Tuesday, April 8, 2008

WE CARNIVAL - The Greatest Show on Earth!

By Antoinette Ifill

Trinidad’s Carnival is an experience that cannot be encapsulated into words, trying to describe the phenomena to someone does not even come close to the rapture felt over the two days of costumed revelry in the streets. Someone once asked, albeit, for me to tantalize their imagination of what it is really like to “play mas”, the following is my best attempt at a literary description of the greatest show on earth.

Carnival Tuesday as the sun slowly rises in the east, masqueraders journey into Port of Spain to meet their band as today it is an early departure and no one wants to be left wandering the streets looking for a band that has left without you. It is encouraging to see others in costumes, walking the streets as well and the kinship of this love of Carnival fills you with delight. Upon finding the band, this is the moment when you get the first look of everyone in costume, and you cannot help but admire the beauty of diverse faces and ethnicities united by one purpose, under one banner.

The latest soca blasts from music trucks summoning the assemblage to get moving. Finally the band is mobile, thousands of masqueraders with one mission of getting to the first judging point. Spectators have already begun lining the parade route, taking in the spectacle of colour, feathers and beads glittering under the sunlight. Masqueraders dance in the street as the destination looms ahead; the pace slows when navigating the narrow streets with a platoon of trucks that supply the music, drinks and even a cool down zone!

Senses dulled with an intoxicating beverage of choice, adrenaline coursing through the veins, no one cares that it is blisteringly hot. The stage looms ahead, slowly masqueraders get into individual sections, the full impact of the costumes can be seen as hundreds of costumed revelers swaying to the music are illuminated by the sun as it rises in the sky. This is what you have been waiting for, after months of planning and anticipation, at long last the moment is here.

Security links arms, forming a human barrier to keep eager masqueraders from crossing the stage before it is time. Those blessed to be frontline masqueraders grace the stage first in their elaborate costumes, then as the barrier breaks, hundreds of masqueraders descend upon the stage, charging forward with renewed energy. This one instant is when any worry, stress or misery is cast off on the streets, replaced by a feeling of total liberation, bliss and enjoyment.

The exhilaration of music and others sharing this feeling with you, releases a spirit of uncontrollable desertion loosing the last bit of self-control as bacchanalia takes a hold of you. Too soon the revelry is over; as masqueraders are gently ushered off stage you come back down to earth, spent and breathless. However, you must press on as the day is far from over. The dancing in the streets goes on for hours, seemingly driven by the infectious music, which causes even the weariest masquerader to summon that last bit of energy to move their hips as their feet keep moving.

As the suns sets on Tuesday, the day comes to a close. The crowd thins as exhausted masqueraders bow out, leaving behind the die-hard Carnival worshipers still going long after it gets dark. Soon it is time to say goodbye to another Carnival. Leaving the band exhausted and drained from the heat and exertion of the day. Every muscle in the body aches, yet you smile wondering how many days are left until you can do it all over again!

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