Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Carnival Trinidad - Pretty Mas

Pic by Kurt

Tuesday, February 9th 2016
We got up at 5am so we could be on Jesse Jame's 6am maxi taxi into Port of Spain.  This would assure we beat the traffic and hopefully allow us to get seats in some stands next to the judging booth on Ariapita Avenue. 
Love the stands - seating and shade - me and some other cruisers

It worked.  We scored seats along the parade route under a shaded tent with food, drink and toilets close by.  Woo hoo!  Being next to this judging stand meant we got to see the groups perform for the judges - those groups that do perform, not all of them do.  Plus we got to hear the parade announcers and such.   
Sarah, Tom and me

Today was the Pretty Mas Parade.  If you will remember back to the carnival definitions I gave you ....Pretty Mas is – Today’s dominant form of masquerading emphasizing beautiful costumes with elaborate decorations. Many pretty mas costumes are now decorated bikini style garments.

Typical speaker truck - Big Truck

Big truck up close
The parade route we were watching would have 72 total "bands" passing by.  Mini, small, medium and large bands but 72!  AND....this was only one of I think four judging stands.  I believe different bands had different routes as we didn't even see one of the most popular bands, The Hart Band.  But I am not really sure to be honest.  All I know is we saw a bunch of mas bands.

BIG generator running the speaker truck

Again, the definition of a Band is - A group of Carnival masqueraders with costumes designed on a related theme. A band can have 4,000-7,000 people divided into 25 or more sections, each with it’s own theme and several music trucks. Each band has a huge King and Queen costume. Carnival Tuesday will see about 20 large bands go across the Savannah stage and parade in the streets in competition.

Beverage truck or bar truck
Spoiler alert - Ronnie and Caro Mas Band won the large competition.  I read it online the next day!  See the pic above.
Another example of a bar truck
The large mas bands we saw had as many as four Big Trucks (speaker trucks), multiple beverage and food trucks, a truck to hold their feathers when they need to take them off and a Tinkle Truck for.....well exactly that.....and thus the feather truck to hold your feathers while you visit the Tinkle Truck.

Food truck - see the parade rope and the line handlers in red
The large bands had ropes stretched on each side of their mas band with line handlers as they walked along "De Road".  This basically encloses the group (loosely) and keeps them separated from the mass of people watching and walking along De Road.  The mas band members all had wrist bands identifying them to that group.....because one jewel encrusted, bikini clad, feathered up masquerader pretty much looks like the next mas band masquerader!  HA!  Not really....but sort of.... with these large mas bands they have many sections and thus many costumes so it can be a bit confusing.  Plus other masqueraders or even the crowd watching can and do "jump up" with the mas band.  The wrist bands simply allow the mas players easy access to the food, beverage and tinkle trucks for their group. 

Feather truck - no really
The parade was fun to watch.  The themes interesting and costumes spectacular.  However, the logistics of it all were what was most impressive.  The large mas band YUMA had 12 trucks in total!  It reminded us of the efficiency of the National Panorama Finals we saw on Saturday night.  I told Jesse James "Seeing your carnival up close and the logistics with which events involving massive numbers of people are carried out, I would never underestimate the nation of Trinidad and Tobago."   

Tinkle truck or um.... pic says it all
The flow of the parade was good as well.  I am not sure if that is because we were near a judging stand.  Maybe.  But the past two years we have experienced carnival on two different Caribbean island and the flow was much slower with huge gaps between groups.  Not in Trinidad.  The big trucks kept moving for the most part.  Even the tinkle trucks kept moving.  Mas players had to time their step up onto the stairs of the tinkle truck as it crept along de road.  *Can you tell I like saying "tinkle truck"?  Actually, I think it's brilliant that they have tinkle trucks.     

The one was called Wee -Wee Truck vs Tinkle Truck
This mas bank even has their own ambulance
This was truly Trinidad AND Tobago's carnival.  There were pan orchestra groups competing in the finals from Tobago and there were pretty mas bands from there as well.  FYI - Tobago is an island about 20 miles of the NE tip of Trinidad.

The 2016 Road March was "Waiting on the stage" by Machel Montano.  It's a great Soca tune.  Good thing too, as we heard it no less than 100+ times today.  I know that sounds like it would be very monotonous but it's actually a good thing.  Think about it, what if every big truck was blasting a different SOCA tunes?  That would be horrible.  This way there was continuity within the medium and large mas bands. And there wasn't conflicting music as bands transitioned along in front of us.  You saw the pics of the big trucks, right?  With that many speakers you not only heard the music but you feel it in your chest.  Trinis like their music loud.  Actually, all Caribbean people like their music loud.  And age doesn't matter.  We have seen many, many an older Trini chippin to the latest SOCA tune while singing every word out loud.

Terry checks out the costume
With so many big trucks blasting the road march, the mas players chipped their way along de road occasionally wining and jumping around in mass as their DJ demanded - HUGE energy.  I suspect that is one of the judging criteria.  If you listened to / watched the road march video above you can understand the energy that goes with that tune and what we witnessed out on de road.

Front line type costume
The previous week, we went to one of the mas camp headquarters.  It gave us a chance to see the theme for the band and the various costumes. 
Front line type costume

Two years ago I had a swimsuit custom made by Debbie here in Trinidad.  She also makes the base swimsuits for one mas band.  She told me she would end up making and fitting close to 5000 swimsuits!  5000!!!  OMG!  She only makes the base suit and then the mas camp adds the beads, sequins, feathers and all.  And before you ask..... my custom made swimsuit was NOT a carnival style suit!
Sarah with one of the costumes
While these costumes may be small, they are NOT cheap.  Front line female costumes aka those with the most feathers - can run $4000 - $8000 TT = $666 to $1,300 US!  And next year there is a different theme so no reusing this year's costume.  *And what does one do with your old Pretty Mas costume?  Is it like all the bridesmaid dresses us girls end up with in the back of our closets?  Of course we all know how many times we wore those again!!  NEVER, even though the bride insists "You will be able to totally wear it out for different occasions."  HA!  Fat chance.
Sarah with a headdress on

Although.....I suspect a few of my friends who dig sparkles (no names, right Adventure Sarah?) would probably wear their Pretty Mass costume again!
This mas band had a section that was a casino theme

Anyway, it was kewl to see the mas camp HQ in person.  We learned that most of the feathers are pheasant and they come from China.  Big surprise - not!  But they do have to be quarantined for a rather lengthy time period before the mas camps can take delivery.  Given the huge volume of feathers used in carnival, I would imagine there is a massive warehouse somewhere in Trinidad that is always chuck full of quarantined feathers.  

Masquerader with her stomach painted up
A few of the masqueraders had well done body paint as part of their costumes.  Not like kids face painting at a street fair but air brushed, Sports Illustrated Swim Suit issue type body paint.  

Masquerader and Sarah - check out his body paint

WOW - so many feathers
Previously I could never figure out why nearly every shoe store in Trinidad carried ankle and calf length boots.  Boots in sunny, warm/hot Trinidad......why?  Don't get me wrong, they were usually super cute in bright suede colors but still boots in a tropical climate?  However now I get it.  They are carnival boots!  Many of the masqueraders had these boots on as part of their costumes and for comfort.  Twelve + hours of chippin on de road is brutal on any body regardless of age and shape. 

Check out these UGGS and don't miss her bling bling drinking cup
Those of you trying to do 10,000 steps a day (it's a American health thing for you non-American readers) come to carnival and do all the various celebrations.  Chippin the days away will quickly get you to your cumulative goal.  FYI - a good friend says chippin often counts as double steps toward your 10,000 steps goal so try chippin as you do your house chores.

Pic by Kurt - King type custom

Pic by Kurt

Pic by Kurt

There were a few traditional steel pan orchestras mas bands sprinkled among the big truck mas bands.

Not sure if she was a mas player or just wearing last years costume
After a full day watching the parade, we departed at 5pm.  However the parade continued on, wrapping up after 8pm!

Kurt and friends with Tom
Pretty Mas was nothing short of amazing. 

No comments:

Post a Comment