The Carribean 18 – Trinidad Carnival

Trinidad Carnival (2) Mas bands and costume hunting As mops and buckets are employed to contend with the last of the summer rains, Trinidad’s most dedicated carnivalists are already hard at work. Mas-makers – creative, hardworking souls who dedicate months of free time to making the costumes worn in the mas bands – are hunched over chicken wire, fibreglass and ... Read More »

The Carribean 17 – Trinidad Carnival

Trinidad Carnival (1) Where? Port of Spain and smaller towns, Trinidad and Tobago When? February or March How long? 2 days A huge, joyful, rum-soaked celebration, Trinidad’s carnival – by far the biggest in the Caribbean – consumes almost the entire country. The two days of Carnival itself are not a national holiday, but shops and offices islandwide close their doors, ... Read More »

The Carribean 16 – Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival (3) The Carnival Parade When people talk about the Carnival Parade, they’re thinking of the samba schools of the Grupo Especial that perform – or compete – in the Sambodromo, a purpose-built concrete structure seating over sixty thousand and designed by the great Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer. The Grupo Especial parades on the Sunday and Monday (seven schools ... Read More »

The Carribean 15 – Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival (2) Samba and the samba schools Although samba is heard throughout the year and all over Brazil, it actually emerged in Rio and is synonymous with the city’s Carnival. The batucada – the continuous, hypnotic rhythm that is the basis of samba – flows through the city’s veins, and as Carnival approaches, the sound increasingly replaces even Rio’s ... Read More »

The Carribean 14 – Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival (1) Where? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil When? February/March – from the Friday of Carnival weekend to Shrove Tuesday How long? 5 days Carnival celebrations are hardly unique to Rio de Janeiro, but, without doubt, the city boasts the world’s wildest, glitziest and largest carnival of them all. Drawing people from all over the globe to participate, this is the ... Read More »

The Carribean 13 – Reggae Sumffest

Reggae Sumffest (1) Where? Montego Bay, Jamaica When? Mid- to late July How long? 3 days, plus several warm-up events in the preceding week As you might expect from what has become Jamaica’s flagship music festival, Sumfest is one of the best reggae shows in the world.  If you’re expecting a bacchanalian free-for- all of campfires on the sand, you’ll be sorely disappointed ... Read More »

The Carribean 12 – Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras (3) Lundi Gras It’s Monday morning, the day before Mardi Gras. You’re staggering under the weight of beads, and though a small voice tells you that you’ve lost it, mostly you believe that you look really cool. You’ve yelled yourself hoarse at the parades, danced till dawn for nights on end to the best live music on earth, ... Read More »

The Carribean 11 – Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras (2) The build up More than sixty krewes organize official parades during Carnival, most of them over the two weekends before Mardi Gras itself. Though they’re held all over the city, the biggest ones head downtown and attract hundreds of thousands of people. Following routes of up to seven miles, they can take three hours to pass, their ... Read More »

The Carribean 10 – Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras (1) Where? New Orleans, USA When? February or March How long? Around 6 weeks New Orleans has one of the most original, weird, accessible and mind-blowing carnivals of them all. Though the name refers to the entire season, Mardi Gras itself – French for “Fat Tuesday” – is simply the culmination of a whirl of parades, parties, bohemian street ... Read More »

The Carribean 9 – Junkanoo

Where? Nassau, New Providence Island, The Bahamas When? Early hours of December 26 and again on New Year’s Day How long? Two all-night parties, a week apart The Bahamas’ most important and spectacular party, Junkanoo is a blast to the senses. Parades flood the streets of Nassau in a whirling, reeling mass of singing and dancing chaos, as competing groups ... Read More »