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 of Trinidad and Tobago. On parade day, 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 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.
Choosing a Mas Band
Choosing which band you want to play with can seem daunting because you have so many options, how do you choose? There are all-inclusive bands, bands where you only pay for the costume, bands with more fabulous costumes than others and even some bands with prettier costumes or the designer of your choice.
Each band will have several different sections, where each costume represents an individual section. If you decide to choose an all-inclusive band, normally, drinks, food, portable bathrooms, security, on site paramedics, vanity sections, snack sections, snow cone sections and even more will be covered in the price of your costume. Some popular bands sell out extremely quickly (like in two weeks) so it is wise to plan ahead and register early.
Costumes can be very elaborate. 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 foreigners are only aware of the large all-inclusive bands but there are so many others to choose from. Band launch season is usually from the beginning of July through August and registration opens usually a few days if not less than two weeks after band launch.
- Tribe: Tribe is one of the largest all-inclusive band 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, 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.
- Fantasy: Fantasy is known to have gorgeous and elaborate costumes. Customer service with this band has been sometimes shaky but they are always willing to improve to take care of their masqueraders. Drinks and amenities are BESS on the road! To register, you need to contact a committee member to acquire the access code.
- Passion: Excellent customer service, unpretentious small big band (no more than 1000 masqueraders) with great vibes. Passion Carnival does not disappoint. 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.
- Entice Carnival: The child of Fantasy, Entice hopes to offer masqueraders a luxe experience on the road.
- Bliss: Also ran by TRIBE, Bliss is the youthful, still crowded baby of Tribe with amazing amenities and designers.
- Carnival Rogue: A new band on the block. Carnival Rogue hopes to give their masqueraders an alternative and fresh perspective to the carnival scene. I’d dare say it will appeal 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.
J’ouvert is a large street party during Carnival. J’ouvert happens carnival Monday morning prior to the 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 simple 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 – Register here
- Red Ants Jouvert – Committee member registration
- Cocoa Devils Jouvert – Register here
- Glow Carnival Jouvert – Register here
- Dirty Dozen Jouvert – Register here
- Mudders International Jouvert – Register here
- Jouvert Jumbeez – Register here
- Night Owlz – Register here
- We Jouvert – Register here
- Jouvert Junkiez – More information here
Carnival Monday used to be known as the casual day masqueraders could wear a tank top with some pum pum shorts and their band’s insignia somewhere on the outfit. Carnival Tuesday was the glam day where you got to rock your costume and best fashion gems, but those days have changed.
Within the last four years, mas bands and private designers are offering Monday Wear in a more fashion forward way. Women are now getting their monokinis or bikinis designed instead of wearing a plain tube top. The burst of Monday Wear has now provided independent designers with an opportunity to showcase their work — creating a competitive culture for their work to be chosen by revelers.
Here is a comprehensive list of Monday Wear Designers.
- Steffan Lorenzo
- Himaya by Nadia Batson
- Marie Collette
- Keisha Als
- Rhion Rhomany
- Decoteau Designs
- Neil Young
- Humzee Designs
- Chandra Maharaj
- Christian Boucaud Designs
- Mika Mas
- Sherise Stewart
- Laura Narayansingh
- J’Fab Body
- Chez Zen Mas
- Vivre By Chelsea
- Ryan Chan
- MonDiva by J.Angelique
Yours in Mas,