I can’t believe it’s been 6 years since my last Trinidad Carnival. Carnival 2K6 was amazing! Shurwayne Winchester won Soca Monarch for “Can’t Wait” and “Don’t Stop” and “Band of the Year” by Patrice Roberts and Machel Montano was Road March. Fetes were t-shirt and sneaker events and j’ouvert started at 2 a.m. Ahh, those were the good ole days.
So, this year I felt like Nadia Batson: It was time to make up for what I lost.
This year, my intention was to go to only 3 fetes: Licensing, WASA, and Soca Monarch Finals. Well, I found myself in 7 fetes instead: Inferno, Licensing, WASA, Army, RAMA, Machel Monday, and Soca Monarch Finals. Throughout the week, I also stumbled into pan yards, Woodford Square for lunchtime shows, and into Independence Square. What happened to my plan?
It’s not my fault. There was such a buzz in Trinidad around the music, the artists, the controversies, and the - as Trinis love to say - bacchanal.
From the moment I landed, Carnival was in the air. I made my obligatory stop at duty free to get my “Bottle of Rum” then headed to the house in Chaguanas, where I would be staying for the next 6 weeks. The first song I heard in the car was “Born Ready” by Bunji Garlin. “Foreigners fly down to party ‘til they lie down, to sweat buckets of water then heat it ‘til it dry down. People leave from south side to come and party quite town – to hit Savannah nine rounds!” That was me! Ready to party.
The next day, we headed into town to “lime on de corner” with some friends and get into “Trouble.” It was as though a director stood in the middle of Independence Square and said “Action!” The city was alive and busy. Food vendors sold pies, doubles, and box dinners until morning hours. People hung around Woodford and Independence Squares liming all night. Oh my! And the women paraded through the streets in tights, shorts, and fishnets, ignoring the hissing of the men mesmerized by thighs and behinds exposed. It really was like a movie and sound hustlers with their speaker-carts were available any time of day to sell you the soundtrack. I really did tell myself that “I will behave this year,” but after hearing all of the music and feeling the buzz in the streets, I had to “Surrender.”
The fetes were amazing and so full of energy that I had to keep the momentum going. After working on Friday, I put my “Stress Away” and headed to Pier II for Inferno fete. The next night, I went to Licensing and watched Fay-Ann Lyons and Bunji Garlin “mash up everything.” Throughout the following week, I could have sworn that I heard “WASA fete calling” and I had to answer. I had heard that Army Fete was the safest fete in Trinidad, but it was not until I saw a group of soldiers dragging out a man who deigned to start a scuffle that I believed it.
When I heard that RAMA would be the only fete where I could see Maximus Dan “Destroy Everything,” I had to get a ticket. It was my first time seeing Nadia Batson and all of SASS perform and I danced until I was in pain. “Nadie, how you goh do me dat?” I love it that RAMA party-goers got to vote for the night’s best performance (congratulations Kes the Band!)
I never go out to a party on Monday night in New York, but so many people were talking about Machel Monday at the Stadium that I knew I had to go. I’m glad I did. That was the best way to start the week and Soca Monarch finals was the best way to end it.
Somehow on j’ouvert morning I went from Independence Square to Woodbrook to the Savannah and I found myself “inna band” on Carnival Tuesday. Man, did I have a time!
This is carnival. It is the music, the people, the energy that pulsates throughout Port of Spain at this time of year. This is what draws in foreigners and keeps us coming back every year. I doubt Trinis can really understand what they have, since it is so commonplace to them. For those of us battling it out in concrete jungles and constantly trying to find a stress-release, there is nothing like Carnival in Trinidad.