As we carnival lovers know, Trinidad Carnival is considered THE MECCA carnival of all carnivals. It is the most highly anticipated event on the island. On parade days, otherwise known as Carnival Monday and Tuesday, masqueraders adorn their bodies in costumes from several different “Mas Bands”. A masquerader is often a participant of the parade. This masquerader will be dressed in carnival wear during the celebratory street party.
“Playing mas” is the term used when referring to a person dancing or marching through the streets of Port of Spain on parade days. Soca music is the dominant music genre played during carnival season.
While several visitors and natives go into town to be on lookers, if you want to participate in the parade, you need to register with a band. Registering with a band means selecting a costume and paying a deposit.
J’ouvert is a large street party during Carnival. J’ouvert happens carnival Monday morning prior to the main parade. Participants celebrate with flutes and conch shells while wearing moco jumbie outfits. Paint, oil, mud and powder are also part of the tradition. Similar to playing mas, joining a J’ouvert band is called “playing J’ouvert.” – Once you register with a band, your payment covers a t-shirt or bathing suit outfit, breakfast, alcohol , music and of course, paint and powder. Here are some of the bands that provide a jouvert experience if you’re interested.
- Prism Icebox Jouvert
- Red Ants Jouvert
- Cocoa Devils Jouvert
- Glow Carnival Jouvert
- Dirty Dozen Jouvert
- Mudders International Jouvert
- Jouvert Jumbeez
- Night Owlz
- We Jouvert
- Jouvert Junkiez
Choosing a Mas Band
Choosing which band you want to play mas with can be overwhelming because there are so many options – how will I choose? There are all-inclusive bands, costume only bands and bands with elaborate fashion level costumes.
Costumes can be very elaborate. Carnival bands launch their carnival presentation with a theme, and design costumes modeled after that theme. Costumes are then presented to the general public via a “fashion show” or what we know as band launch. If you haven’t been to Trinidad Carnival yet then you may have some sticker shock. Costumes can be as affordable as $200usd all the way to $1800usd or more, depending on the band.
All-Inclusive Mas Bands
Most visitors to Trinidad’s Carnival are only aware of the large all-inclusive bands but there are so many others to choose from. Band launch season usually begins in July through August and registration opens a few days if not less than two weeks after band launch.
- Tribe: Tribe is one of the largest all-inclusive bands yet exclusive bands in Trinidad. While this band is extremely popular, it is difficult to get into the band because they have a committee member registration policy. Meaning, you must know someone, or know someone who knows someone to get you into the band. If the band doesn’t sell out completely, then you may score and get into a section they have open. The cost includes the costume, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, food, security, portable bathrooms, and on-site paramedics, and the TRIBE Cool Zone. They sell out every year
- Harts: Like Tribe, Harts is another all-inclusive band. Registration is much easier with them as you can register online. Customer service is satisfactory. With Harts, you get to customize your costume to get the look you want, kind of like “build-a-costume.
- Yuma Vibe: Known as the more youthful, fun and free-spirited band. Yuma has the fresh young talented designers hoping to introduce different elements into their presentations. Vibes on the road is always on point. Bess DJS and some of the top upcoming soca artists are usually in this band. Lunch days provide great meal options, you could choose different cuisines, chinese, creole, italian, etc type meals of your choice.
- Paparazzi Carnival: Paparazzi has a bit of the older carnival lovers vibe, let’s say in the 32 – 50 age range. Paparazzi has great vibes on the road with plenty of room for you to chip and whine as they are considered a small-big band (Smaller than Yuma). Their road service – drinks and vibes will exceed your expectations. Registration can be completed online.
- Ronnie and Caro: This band usually wins band of the year for their excellent costume presentation and all the frills. Ronnie and Caro is more native dominant of the large bands. [meaning there are more trinis in this band]. You won’t feel overcrowded in this band either. R&C crew provides mobile coolers with water and energy drinks and the workers ensure you stay hydrated. Registration can be completed online.
- The Lost Tribe: This band prides itself on keeping elements of what we know as “old mas” where the costumes are very elaborate and tell a story, unlike what is now viewed as ‘Bikini Mas”. Organized by TRIBE, Lost Tribe has the same excellent amenities we’ve come to expect from the Tribe family.
- Bliss: Bliss is the youthful, still crowded baby of Tribe with amazing amenities and designers.
- Carnival Rogue: Carnival Rogue hopes to give their masqueraders an alternative and fresh perspective to the carnival scene. I’d dare say it appeals to the carnival rebel who wants something different from the traditional carnival bands.
Other Mas Bands
If you want to play mas but don’t want to deal with the committee member registration and large crowds – these mas bands offer an alternative.
Carnival Monday is the warm up to Carnival Tuesday where masqueraders can opt to whatever they want to display their personal style. Are you crafty? Now is your time to shine, as you can design your own costume and wear it.
Can’t sew or glue to save your life? Join the rest of us. Many of us opt to go the route of purchasing ‘Mondaywear’ from a costume designer. Unfortunately, there are no Monday only bands at the moment so please plan to play mas both days or lose out on the fun.
Here is a comprehensive list of Mondaywear Designers.
- Chandra Maharaj
- Chez Zen Mas
- Christian Boucaud Designs
- Decoteau Designs
- FonRose The Brand
- Himaya by Nadia Batson
- Humzee Designs
- J’Fab Body
- Keisha Als
- Laura Narayansingh
- Marie Collette
- Mika Mas
- MonDiva by J.Angelique
- Neil Young & Co.
- Rhion Rhomany
- Ryan Chan
- Shanyvo Designs
- Sherise Stewart
- Steffan Lorenzo
- Vivre By Chelsea
Anything else you need to know? Ask in the comments below
Yours in Mas,