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Be caretakers of a noble Carnival tradition
It’s Carnival Monday and as Bunji Garlin sings, we’re ready for the road. With SuperBlue’s Fantastic Friday bouncing in our memories, Carnival has already welcomed J’Ouvert warriors emerging from the darkness. The Blue Devils have cleared the way for masqueraders decked out in feathers and beads.
Everyone is chipping down the road. Pan sides compete with dj trucks, reminding us of the battle between traditional and maodern elements of the Carnival celebrations. It is a special Carnival because SuperBlue is back stronger than ever conjuring up memories of his 1980s hit, Soca Baptist, and his 1991 anthem for freedom, Get Something and Wave.
When it comes to Carnival, there is always a link to the past. On this day we are all Savages in the musical sense. The history of calypso is alive and well, Bunji Garlin proved, when he made a Carnival offering of one of the first soca songs: Maestro’s Savage. SuperBlue paid tribute to another founding father of soca, Ras Shorty I, in his hit Fantastic Friday.
We are still lucky enough to have Shadow, the third founding father of soca music as a powerful voice in Carnival. Everywhere we turn we can hear the powerful bass lines that Shadow introduced to early soca music. They are bigger and bolder than ever. There’s no doubt about it: This is the day to celebrate the freedom to express ourselves. This is the day when the people own the streets.
There are many people in this world who do not know the freedom we take for granted to celebrate ourselves, our music and our history. There are people who do not know the explosion of colour that makes Carnival an awesome experience. They don’t know what it is to see minstrels and jab jabs, midnight robbers and moko jumbies parading in the streets. There are volatile places in this world where the streets are lonely, frightening places for people walking in fear of bombs exploding.
For us, Carnival is more than an individual experience of freedom. Carnival is designed to bring us together in a celebratory dance of unity. We all marvel at how T&T Carnival makes a melting pot of the world. Tourists from every corner of the globe come here to feel a part of the vibe that defines us. There are those who complain about the emptiness of Carnival music filled with songs of drinking and wining. They note the empty or silly lyrics.
There are people who lament the decline of mas into nothing more than sequined bikinis, but Carnival manages to rise above the mundane and the senseless. It still captures the imagination of the world. It might seem that masqueraders get caught up in the frivolity of Carnival, but they know, deep down, that Carnival represents our creative spirit born in strife and nurtured in freedom. They know that wining was always a form of rebellion.
Ordinary Trinis dancing and prancing and wining in the streets are caretakers of a noble tradition. They are iconoclasts, breaking with the colonial tradition. From the time the first jammette wined her way down the street and the first jab molassies came out of the cane field and into the streets; from the time the first freed slaves carried their flambeaux into the street the message was clear: No one but Trinis and Tobagonians can own this soil or our souls.
Every Carnival the message is clear: We are a free people. Free in our hearts, free in expressions, never defined by slavery or colonialism. The griots and the chantwells and those early calypsonians—including the first official National Calypso Monarch, The Growling Tiger – proved that this country would claim its freedom through its pan music and calypso with its double entendre, designed to poke fun at the colonial masters clueless at just how creative their “subjects” were.
Carnival is everything: a march for our freedom, individual expression and street theatre. It’s a chance to be a character determined to stamp out hurt, frustration and anger.
When Carnival comes all our woes are tossed aside just for a couple of days. There are no worries. This is a day when no one has to think about struggling to keep up with any of the challenges that threaten us during the year. No one has to think about politics, unhappiness or the next pay cheque.
All we have to think about is being ourselves and enjoying ourselves – as long as we are mindful of other people’s feelings and other people’s safety. On Carnival Monday and Tuesday Trinis march towards the future, or at least towards Ash Wednesday.
We are reminded that we are a deeply spiritual people rooted in our faiths. We demonstrate an exemplary degree of religious tolerance and religious respect. Through Carnival we are an example to the world that “all o’ we is one.” That spirit of unity that Carnival provides sustains us through the rest of the year. Have a great Carnival filled with joy and a sense of history. Be safe. Be kind. Be considerate. Be proud. Play yourself.
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