When we first started thinking about going to Carnival in Trinidad, I seriously considered joining one of the big masquerade bands. Even contemplated squeezing my middle-aged white bum into one of those sequinced and feathery bikini costumes. But then I did a little bit of research and learned that it costs around $1,000 usd to join a band. More if you want feathers. Yikes! So instead, we joined a few friends and bought tickets at a restaurant on “The Avenue” where we could watch the parades from comfort and it was perfect!
As opposed to the “Dutty Mas” of J’ouvert, Tuesday’s parades are “Pretty Mas or Bikini Mas” Folks choose a band to join and choose the simple “Backline” costume or more elaborate “Frontline” costume. It’s called “Playing Mas” (short for masquerade) In addition to the standard costume, many women buy colorful sneakers or boots, and wear elaborate sparkly makeup. Add a backpack of feathers and maybe a headpiece and it makes for a colorful joyous spectacle.
If you’re gonna play mas in Trinidad, you’d better have some stamina! Bands “chip” and “wine” their way through downtown Port of Spain all day long, dancing and bouncing to soca. The parades are fueled by local rum and local delicacies such as doubles and shark and bakes. I’m not sure how they manage to keep up the energy in the hot tropical sun!
Some bands avoid bikini mas, and instead wear elaborate costumes that tell a story or depict some of the history of Carnival. The larger, grander costumes are feats of engineering and take the entire year to design and create. It’s really pretty amazing to be there in person to see them “on da road”.
By the afternoon, some partyers get tired of their heavy costumes and leave them behind. Our gain! We had a lot of fun trying on the castoffs!
There’s a competition for the Road March – the most popular and most frequently played soca song in the parades. Our favorite “Come Home to Me” came in third place. We were robbed!