Carnival is happiness, harmony

By Raffique Shah
February 10, 2013

Raffique ShahWHATEVER our differing views on Carnival, one thing we can agree on is the heights of happiness that the festival engenders at all levels of the society. There is hardly a sourpuss left scowling as the music, the visuals and the spirit take possession of our beings, commanding us to listen, to look, to sing along, to dance and, most of all, to laugh and be happy.

If I may paraphrase English poet Sir Walter Scott, I ask, “Breathes there a Trini with a soul so dead, who never to himself has said, this Carnival is mine, even if I cannot wine?” Not surprisingly, such wretches (Scott’s terminology—and mine!) do exist. I am not referring to persons who stay aloof of the bacchanal because of their religious beliefs, or those who, on moral grounds, condemn its carnal contents. I may not agree with them, but I accept their right to not participate or partake.

I cannot, however, tolerate the hypocrites in our midst—Trinis who enjoy the benefits of being citizens of the country, every dollar’s worth, but who turn up their pompous noses at aspects of our culture that they deem beneath their obnoxious persona. For them, steelband music is noise, calypso is crap, and Carnival is a mindless parade of the masses. Black skins trapped behind white masks, these living lies see life through a colonial prism, hence culture through European eyes—or so they delude themselves into believing.

Mercifully for us, such wretches are few, a dying breed whose own children would probably spit on their graves in which they would be dumped, “unwept, unhonoured, and unsung…” But later for this lot: they have no impact on our Carnival that we enjoy, and which, as stakeholders, we have every right to criticise, to help re-shape so that it brings benefits beyond mere happiness.

Mark you, we cannot put a dollar value on the harmony and happiness that surround Carnival and engulf almost the entire population. The stress-relief it provides to tens of thousands who “free up” themselves at shows and fetes no doubt saves them tens of millions of dollars in medical bills they would incur if there were no Carnival. Another health benefit is derived from the large number of people who get fit for the festival. Many among this group, especially women, stay in shape year-round, hence live healthy lives, which is as good as you can get by way of savings on health care.

In so many ways, the happiness quotient is difficult to quantify. Take Jouvert morning in the capital city and its environs. There is a sea of humanity, miles of people, most of them in a dream-like, or very likely drunken, stupor, warm smiles etched on their faces, people of varying hues and classes, chipping to steelband music, bouncing behind a big truck, no quarrel, no fight, pure love flowing among complete strangers…

Where else in the world do you witness scenes like that? Multiply Port of Spain by San Fernando and Point Fortin, add Penal, Couva, Arima, Mayaro and Scarborough, and many more districts throughout the country, a huge chunk of the population, possibly half-a-million people, celebrating Carnival in joyous harmony. And that’s merely on Jouvert morning. Think Monday mas, Monday night, Tuesday, las lap. Consider fetes and open-air shows with patrons numbering between five and twenty-five thousand at various venues. Huge crowds… happy people.

You can’t buy such happiness; you either have it or you don’t. Trinis (here I include Tobagonians) have it naturally, and the aura that goes with Carnival brings it out best. I am not suggesting there are no negatives in Carnival. Excessive consumption of alcohol is probably the biggest challenge in this regard. When there are unsavoury incidents, the combatants are invariably under the influence.

That said, where else can you have so many drunken people mingling and frolicking, yet have so few incidents? Bear in mind we are not talking about one-day festivals such as carnivals in metropolitan centres which, because of sheer size of those countries, would have more people assembled than we do. Carnival activities in our country run for at least a month, sometimes two. This means the time span for mischief is long. I do not have statistics to support this, but I feel certain that Carnival-related crimes are lower than average. This suggests that Carnival may actually have a calming effect on criminals!

Whatever the link between Carnival and happiness—I leave the professionals to figure that out—we, as a people, should capitalise on it, see this harmony prevail year-round. The answer cannot be to stage more carnivals or declare more celebrations and public holidays as the politicians are wont to. Already, we have more holidays than most countries, which must have a negative impact on our productivity as workers.

I think David Rudder and Kees Dieffenthaller captured this aspect of our Carnival best in the duo’s joint production, “Live Yuh Life Like Yuh Playing Mas”—a song that got lost in the melee of this year’s celebrations. For those who have not heard it, I cite some of its lyrics as I rest my case.

Kees sings: “Just like when Carnival come and we jammin’ in the rain/You do not have to be a friend/But you still hugging up all through Port of Spain/Why only that time of year everybody come as one…”

Rudder and Kees (chorus): “Live your life like yuh playing mas/We loving together, jamming together/Raising we hand and we feteing together…”

Rudder sings: “So when the iron klang and the oil drum boom/Soul fire start to blaze, we found a love we could never lose/So please bring the unity/Peace, love, true harmony…”

10 Responses to “Carnival is happiness, harmony”


  • Carnival will see an increase in AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, new generation of alcoholics, calypsoes that promote promiscuous behaviour in society. It fact is the single most important factor in degenerative behaviours. The man who discovers his teen daughter is pregnant because she was out partying on Carnival Tuesday will not find a place of applause for this article by PNM appologist Mr. Shah.

    Carnival introduce by the Catholic church is essentially a celebration to the god Bacchus

    In Roman legend, Bacchus stepped in for Dionysus, and earned the title of party god. In fact, a drunken orgy is still called a bacchanalia, and for good reason. Devotees of Bacchus whipped themselves into a frenzy of intoxication, and in the spring Roman women attended secret ceremonies in his name. Bacchus was associated with fertility, wine and grapes, as well as sexual free-for-alls. Although Bacchus is often linked with Beltane and the greening of spring, because of his connection to wine and grapes he is also a deity of the harvest.

    Bacchus has a divine mission, and that is his role of “liberator.” During his drunken frenzies, Bacchus loosens the tongues of those who partake of wine and other beverages, and allows people the freedom to say and do what they wish. In mid-March, secret rituals were held on Rome’s Aventine hill to worship him. These rites were attended by women only, and were part of a mystery religion built up around Bacchus.

    In addition to being the patron of wine and drink, Bacchus is a god of the theatrical arts. In his incarnation as the Greek Dionysus, he had a theater named for him in Athens. He is often portrayed as a slightly effeminate figure, prone to good humor and general bawdiness.

    Bacchus was the son of Jupiter, and is often portrayed crowed with vines or ivy. His chariot is drawn by lions, and he is followed by a group of nubile, frenzied priestesses known as Bacchae. Sacrifices to Bacchus included the goat and the swine, because both of these animals are destructive to the annual grape harvest — without grapes, there can be no wine.

    This is what Carnival represents. It is a celebration to the god Bacchus, introduced during the time of slavery, Carnival was mainly practiced by slaves but today it has become the national expression of fleshly excesses, followed by repentent Ash Wednesday and a period of Lent.

  • Mamoo, Thanks for the lesson.
    True story though. A group of young people who stayed aloof of the bacchanal because of their religious beliefs, normally spend their Carnival at the beach had to hurridely arrange marriages because there were a few preganancies after the celebrations.
    Seems as though, Carnival is a creator of pregnancies, regardless.

    By the way, that man should have more control over his “teen” daughter, because something tells me that she would have gotten pregnant on an ordinary weekend when daddy’s back was turned, nonetheless. November babies equals Carnival pregnancies.

    • Fronts I was at a beach retreat during my younger years. We pitched out tents and spent the weekend having a great time. I gotta tell many romance started that weekend. The worst was 2 sisters engaged in a terrible fight over one guy. The younger sister won stealing the man from her older sister. Over 27 years later they are still happily married.

      So there are some good stories, but the point is the unrestrained excesses of human carnality results in fornication, adultery and promiscuity. I was looking at some pics of carnival in school and saw the 12 year old girls bending provocatively as a young man did his grind on one of the girls. This type of behaviour from children are the accepted norm because they are seeing the adults do it. Is that the culture that we want to embrace? Sin culture leads to moral and spiritual decline ….we must choose.

  • The solution Frontsman,and Mamboo, is simple. Either we do , or where necessary ,tell our kids, and friends, to have a liberal supply of condoms , if they plan to go and enjoy , our decadent carnival festivities, or choose instead, visit a pro religious,beach camps during said periods.
    For de record however ,ensure the same action , and or advice ,is taken if it is to also enjoy ,our nationally famous ,Aranguez Pagwa,drunken , abir thowing ,feast,or alcoholic laced ,St James Hosey romp shake, our much touted ,’eat/ party till ah drop,’Indian arrival day / Emancipation Day ,celebrations,Chutney Soca jam sessions,Diwali river lime , curry duck , cook outs,or Independence Day jump up, ennnt fellas?
    With this typical media trolling , complains, and pretend outrages, I just hope ,Uncle Mamboo, ain’t start to blame Carnival for Caroni floods, St Ann’s Earth quakes, Zen fights ,by popular Soca artist , or roadside , post arguments ,planass ,beat down ,of doubles, eating ,Afrikan victims , by Education Minister,Dr Goopiesing’s, cultured, respectable , law abiding ,crazy son- who incodentally ,would never see jail time, in one oh Canadian born ,CEO Israel Khan Jr ,Prisons.
    Enough already Mamboo, on your contempt for our legal alcoholic brevages!
    Rumor has it that, you my friend ,have been consuming alcohol via your umbilical cord, since you were an embryo in Johny Baldeo’s Mayaro rumshops, and even if you never stop since in all of your 85 years of existence,’ you ain’t never,’went out there , impregnating anyone , in careless fashion- not that we are complaining-political , numerical equations ,and such.
    Just kidding mi amigo!
    Luv humanity buddy!

    • Obviously Neal you are a great fan of Carnival. Carnival is not for me because it is like cynide laced with cool aid. It looks good but upon injestion produces death. The evidence will be ignored by you but young girls getting pregnant and not knowing who the father of child is producing a generation of lost souls. Those same lost souls become bonifed members of killing gangs, destroying the peace and creating chaos.

      The other festivals do not compare to Carnival. Women with the skimpy outfits, lewd songs and unrestrained promiscuity is not manifested in the other artforms publicly expressed. But like Rowley all you come on this board to do is Oppose….Nuff said.

  • Excellent response, Neal. Ah like it!!

  • “…..like Rowley, all you come on this board to do is Oppose?” Ahhhh shucks Mamboo! Now sensotive guy as I am ,I’m truly hurt/ buddy,to have you, sinking to dis level, of comparing me ,’an astute humanist,caring, Trini Patriot,and Globally sophisticated ,Socio -political animal,’to de Rottwiler Mason Hall kid,turned Diego / Westmoorings,
    Unlike you , I won’t be as totally dismissive ,of de PNM Opposition leader, bearing in mind ,how much he still have to deal with , in terms of ‘vindictive ,Papa Eric William’s , ardent protege , in Uncle rManning,and dem rabid,delusional fans.
    I agree with you however, dat de Rott,does occasionally ,have that uncanny penchant for coming across,as more of a reactionary almost petulant,spoiler,when the occasion,in actuality,might warrant,some form of Statesmanlike artistry, and or ,chess playing strategic, win / win maneuvers-Ever popular nominee, in President elect,Judge Carmona’s elevation, parliamentary procedural fall out ,with House Speaker ,Uncle Mark,is a perfect example.
    As to your carnival comment Mamboo, once more ,you are off by a mile , and yet correct to a degree.If being a fan , as you dismissively described me, means appreciation for all our multi-cultural/racial/ ethnic ,art forms,then I stand accused.
    Once more ,let me reiterate,since after some 21 years of not viewing a single Carnival,I still did not see a fete, heard a pan play, see a mas ban ,or alcohol ladened masquerader , on either Carnival Monday ,or Tuesday.
    Carnival , was never me to that degree in the past, and certainly won’t be moving forward. Until de age of 16 , my Carnial forays were spent in those quiet , decadent church camps , you refered to.
    This was followed by 10 years , as a historically chastized ,member of ‘the gray , and blue law enforcement camp,’which did not help , since , we worked , while others jump up, and the rest of my life is well known.
    Sadly enough , Trinidad and Tobago , lost all meaning ,and purpose for me , when dat religious , Islamist fraud , Abu Bakr assaulted our democracy in 1990,mwhen walked away smiling like a constipated heyana. Still looking to see if justice would be served some 23 years after,ANR Robinson our PM , turned President , was nearly murdered.
    The reality is Mamboo,that T&T Carnival , is going to be around in our country’s existence ,for the next 1000 years ,or more , and no lamentations, by us both ,or neo tribal /partisan ,political neglect,as far as necessary support/ funding ,can stop it, so let’s accept that as a reality.
    Me think Mamboo, that the real point , that perhaps yourself , Uncle Shah,and many other well meaning commentators,are trying to articulate is,that Carnival,as presently constructed , cannot be sustained, indefinitely.
    $TT90 million,spent on this monstrosity , to bring in what type of meaningful returns again ,as far as tourist revenues, and more importantly,some form of socio-economic exposure,for our country , as a serious global player?
    It’s a stupid joke , to still have idiot competitions,to see who beat who,in steel pan , and kaiso,as well as ,other aspects of our national art form.
    That might be well and dandy,for dem unmentionable,petty,second tier events, but not this, a global wonder, however.
    To spend 8 ,to 10 Grand ,on a local costume, made chiefly ,from imported products,only to stand in the hot sun,with out moving more than 800 feet,over 8 hours,is pure lunacy, eeh buddy?
    To walk around our various cities, and only hear foreign rap music,pop songs,or mysoginistic Jamaican dub,is beyond stupid, but that’s what we love , and who can blame our respective leaders,for encouraging the entire distraction,on our national paste time.
    Why is the national charade,and yes,social distraction,re ,this prending ,post racial event,called T&T Carnival,encouraged,and supported,by all and sundry,but especially,all our post Independence,neo imperial leaders, Mamboo?
    I’ll tell you,and it’s for the same reasons , Trinidad remains’s a global leader,when it come’s to national holidays.It serves as a necessary, safety valve,for folks,who are pentup with frustrations,and might be inclined,to do social harm otherwise.
    Just think , in contrast ,how much better,life would be,in many of those turbulent,conflict ladened,global hotspots,if they too had this social event,that you pretend to find so despicable, so much so that you single it out for condemnation?
    In conclusion,it might therefore be fair to say Mamboo,that the benefits- from a sociological perspective-far outshine the negatives,and so Carnival is worth all de trouble.
    Who cares ,if it leads o a few more babies!
    If we could live with mucho tourist, turned immigrant settles, invading,eventually making T&T their home,then why not? Maybe one day , just like big brother America .mwe can parlay that to our common good.
    It ‘s a beautiful life Mamboo, & so I admonish you ,to start the important task ,of using your influence,for common good,yes?
    Much luv mi amigo!You are always a good sport.Stay tuned!

    • Dear Mr.Neal,
      I am careful to note what I agree to because when you agree with something you become a partaker of it and share in its sin. So that makes me blunt and strange in my pronouncements, but so be it bro. We live in world of compromise where people have lost their moral compass due to a flood of inquity. Their exist in the human heart great potential for evil as was evident in Nazi Germany where babies were thrown in the air and made into target practice. The same soldiers committing such horrendous crimes went home to hug their own babies.

      The human heart when remains unchecked and uncontrolled can become a cesspit of decadence and moral decay. So it is important to have some descenting voices when it comes to the excesses that the is displayed in the nation. Where are the descenting voices when it comes to alcoholism, drug addiction and adultery, all eating away at the moral values that shaped a generation. Moral impotence is a dangerous game changer in any nation, Mr Neal. We must not fall for it!!!. Or we be damned.

  • Let me see if I am reading you clearly Cuz Mamoo. 1. You hate compromise. 2.You fervently believe in the necessity for descent, especially as it relates to excesses ,by others across society.
    3.You agree , with some philosophers ,that man is by nature, potentially evil, as indicated by Nazi Germany.
    4.You are uncompromising in your stance on curbing moral decay in our country, after concluding ,that alcoholism, drug addiction ,and adultery, are the ugly fall outs, from our Carnival excesses.
    5. You often make blunt , and strange pronuncements.

    Tell you what ,it was a New York Times Bestselling book, “Plato & a Platypus Walk into a bar,” where a humorous story is told , which explained to some degree ,the trap you Cuz Mamoo, has fallen into, with your well intentioned , yet flawed logic.
    We the more sophicated ,from within the Social Science world , of studies , refer to it as ,a ‘False Premise,’ and here it is.
    “An old cowboy goes into a bar and orders a drink. As he sits there sipping his whiskey, a young lady sits down next to him. … She says, ‘I’m a lesbian. I spend my whole day thinking about women. …’ A little while later, a couple sits down next to the old cowboy and asks him, ‘Are you a real cowboy?’ He replies, ‘I always thought I was, but I just found out I’m a lesbian.'”
    The more important question,is Mamoo-Are lesbians simply folks who spends the “whole day thinking about women, or are they homosexual females, and more to de point ,is this cowboy a homosexual,or a female,then if not ,as I hope you would conclude Mamoo,then is he really a lesbian?
    You see where I am going with this buddy? You got to be careful, with a spurius argument, as Carnival , ain’t responsible for AIDS, excessive , unplanned babies, alcoholism , drug addiction, and adultery, to the same degree that Islam, ain’t the cause for modern day terrorism , or worst yet ,Abu’s 1990 Trinidad attempted Coup.
    Hinduism cannot breeds suicidal tendencies, amongst TRinidad farmers, or worst yet ,all Lavantille folks , with Rasta hairstyles, ain’t dehumanizing criminals,wife abusive ,anti police ,simply because they vote PNM, most of their lives- sorry to stretch the point , so far, to make my bigger point.
    As for compromise Mamoo, it ain’t the ugly idea , touted by many clueless ideologues ,but often , a necessary concept ,that should be practiced,more- especially by our private , profiteering, and , or public, civic leaders – if win / win gains , are the end game.

    Descent re , eroding social norms , and lofty morals ,are fine , but in a Multi- racial/ ethnic , culturally diverse , budding Democracy’s like ours ,some semblance of prudence , and even pragmatism , is necessary,Si?
    Yes,Historians have documented ,quite vividly , examples of the evils , that lurks in men hearts ,such as the genocidal monsters of Nazi Germany , that you’ve laid out , but don’t forget dem White ,barbarian Slave owners ,such as one of those American Founding Fathers, in Thomas Jfferson, of “all men are created equal,”fame,as well as similar , not so famous others, who existed in the Caribbean.
    During European slavery of Afrikan folks , the latter female slaves – whether underaged daughters, or spouses of field hands , were repeatedly raped ,on a daily basis , and eventually impregnated ,by these evil , chiefly Christian , powerful bastards, since they were property, and had no rights.Asurprise , surprise ,as Afrikan families , are still feelingbth negative impact of such evil atrocities, yet many are told in not too subtle fashions-even across TRini Center Nations , by some of us , de more non empathetic bloggers ,’get over it , since such happened several centuries ago,’ and better yet, ‘all aha we suffered ?’
    In the case of Jefferson, this produced several illegitimate kids, then the socially immoral bum , did not even have the decency to free them, even after leaving office.These said descendants had to finally go to court , to fight with White triumphalist offsprings , to get some acknowledgement ,as to who was their , evil,rapist ,great , great grand dad.
    Now that’s blunt speaking for you , ain’t it , Cuz Mamoo, if I can tout my own horn ,Si?
    I for one am quite ecstatic that you Mamoo , is prepared to stand up for what you believe in , as far as your country goes, and would be the first in line ,to help , foster any positive change that can benefit others , our individual lives ,and our nation , as a whole.
    Now mind you , I ain’t babbling abouto pie , in de sky , unrealistic , idealism , but doable goals- putting a dent on runnaway poverty, fostering education for the needy, socio economic , and political transparency , in T&T, empowering neglected women/kids, enhancing overall National security , and encouraging equal playing field justice, for all peoples -whereby for example, elitist , cuddled ,White color criminal thugs , are treated with the same social venom , and yes, contempt , as the high school drop outs, cross racial,low caste bum , scattered across our nation.
    However , I digress, so back to the subject of alcoholism , which ‘ me think ,’is a doable starting point.
    How about ,honest discussions, on our unmentionable Political leaders , who over indulge ,yet the media ,and PR spin doctors try ,to cover up for them?
    How about ensuring ,serious jail time for any Minister, who refuses a breathalyzer test , then try to hide like a 12 year old kid,behind a bunch of high end lawyers , when charged?
    As we celebrate our New Road march king Super blue , let’s not hesitate to reiterate the demons , he along with similar others ,struggled with, for too long .
    Him ,and similar other ,might be able to extricate themselves , so as to still smell like blossoming roses, but what about that low end woman ,stuck in poor neighborhoods, with kids who might eventually seek ,to escape poverty ,by becoming a future- though short liived – druglord?
    There is work to be done by us advocates Mamoo, so get down in dem trenches , and let us rise up , wherepossible to construct bridges , across the national, regional , and wider,’North /South ,Global divide.’
    I agree , again with you , when you say over dependence,on any government , is an act in futility,and not the long term answer. Blunt pronucement , however Mammoo , call’s for acknowledgement of the the problems , as existing amongst , all our tribes, BRown , Yellow, or Black .
    We all , as citizens ,have a moral responsibility, to help all our people , push the barrier forward, and upwards. Let’s look past the common evil amongst mankind ,by recognizing that good also exist.
    Much respect , mi amigo!
    Long live the Republic of T&T.

    • “The more important question,is Mamoo-Are lesbians simply folks who spends the “whole day thinking about women, or are they homosexual females, and more to de point ,is this cowboy a homosexual,or a female,then if not ,as I hope you would conclude Mamoo,then is he really a lesbian?” Neal

      I don’t obsess about people sexuality. I think you are indicative of a culture that thrives on making bad behaviour good similar to uncle Shah. The gay population is less than 3 percent of the population in North America yet they become the dividing line in the politics of morality. They are able to capture headlines, talk shows and the dark rooms of human paranoia. Why? Because it is the long road to acceptance that they are travelling. Personally your sexuality is of no value to me. The activities of the bedroom should remain there…

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