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How carnival expresses and celebrates Trinidadian culture

Bacchanal!

The Carnival Culture of Trinidad

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Peter Mason

"Peter Mason's book is long overdue and most welcome. For me, the steel pan innovations, coupled with the author's historical input in this context, are paramount, because both are undervalued and need serious recognition."
Alex Pascall, OBE, Broadcaster, Historian, Consultant on Caribbean Affairs

On the days preceding Ash Wednesday, Trinidad erupts in an orgy of excitement, noise, color, and energy known as carnival. Other countries celebrate carnival, but none quite like Trinidad, where carnival is not just a two-day event; it is an all-year-round statement of identity. Up to 100,000 Trinidadians, or almost 10 percent of the population, actively take part in carnival. Everyone talks and argues about it, some boycott it, but no one ignores it. Calypsonian SuperBlue has called it "one of the most awesome moods in the world." Trinidadians have a word to describe it: "Bacchanal!"

In this vivid and exuberant book, journalist Peter Mason looks at the past, present, and future of carnival, using not just personal observations and printed sources but also interviews with a wide variety of participants, including performers, pan tuners, designers, and stick fighters. Mason examines the three essential elements of Trinidadian carnival—steelband, calypso, and masquerade. He also discusses recent developments like the growing influence of women and the effects of commercialism. As Mason demonstrates, carnival brings together nearly all aspects of Trinidad's cultural identity—religion, music, language, humor, folk traditions, politics, gender roles, ethnic traditions, even food and sport. It also has an influence, outside the country, on how people view the island and as an export in itself. Mason weaves all these facets of carnival together to create a vibrant sense of the phenomenon itself—its wit and its vulgarity, its sumptuous colors and heart-pounding noise, its competitiveness and spontaneity, the months of hard work to produce two days of exuberant self-abandonment—all the complex energies that lead to "Bacchanal!"

Companion CD available

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Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction

1. Kaiso!
Roots of Calypso • The Social Dimension • Soca • TheCarnival Tents • The Road to the Crown • The Savannah • Competitive Edge • The Road March • 'But Dey Forget Calypso' • The International Stage • Chutney Soca

2. Steel Pan
From Bamboo to Oil Drum • 'Behind the Bridge' • The Modern Steelband • Panorama • The Lime • Pan Competition • Bands and Arrangers • Pan and the Community

3. Playing Mas
Costume Design • Kings and Queens • J'Ouvert Morning • Carnival Monday • Carnival Tuesday • Sexual Energy • The Decline of Ole Mas • The Future of Mas

4. Don't Stop the Carnival!
Organisation • Tourism • Sex and Violence • Carnival Controversy

5. Woman is Boss
Women and Calypso • Calypso Queens • Women and Pan

6. Past and Future
Stickfighting • Influences andEvolution • The Indian Influence • Exporting Carnival • The Balance of Payments • Into the Future •

Notes
Bibliography
Discography

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About the Author(s)

Peter Mason, a freelance journalist and writer, has written widely in the Guardian, Independent, and Observer newspapers in London. He is a regular visitor to Trinidad and is currently at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica.

Subject Categories

Latin American/Caribbean Studies
Music and Dance
Sociology

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