The Christmas season had barely passed and even before the decorations had been properly stored or thrown away, this country of fete and more fete, switched overnight into Carnival mode.
But is this really so? For months now the band launches have taken place and it would seem that each bandleader, using almost naked models parading as masqueraders, was vying to see who could provide the most skimpy costumes.
Our Carnival, which for decades was regarded as the "Greatest show on earth" now seems to be competing with Rio de Janeiro for the title of the "Nakedest show on earth" and our women, transcending all ages, lap up the opportunity to "play themselves" under the guise of "playing mas".
In the same way that the focus during the Christmas season is on food and drink, the intensity of focus in the run-up and during the Carnival celebrations is a cocktail of depravity, banality and alcohol. The traditional observance of Carnival, strategically placed immediately before the onset of the Lenten season, was a last worldly fling before the rigours of the 40 or so penitential days.
In Trinidad and Tobago the fete never stops, we just move seamlessly from one fete season to the other from year to year. Whenever people criticise the continuous Carnival behaviour, there are the defenders of the mindset who claim that the new trend, well not so new anymore, is brought on by the increased stress under which we now live.
They justify this defence by parlaying that there has to be a time to "free up" and Carnival is seen as the period of choice. Now, everyone knows that is stretching the truth quite a bit. All of us know that in this beloved land, Trinidadians and Tobagonians have established themselves as a happy people.
Didn't we just receive an international accolade as "the fifth happiest nation in the world"? Our people also are always prepared to push the envelope to see what will happen. And that is why our Carnival street parade is aided and abetted by the scantily clad women who dominate the pre-Carnival party scene and set the tone as to what spectators could expect come Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
There seems to be no stopping the bikini-bra-beads show, which has taken over the Carnival in the same way the steelband has been squeezed out of road presentations by the deejays and music bands, and in the same way that what passes for soca is gradually gaining ground in emasculating the traditional calypso genre.
Bandleaders insist they only offer what the masqueraders want–and that is beads and bikinis and a few even going to the extreme using body paint as a replacement for bras. Oh! For the days of Harold Saldenha, George Bailey and Cito Velasquez– costumes in all their glory.
But there is hope yet, Word & Associates, instantly baptised the Catholic Band, for the third year running is putting out a band profiling costumes that are made of plenty of material, complete with intricately designed headpieces and actually covering the body.
Although their first presentation in 2011 was lacking in numbers, the band was able to capture a few prizes and most of all respect. Last year things were better as they won more prizes and this year with their presentation of Leviticus, the band is expected to be bigger and better, moreso since its costumes prices do not exceed $2,000. And they expect to win more prizes.
It is the hope that the efforts to bring back clothes into Carnival costuming would encourage seasoned masqueraders and wannabe masqueraders to imitate the presentations of Word & Associates.
�2 Vernon Khelawan is the media relations officer of Catholic Media Services Ltd (Camsel), the official communications arm of the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain. Offices are at 31 Independence Square. Telephone: 623-7620.