J’ouvert is the time when the spirits of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival are turned loose. It dates back to the period when the folk characters, the Lagahoo, La Diablesse and Socouyant roamed the streets, and when the ancestors played devil mas in an attempt to remember their condition under slavery, and to never again allow themselves to be so humiliated and denied of their humanity.
This form of the street masquerade, with which we begin the street celebrations today, emerged after the Canboulay was banned in the 1880s by the colonial powers. Thankfully, it has been ritualistically re-created in our times on the “fore-day” morning of Carnival Friday. So too has the J’ouvert continued to allow that capacity and freedom for ridicule to continue, and to throw blows on the society and its leaders in the absurdity of costume, mimicry and lampoon.
Without doubt, the society benefits from the freedom of expression of Carnival, particularly in the J’ouvert celebrations, when the metaphorical bull-pistle is delivered on the rulers and leading institutions. This freedom of the Carnival, this release valve of the society, performs the function of depressurising the steam built-up over the preceding period, and is said to be necessary to prevent wholescale explosion.
The J’ouvert is also the time, 24 hours after the Panorama results are released, and it has come to be understood that other form of blows are lashed on the backs of decision-makers of the Carnival. More than 30 years ago, calypsonian Maestro expressed the view of many, that after the competition is done and results released, the chorus of the masses will be raised: “They tief, tief, we want to see the scoresheet.”
In effect, whichever band is declared winner, whoever the calypsonian made monarch, the outcry by the masses is really against, in a general kind of way, the established decision-makers who many believe do not possess the wisdom of the masses in this “carnivalian” society.
Nonetheless, Guardian Media expresses congratulations to all of the 11 finalists of the National Panorama, and to each one of the steelbandsmen/women, the numbers of the latter steadily increasing. Indeed, we do not leave out the 112 other bands, large, medium, and small, and the thousands of individual players who every year continue to make magic on the steelpans.
Special congrats to Renegades and All Stars, two of the oldest and most heralded of steelbands, which a few decades ago put aside their weapons of conflict and focused their talents and faiths in their created instrument. In the same breadth, congrats to Exodus, from the East, miles away from the steaming cauldron of the East Dry River in which the steelband was forged; and there is no denying too that steelbands also came out in the early period from the west of the city, and the south of the country.
As important as the reflection on the history and contemporary is to allow the masquerade to have value for the country, is the expectation that the T&T Police Service will preserve our inheritance by preventing the criminally-minded from disrupting Carnival 2024.
The entire country, outside of the criminal elements, must assist the police, where possible, to perform their functions.