Happenings – January/February 2012

A round-up of current and coming events on the Caribbean calendar

  • Workboat Regatta. Photograph by Steve Brett
  • The ubiquitous bikini and beads bacchanal. Photograph by Edison Boodoosingh
  • Stickfighting in Arima. Photograph by Abigail Hadeed
  • A line of Dame Lorraine old-time characters. Photograph by Sean Drakes
  • Chutney Soca. Photograph courtesy www.southex.co.tt
  • Barbados marks its British beginnings. Photograph courtesy Barbados Tourism Authority
  • Round and round with Mount Gay Rum. Photograph by Peter Marshall
  • Montserrat – back without a bang. Photograph courtesy Montserrat Volcano Observatory
  • Guyana marks Mashramani. Photograph courtesy the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Guyana
  • Jab molassie blowing fire. Photograph by Abigail Hadeed

T&T Carnival 101

Where did it come from? What happens when? Mirissa De Four offers a beginner’s guide

Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival has emerged from a rich and varied history that began in the late eighteenth century, with an influx of French planters, freed coloureds and Africans. The planters also brought with them their cultural traditions, including the practice of holding masquerades in the months leading up to Lent.

The early Carnival celebrations were dominated by the white elite, since Africans and coloured people were forbidden by law to take part in street festivities. This all changed when the slaves were emancipated in the 1830s, as they could now openly take part in the revelry, and so took the opportunity to mock their former colonial masters.

It’s from these beginnings that steelband, calypso, and stickfighting – important aspects of the Carnival tradition – were born, while the other remnants of Carnival’s beginnings are seen in the aptly named ole mas (masquerade) which comes alive during J’Ouvert, the pre-dawn hours of Carnival Monday. That’s when onlookers in downtown Port of Spain can see the traditional characters, the Dame Lorraines, Jab Jabs, minstrels, Jab Molassies, bats, Midnight Robbers and blue devils. Other old-time aspects of the mas are still part of the mainstream, so you’ll find mas bands that portray fancy Indians and sailors on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

In Trinidad & Tobago, the Carnival season unofficially begins on December 26. It picks up speed from January, especially when it’s a short season (the date of Carnival varies each year).

With Carnival 2012 scheduled to take place on February 20 and 21 this year, mas bands started launching their collections of costumes last July, with some bands selling out sections within days. Others were still launching their sections in October and early November. But latecomers can still hope to snag a costume on Carnival Sunday, as there are always last-minute cancellations.

Carnival isn’t just about the mas on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. In the lead-up to those two days of revelry, there are various music competitions, fetes (parties), kaiso (calypso) tents, Steelband Panorama semi-finals and finals, Dimanche Gras and J’Ouvert.


Carnival calendar

January:           Panorama prelims and semi-finals throughout the country
February 9:       Kings & Queens preliminaries Queen’s Park Savannah
February 11:     Calypso Fiesta Skinner Park, San Fernando
February 11:     Red Cross Kiddies Carnival Queen’s Park Savannah
February 13:     Junior Calypso Monarch Finals Queen’s Park Savannah
February 17:     Re-enactment of the Camboulay Riots Piccadilly Greens, Port of Spain
February 17:     International Soca Monarch contest
February 18:     Panorama Finals Queen’s Park Savannah
February 19:     Dimanche Gras: Calypso Monarch and King and Queen finals Queen’s Park Savannah

For up-to-date information on Carnival events, mas bands and music, visit: Trinidad Carnival Diary www.trinidadcarnivaldiary.com • Carnival Jumbie carnivaljumbie.blogspot.com


For the fete set

Jan 8      Soka in Moka  Trinity College, Maraval

Jan 14    Island People Yeah  O2 Park, Chaguaramas
Outta De Blue  QRC, St Clair

Jan 20    St Francois Girls’ College All-inclusive  Port of Spain

Jan 21    Bishop Anstey All-inclusive  Port of Spain
Fire Fete  The Paddock, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain

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Jan 22    Zangalewa…it’s Time for Africa: UWI All-Inclusive St Augustine
Bel Air All-inclusive  Boujoix, La Romaine

Jan 27    Ladies First  Pier 1, Chaguaramas

Jan 28    Fete with the Saints  Pembroke Street, Port of Spain
Blue Flame All-inclusive  Blue Range Courts

Jan 29    Boujoix: the Air Experience  Bel Air Recreation Grounds

Feb 4     Central Bank All-inclusive  Independence Square, Port of Spain
Côté Ci, Côté La: Republic Bank All-inclusive Republic Bank Sports Grounds, Barataria

Feb 5     Karambouly Kreations: Ah Favour T&T  Twin Walls Compound, La Romaine

Feb 10    Army Fete  Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain
Misty Ridge All-inclusive  Hadeed Ranch

Feb 11    Kama Sutra  Country Club, Maraval
Campus Carnival  St Augustine
AS Bryden All-inclusive  Centre of Excellence, Macoya
Yorke Carnival Fete Mendez Drive

Feb 12    Friends to the Max All-inclusive  Queen’s Park Oval

Feb 13    PNM Fete  Tranquillity Street, Port of Spain

Feb 14    Zante  Chaguaramas

Feb 15    Ready Yuhself – Lime 2012  Hyatt Regency Hotel, Wrightson Road

Feb 16    Escape to the Sanctuary  Salybia

Feb 17    Privilege Rise All-inclusive  Moka, Maraval
Blue Range Cooler Fete  Diego Martin

Feb 18    Trini Posse Fete  Bowen Marine Hangar, Chaguaramas
Insomnia  Mobs2
Dawn, Sunrise in the City  Jenny’s Carpark, Cipriani Boulevard

Feb 19    Sunny Side Up Breakfast Party  Palm Avenue West, Petit Valley
Brian Lara All-inclusive  Chancellor Hill, Queen’s Park
Harvard Club All-inclusive  St James
Mania 2012  Country Club, Maraval
Shades Breakfast Party  Hadeed Ranch
Dancing in the Sanctuary All-inclusive  Windsor Road, Valsayn
Cotton Tree Foundation All-inclusive  Spanish Acres

David Wears

Chutney Soca spices up T&T Carnival

On Carnival Monday and Tuesday and at all the fetes (parties), whether all-inclusive (where food and drink is included in the ticket price) or not, music is what keeps Trinidadians and Tobagonians moving, in the blazing hot sun or till the wee hours of the morning. Music is such an integral aspect of Carnival that there are numerous competitions – Power Soca Monarch, Groovy Soca Monarch, Calypso Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch – all in search of the best artiste of the different genres.

Chutney soca is a fusion of soca (which itself has roots in calypso) and a combination of Hindi and English lyrics. The National Chutney Soca Monarch finals, organised by Southex Events Management Company, are scheduled for February 11 in the Queen’s Park Savannah. This year, the competition is being rebranded, with new two rules being introduced: only songs with original melodies and lyrics will be allowed to compete, and songs will be screened for positive lyrics.

For more information, visit www.southex.co.tt or call (868) 653 8923

Mirissa De Four

Barbados marks its British beginnings

Holetown in Barbados lays claim to a series of firsts, and it was certainly one of the first settled towns in the English-speaking Caribbean. English settlers landed in Barbados in February 1627. In 1977 Alfred Pragnell, together with members of Trents Northern Youth Group, decided to celebrate this event, giving birth to the Holetown Festival.

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The festival is usually held between February 17 and 20, to coincide with that first landing. The free week-long event includes concerts, parades and a street market where vendors offer a range of Barbadian arts and crafts, along with local cuisine. The festival is well attended by Barbadians and foreigners alike, with some visitors planning their entire visit around the eight-day event.

For more information: www.visitbarbados.org


Round and round with Mount Gay Rum

Alene Krimholtz, membership secretary of the Barbados Cruising Club, organisers of the race, says the Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race is one of the oldest Caribbean regattas. “It was first held in 1936 as a race between trading schooners competing for ‘bragging rights’ for being the fastest.”

But the consolation prize, a barrel of Mount Gay Rum, had to be discontinued after boats began competing for it – prolonging the race for days.

Today the race is held annually on January 21, a public holiday that honours the first Prime Minister of Barbados, Errol Barrow.

This year, the programme includes an optional warm-up race two days before the main Round Barbados race, extending the full programme to five days for the first time.
It isn’t just about the racing: there is the ceremonial skippers’ weigh-in (“Record-breaking yachts have the chance to win the skipper’s weight in Mount Gay Rum Extra Old,” explains Krimholz), and a Mount Gay Rum tour, as well as lots of parties.

For more information: www.mountgayrumroundbarbadosrace.com

Mirissa De Four

Montserrat – back without a bang

Montserrat’s Soufrière volcano lay dormant for centuries, but in 1995 that changed dramatically.

For three years there had been earthquake activity—but then came phreatic explosions of steam and ash, and, in August 1995, an ash cloud blanketed the island’s capital, Plymouth, in darkness. Southern Montserrat had to be evacuated, and the following year, Plymouth was abandoned. It now lies buried under layers of volcanic debris deposited by pyroclastic activity and mudflows – each time it rains in “the Emerald Isle”, a little more of the former capital disappears forever.

In 1997, pyroclastic flows swept down the northeastern flanks of the volcano, and the airport was lost. By that time, more than half of Montserrat’s inhabitants had been moved away after their homes and businesses were destroyed. Since then, an exclusion zone around the volcano has been put in place. It covers the southeast sector of the island and extends four miles offshore.

Montserrat’s tourist industry, however, is undergoing a revival. As well as beaches, dive sites, and hiking in lush green hills, the island now has a very unusual attraction – views of an active volcano, from safe vantage points. The Soufrière volcano has become the island’s biggest draw.

You can see it from the Volcano Observatory in Flemming, the Garibaldi Hill, Jack Boy Hill, or book a boat tour. Volcano tours are offered by members of the Montserrat Tour & Taxi Association, and can be booked through one of Montserrat’s tour operators based in Antigua and Montserrat or directly upon arrival with one of the taxi members at your port of entry.

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For more  information: www.visitmontserrat.com or www.mvo.ms



Guyana marks Mashramani

Mashramani is an Amerindian word for a celebration held to mark the successful completion of a collective endeavour.  It’s also the name of the festival with which Guyana celebrates the anniversary of becoming a republic in 1970.

In the tradition of the great Caribbean and South American carnivals, the Mashramani festival in February includes costume and float parades, pan and calypso competitions, as well as embracing and promoting chutney music, traditional folk ceremonies, and children’s cultural presentations.

There are also more cerebral activities: republic anniversary debates, literary exhibitions, school essay-writing contests and lectures presented by the University of Guyana. February 23, Guyana’s Republic Day, also commemorates the 1763 Berbice Slave Rebellion, one of the most significant of the eighteenth century. Hence the reflections, analyses and discussions.

The other Mashramani events throughout Guyana’s ten administrative and geographical regions, however, are carnival-type occasions, with the added attraction that many of them are staged in interior mining towns, rainforest locations and riverain communities.

This year, emphasis will be placed on educational awareness, through workshops and public discussions, of culture and its importance to national development, and the achievements and the significance of Guyana’s republican  status.

“MASH” 2012, whose theme is “We Mashin’ with Pride; Keeping We Tradition Alive”, will showcase Guyana’s unique diversity.

For more information: e-mail mashsecretariat@gmail.com or visit www.mcys.gov.gy


Calendar of Events

Junior Calypso Competition January 28
Folk Concert February 1
Mashramani Exhibition February 3 – 29
Calypso Finals February 17
Children’s Parade February 18
Chutney Finals February 18
Steelband Competition February 19
Republic Anniversary Flag-Raising Ceremony February 23, early morning, immediately followed by the Costume and Float Parade


Island Hopper

Bermuda Regional Bridge Tournament
When: January 21 – 27
Where: The Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda
What: A chance to win some rubbers, while also enjoying a black-tie charity game, a gala banquet and dance, and lectures from experts
For more information: e-mail info@bermudaregional.com

9th Bequia Mount Gay Music Festival
When: January 26 – 29
Where: Bequia
What: The festival includes the Mustique Blues Festival for one night only – January 27
For more information: contact Bequia Tourism Association at
(784) 458 3286 or e-mail bequiatourism@vincysurf.com

Workboat Regatta
When: February 3 – 5
Where: Grenada
What: The second half of the Grenada Sailing Festival, where wooden boats with bamboo rigging race off Grand Anse Beach
For more information: visit www.grenadasailingfestival.com

Panache Jamaica Beauty Conference & Expo 2012
When: February 12
Where: Kingston
What: All things beauty-related will be on display – cosmetics, fragrances and products for hair, skin and nail care
For more information: visit www.jamaicabeautyexpo.com

Tobago Carnival Regatta
When: February 24 – 26
Where: Pigeon Point Heritage Park, Tobago
What: Kite boarders and windsurfers are among participants in this “festival of wind”
For more information: visit www.tobagocarnivalregatta.com

Third Around St Maarten – St Martin Multihull Regatta
When: February 25
Where: St Maarten/St Martin
What: Multihulls and beach cats sail around the island
For more information: call +599580 8111 or
e-mail info@multihullregatta.com