the calypsonians and soca artistes who make it all worthwhile. With calypsonians’ humorous social commentary, and soca artistes’ blood-pumping bass lines and catchy lyrics, this is the time when artistes such as The Mighty Shadow, Cro Cro, Sugar Aloes, Machel Montano, Patrice Roberts, Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez, Benjai, KMC, and Shurwayne Winchester, to name just a few, release that “joyful sound” that makes Carnival so special.

With Carnival on February 15 and 16 this year, revellers have a month and a half of partying before the main event – though for some, the season started on December 26. Fetes (parties) and competitions take place almost daily, with the week before Carnival Monday and Tuesday full of high-energy chaos. During that week, several prestigious events take place, including Panorama finals, where steelbands showcase their talent with Trinidad and Tobago’s national instrument, and the International Soca Monarch contest, ending with Dimanche Gras on Carnival Sunday, when the titles of King and Queen of Carnival are awarded to the main masqueraders and the most elaborate costumes of a Carnival band.

Then the fun begins early on Carnival Monday. Many people don’t bother to return home from Dimanche Gras, but head straight into the streets of Port of Spain for J’Ouvert, where ole-time Carnival characters come to life, keeping tradition alive. Blue devils smeared with paint, Midnight Robbers, Dame Lorraines and bats all share space with people covered in mud, powder, paint or chocolate until it’s time for pretty mas.

Though different parts of the islands will hold their own Carnival celebration – in places such as San Fernando, Tunapuna and Arima in Trinidad, and Tobago’s capital, Scarborough – the streets of Port of Spain will be taken over, since again, there will be no Savannah stage this year.

It’s hard to imagine where masqueraders get the energy to party from J’Ouvert to Carnival Tuesday, but they do, using Ash Wednesday as a “cool-down” at different beaches around the islands. And even then, the sweet strains of soca can be heard. The only possible conclusion is: it’s the music that gives them life.

Mirissa De Four



Good times in a good cause at UWI Fete

One of the highlights of the hectic days leading up to Trinidad Carnival is UWI Fete, the grand Carnival party held on the grounds of the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.

As regulars will know, in the past two decades the event has acquired its own traditions:  a welcome drink, spacious natural ambiance, non-stop music, fully stocked bars, multiple food choices with exotic international dishes as well as traditional local cuisine, door prizes and secure parking. It’s all-inclusive, which means that all drinks, food and entertainment are included in the price of the ticket. And it’s all in a good cause.

The UWI Fete was launched in 1991, through the initiative of the campus principal at the time, Professor George Maxwell Richards, now President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

It quickly became one of the cornerstones of the UWI Development & Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships at the undergraduate level. In 1992, 15 bursaries were presented through the fund, in the first award ceremony. Over the past 19 years, more than 3,000 bursaries have been awarded to deserving students.

In 2010 the fete is celebrating its 20th anniversary as one of the most popular and talked-about all-inclusive events. It all happens on Sunday, January 17.

For more information, contact Dennis Ramdeen, chairman of the UWI Development and Endowment Fund Fete Committee, at (868) 740-5215/dennis.ramdeen@peppertt.com



Island Hopper

Accompong Maroon Festival
Where: Accompong, St Elizabeth, Jamaica
When: January 6
What: Commemoration of the Maroons’ victory over the British and celebration to honour their hero, Cudjoe, who won the first Maroon War
For more info: (876) 952 4544

Curaçao Carnival
Where: Various places
When: January (TBA) to February 17
What: Centuries-old festival started by immigrants, today a national affair
For more info: www.curacaocarnival.info/eng/index.php

Grenada Sailing Festival
Where: Port Louis Marina
When: January 29 – February 2
What: Parties, competitions, lots of fun
For more info: www.grenadasailingfestival.com

Barbados Music Awards
Where: Sir Garfield Sobers Stadium
When: January 10
What: Awards show honouring Barbados’ best. Nominees include Rihanna and Shontelle
For more info: www.barbadosmusicawards.com

Barbados Jazz Festival
Where: various venues
When: January 11 – 17
What: Festival featuring regional and international acts
For more info: www.barbadosjazzfestival.com

Mas Dominik
Where: Roseau, Dominica
When: February 23 and 24
What: Pre-lenten festival with costumed parades featuring traditional mas
For more info: www.avirtualdominica.com/carnival.cfm



Barbados brings home the bacon

Mirissa De Four

With over 100 registered exhibitors and 55,000-plus visitors expected, Agrofest 2010 promises to be the biggest yet. Organised by the Barbados Agricultural Society and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, it was reintroduced in 2005 and has grown in popularity.

This year it will be held on February 26 – 28 at Queen’s Park, Bridgetown, and will focus on sustainable development with the theme of “Green today…sustain tomorrow”.

The festival grounds are divided into seven areas: an information booth, craft village, horticulture section, children’s playground, food court, live entertainment, and agricultural exhibits, which include farm equipment and agro-processing. There are some popular events: a livestock competition for best Barbados black belly sheep, market pigs and rabbits; a vegetable competition with different categories; and a kitchen garden competition, with officials visiting the sites for judging.

Apart from the exhibits, there is something for everyone: entertainment by various cultural groups on Friday; the best of Crop Over on Saturday; a gymkhana on Sunday, when equestrians and dog handlers show off their skills; and a host of other activities.

The exhibition provides a forum for stakeholders in agriculture and horticulture, both local and foreign, to showcase their products, as well as showing how the agricultural sector affects other aspects of the economy. It also aims to highlight the many job opportunities available to young people, while making visitors aware of the technological advances made over the years.

For more information call the Barbados Agricultural Society at (246) 436-6683

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.