Trinidad and Tobago is traditionally known as the ‘Home of Carnival’ but this year there was no Carnival. Talk about Carnival tabanca! However, all attempts were made to keep it alive despite the cancellation of the festival by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley due to the coronavirus. Many did not receive this news with open arms as some even said it was worse than ‘horn’ (Caribbean term for infidelity). What many saw as a halt to the event, others saw in it a golden opportunity for Carnival. Despite the obvious hurt that the nation endured with news of the cancellation, many used that pain for the greater good of the nation. That pain was channelled into innovation and more creativity resulting in Virtual Carnival.
Although COVID-19 put a pause on the revelry and people were not able to physically enjoy the Carnival experience by attending fetes, parades and concerts, party promoters and Carnival stakeholders did their best in ensuring patrons enjoyed the shows, some free others for a small fee. The virtual experience was kicked off with Iwer Stage by Iwer George on Boxing night, 2020. Following this was Fatima All Boys Association fete, Sekon Sta’s Sunday Erphaan Alves E-Day, Patrice Roberts’ Strength of A Woman, Voice’s Canaval, Bunji and Fay Ann’s Chrending platform. International Soca Monarch was also held virtually, for the first time in the history of Carnival. On Carnival Sunday T&T also witnessed one of the country’s finest productions of the highly anticipated Carnival film “Lavway,” a film by The Lost Tribe, TRIBE group, and Ultimate events. The film is an ode to Dimanche Gras which is historically our biggest show. To say the virtual experience replaced the actual Carnival may not be so accurate but it surely made up for a lot, of course nothing can be compared to the being on the road with the merciless sun and feeling nothing but joy. Digicel also came through with a marvellous show on Carnival Sunday night. Via the virtual experience T&T Carnival gained millions of viewers thus extending its reach across the world. Of course, this cannot compare to the millions of dollars it usually rakes into our economy, stemming from last year’s over $3M, but it will suffice.
To help Carnival enthusiasts deal with their tabanca, soca artistes kept the music flowing and radio stations did their part by the keeping up the soca switch. From the likes of Farmer Nappy’s “Happy” to Erphaan Alves’ “House Party” to Machel Montano’s “Private Party” or Patrice Roberts’ “Tender” they all sought to recreate the Carnival experience while home.
Minister of Tourism Randall Mitchell has already stated that all resources will be put in place to ensure T&T remains on top the global Carnival landscape and continue to be the Greatest Show on Earth in 2022.
Carnival celebrations spread to many other islands from Trinidad and Tobago, they took their unique local twist. They all celebrate with costumes, dancing, and masquerading. For many tourists, the Caribbean is synonymous with paint, powder, costumes, revelry, and the beaches for a nice cool down. But with COVID-19, celebrations have been dampened and many islands are unsure whether or not there will be Carnival this year.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro went to the dogs, literally. An article from the Washington Post stated pet lovers from around the city gathered on Saturday for an annual event that draws dozens of humans with their furry, four-legged companions to compete for best costume. This was also broadcast online, however it was deemed as “cheerless.” In tourism-dependent Barbados, with the recent shipment of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines from the Government and people of India, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has fingers crossed that Crop Over will be held. In Jamaica, Carnival may be held in April but with the increase in COVID-19 cases, it is not certain at this point. Down in Guyana, Carnival is relatively new, but it is growing. Whether or not it will be held in May is yet to be officially announced. Over in Antigua, it is expected that they will have their annual Carnival celebration between July and August this year.
The Carnival tabanca continues until next Carnival, where masqueraders hit the pavement in unison under the blazing hot Caribbean sun where the joy, camaraderie and winin’ will be back to life again, hopefully.