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Carnival   Brazil Carnival Packages   Carnival in Trinidad   Trinidad and Tobago   Dates

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“You can’t describe Carnival. You have to experience it first hand to really understand and grasp what it’s really all about”.

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Playing Mas in Trinidad Carnival is a unique mix of music, artistry, colour, impulse, high-energy, sexuality, saturnalia and more, so much more. So, as the year’s festival comes to a climax over the two days before Ash Wednesday, Trinis  and tourists alike play mas and  have a whale of a time

The Mas tradition started in the late 18th century with French plantation owners from Martinique organizing masquerades (mas) and balls before enduring the fasting of Lent. Slaves copied and lampooned their masters, and once set free from forced labor. Carnival had arrived with the French, indentured laborers and the slaves, who could not take part in Carnival, formed their own, parallel celebration called Canboulay. Canboulay was the precursor to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and had played an important role in the development of the music of Trinidad and Tobago. The festival is also where calypso music through chantwells had taken its roots.

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But beyond the music, what Trinidad exports is the ritual of the mask, which comes to us from cultures as disparate as Greece and West Africa, in which a mask may represent an ancestor, the underworld, or the spirit of an animal or plant.

The Swedes are doing it, the Irish are doing it, the Swiss are doing it, the Finns are doing it; dark northern English cities like Leeds and Manchester, North American cities like Westchester and Galveston, are doing it. Winnipeg started a Carnival only six years ago that now involves 300,000 people. And the people who inspire and run these events are expatriate Trinidadians, Minshall’s possessed with a deep-rooted idea in their blood.

From the beginning, Minshall has claimed he is not merely making costumes. “I provide the means for the human body to express its energy,” he says. “Mas is a vehicle for the expression of human energy.” And “mas”, he insists, is the only name for the art he practices — a unique art form that could not have evolved anywhere but Trinidad, a hybrid art form that combines the visual with the per- formative. This “living art that we make fresh every year”, Minshall argues, is the highest and deepest artistic expression of Trinidad. “Flesh and blood powers the mas . . . The energy passes from performer to spectator like an electrical charge . . . a moment that cannot, will not last — it passes quickly, leaving the mind singed . . . Our aesthetic is performance, the living now.”

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If you want to get decked out and parade in the streets with thousands of other sequined and feathered Carnival-goers, you want to “play mas” on Fat Tuesday. Purchase an outfit (now yours to keep) and you’re in the band, set to hit the streets for hours with similarly costumed locals and tourists of all ages, shapes and sizes. The crowning moment is crossing the Queen’s Park Savannah grand stage, but you’ll also pass judging points elsewhere during the day. Setting out at 7 am and parading past nightfall, with the energy never diminishing.


Anyone can join the phalanxes of merrymakers who will cross the Savannah stage on Fat Tuesday, with flags waving and feathers flying. Remembering that pure joy of a final bacchanalian moment when thousands strut their stuff on national TV, working it before the judges and hoping to be declared the Masquerade Band of Year.

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Heritage Carnival

Heritage Carnival

Months of  preparation and effort, anticipation and  excitement erupt into “pretty  mas” as tens of thousands of revellers  clad in spandex, colourful  cotton, beads, sequins, feathers, and every  other conceivable material  take over the streets of Port of Spain in competition for the Band of the Year title. With   weeks of partying behind them, many masqueraders by now are running on   pure elation, sustained by the music and the desire to make it to the   big moment when their band crosses the big stage at the Queen’s Park Savannah. For a while the stage will be theirs; for a while they know they’re the centre of the world.

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KarinaMartinezCarter@KMartinezCarter                            21 Feb

Here’s what “playing mas” at #TrinidadCarnival entails. My band’s vid:  (kinda NSFW)  cc @PaparazziMas @UncommonCarib

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