Updated: Mar 11, 2019
July has begun. Half the year has gone and for some, it’s the start of their summer holidays. But for the Karnival enthusiast out there, July can only mean one thing: Band Launch Season for Trinidad Carnival!
As quickly as carnival comes and goes early in the year and as hard as the Tabanca hits us for months after, this season always fast approaches, giving us the anxiety and hype for the new carnival season to dawn upon us in just about another half of the year.
With some of the big bands like Harts, Tribe, Lost Tribe and Bliss, Fantasy and Entice, and Ronnie and Caro carded to launch in July, and Yuma in August, teasers and band theme have already been dropped, giving the masqueraders something to ponder upon as to how the costumes may be designed and what are their options for galavanting the streets.
But with so many bands for Trinidad carnival to choose from, (I mean after all, this is the Mecca of the West India styled carnivals) ranging from the actual size and number of persons in the band, more traditional mas to 'pretty mas', all inclusive to non-all inclusive, what are some of the elements do you consider in choosing a band and costume?
For some it may just the thrill of saying that they're apart of some of the more popular bands, others being in a frontline or individual costume to get the cameras on you. There are those whose choices may be based on family or friend traditions of playing in a particular band for years. And of course there are those who definitely don't make it a point of duty to stick to a particular band year after year but may pick their favourite costume from all the options they have seen, and just want to have a good time.
Regardless of all these factors, these are some key aspects which any veteran or virgin masquerader will have to consider in determining their choice.
The most important thing that must be factored in when choosing a band. Not everyone is seeking the same type of service whether it be a non stop flow of alcoholic drinks, or pampered treatment at a rest stop, but everyone does want to benefit in some way beyond just simply being provided with a costume. While the management of any carnival band and the execution of the road march is no easy task, at times not every single thing may play out as we want it, but knowing whether the band serves a certain cuisine at lunch, desserts, has mobile toilets which are cleaned frequently, offers you sneakers for the road and oh yeah, actually serves lunch around lunch time, are things to think about before we know who to jump with.
Now while the cost we pay to partake in band goes beyond simply the actual value of the costume, and we are paying for the overall experience, the actual costume itself will always remain our central focus. After all, this is the main product that is being sold to masqueraders. While some too, especially from guys, may often say all they need is their shorts regardless of colour, and other carnivals may provide a tshirt option for the entire road experience, the wearing of that costume on carnival Tuesday in Trinidad is of paramount importance because of its rich carnival history, and the importance of this true ‘masquerade’ and street theatre festival. Seeing a costume truly reflect the band’s theme is always quite noticeable especially in this day of carnival, so this may be a factor you consider. Also, the quality of the costume, from the design concept to how it is actually put together. Things like glue quality, fabrics and materials used and of course the actual design and look of it are things to think about it. If you get the chance to visit a mas camp and see it for yourself will be great. Pictures are one thing, but with your own eyes are a different experience. Ask yourself as well if you will really be comfortable in your costume of choice, from the wire in the bra, to the cut of the panty and the coverage of the private areas, to backpacks and wings, large headpiece or beads hanging down in your face. Look for style but really know your comfort level.
It’s carnival. You need vibes on the road to sustain you. The pretty costumes aren’t going to move and look fanciful if you’re not enjoying the streets. Ask around and find out, look at videos and pictures online to see what type of vibes different bands may have. Some bands use a similar DJ line up each year so finding out who plays for which bands may be a good idea. Knowing the type of vibe you want is important. Is it playing in a steelpan mas band and chipping on the road in your costume? Is it non stop wining and bubbling? Or is it a type of ‘corporate mingle’ with a lot of ‘social wining’? Know the band size from small, medium and large, if you may be looking for a more intimate road experience and service or if you like the energy that you get from a large crowd. Bands also have varying demographics at times, from a more young adult crowd, to early 40s youngsters to a more seasoned mature. Which particular demographic you most cool with? Last but not least in this category is the stage experience. How important is the stage to you or do you simply prefer the road? Is your band crossing the grand Queen’s Park Savannah Stage or the new and smaller Socadrome stage?
At the end of the day in the midst of all the options and things to factor in, be you. Comfortable in your body type and costume, getting maybe your first or second choice costume. You want your value for money, afterall, Trinidad carnival isn’t exactly a cheap occasion. Follow your gut and go for what you want and not what the crowd is doing. Think it through, but don’t overthink it. You are coming to Trinidad Karnival to make unforgettable good memories!