Diplo wrote an article recently for Vanity Fair about partying in Trinidad & Tobago during our annual carnival celebrations. Yay! My personal favourite excerpt was where he labelled our nation’s son, Machel Montano as the “Justin Bieber” of T&T. Well, technically they both enjoy inflicting physical pain on others, so yes that will suffice Mr Diplo. Ugh! Don’t get me wrong, It’s great that we garnered some international exposure through the illustrious Disc Jockey but still it’s a paper-thin interpretation of what carnival really is. This year was my first carnival at home in a decade and my impression was mixed with proud nostalgia and a kind of foggy shock.
I thought the Trinidadian resilience Diplo regaled in the piece would reveal itself within my person as soon as the first fete rolled around. Not so much. We call parties fetes because of our French Creole-influenced dialect. Anyway, It was a breakfast fete, meaning it starts at 3am and ends at when you start falling asleep standing up. I’m a night owl so I loved driving through the town in the early hours, knowing everyone was rolling out of bed slapping on the glitter. It’s thrilling at first; you drive up to our marina area called Chaguaramas and park near the ocean, waiting for a shuttle to take you to the venue. All the while looking out for armed bandits who may jump out from the darkness at any moment so you stay near the light and security with malnourished pit bulls. Welcome to Trinidad!
Then you wait with the various revellers for the bus, all wearing suggestions of clothing because this is also a “wet fete” meaning you will be sprayed with massive hoses and paint. So if you ain’t tight like a tiger, a shred of body dysmorphia will set in. All the hoes wear white so it becomes one big wet T-shirt contest. Upon entering the party gates you proceed to fight through the massive crowd of already drunk, sleep deprived fellow citizens and find a spot to place the cooler of alcohol lugged from the car.
This spot is usually around people you know or have grown up with which in any Caribbean island…is everybody. You bump into various family members and old school friends, screaming at each other over the illegally loud bass thump, HOW’S YOUR MUM? WHAT!!? You pretend to hear what each is saying, laughing hysterically at nothing, then give up and move on back to your spot which no matter where you stand feels like Grand Central Station.
Your cooler is the flag, you colonize the area around it with your bastille of people who must guard it with their lives or no rum for anyone! Then comes the paint, at fete’s like these, annoying males bring bags of powdered paint to spray on everyone like it’s funny. It’s not funny, especially to fake blondes such as myself, in the past there were many blonde casualties due to this hazard. This year I was informed by my fellow blondie friend that if I wasn’t careful I’d wake up looking like Rainbow Brite forever. I imagined a gaggle of yellow hairs under a tent, cowering from the evil substance. Due to this slight overreaction, I got practically Shakespearean with people, cursing their houses and unborn children if they came near me with the pigment while bobbing up and down to the music, which was now close to breaking the sound barrier. The thing about these sorts of activities is you must be drunk, not just happy but fucking THRILLED with life intoxicated.
Everything is amazing. Morning breaks and the sun reaches up over the sea and fills the crowd as sweet Soca music blares and a choir of my people sing their heart out, they know all the words. I adore soca, I do but I obviously didn’t do my research so I mumbled happily through most songs. It is all so beautiful at this interlude I must admit and my heart did burst with Island pride as a blush of rosy sunlight hit my cheeks…..SPLASH….gurglepfft. What was that!?
The hoses have been brought out and you are now soaking wet at 6am. They spray down the crowd in a torrent of cold water, everyone beaming and revelling in the liberation, whipping off their shirts and grinding against fences. I, however, felt and looked like a damp, surprised poodle in a bathtub…Soon it is time to depart and squidge back to the car, where there is a ceremonious laying out of towels and the most uncomfortable car ride of life back home. Once there, you peel off clothing like a happy banana and free dive into a pillow. Some of my friends said they made a full breakfast drunk off their faces and it was delicious, others fell asleep under or in their cars, one did their laundry. Depends on the individual experience really. And boy is it an experience.