There was a time not so long ago in T+T when many people were derided for having a Carnival Mentality.
Stories now emerging out of far-East Japan about the huge success of that demure country’s Inaugural Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, have now completely shattered this old derogatory description as the exciting people of SweetT+T continue to promote what is now emerging as the prime product – perhaps soon to outstrip oil and gas? – in world trade and industry.
Before departing for Japan Ronnie Macintosh whose band Ronnie & Caro’s Survivors is a major component in the tour’s all inclusive package commented: which also includes airfare, accommodation, fete tickets and a day in Tobago’ commented: “We are extremely excited about this project. This launch will be the first of its kind in Japan and will also be featuring a Japanese steelband, soca and chutney music, famous foods from T&T, and of course, a performance from Ronnie McIntosh” The husband and wife team, also successful entrepreneurs in Port-of-Spain in the fashion retail industry, obviously saw the opportunity to expand their base, sell their product and by extension attract new faces to Trinidad for Carnival.
Ronnie & Caro were scheduled to stage the Japanese launch on Saturday at an event made possible by one of their loyal masqueraders who resides in Japan. Petra Laptiste is the founder of Trinidad Carnival Tokyo (TCT), an organization that promotes Trinidad and Tobago culture in Japan. TCT will also be promoting an all-inclusive tour from Japan to T&T.
Even though many of our more enlightened citizens such as businessmen, government officials and clergymen have long recognized the importance of Carnival as a release valve for people’s pent-up emotions, it’s only in recent times that observers have been publicly expounding on the benefits of “The Greatest Show on Earth”.
Listen carefully, for instance, to the words of Roman Catholic Archbishop Jason Gordon – a Trini who should know from small what he’s talking about when it comes to Carnival, in a statement last February.(Newsday Trinidad, February 19, 2023)
He added:“Carnival has always been about turning the world upside down. The king becomes the pauper, the pauper the king; the saint becomes the sinner and the sinner, the saint. From this inverted perspective, we were allowed to see the world from a different perspective and to appreciate the delicate balance required to keep the world in equilibrium. The carnival was never about a collapse of values, but an inversion of values. It upheld the value system. When carnival operated as societal catharsis, it was a ritual. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. Midnight Tuesday, it all ended”.
Because the ritual was contained, it acted in a cathartic way. Peter Minshall laments the end of “playing the mas” – the days when you stepped into a character and played it for two days. After that you had a different view of the world. In the absence of playing the mas, people play themselves, with their base desires blurring the boundaries of decency in society. If we see the Carnival as the unconscious of society, like a dream is to a person, then we must ask a more fundamental question: What is happening in society? Could it be that the mas, rather than inverting the moral order, is simply holding up a mirror to the society?
If this is true, it points to the moral collapse that has already taken place in our society – corruption, injustice, the culture of bribing, political favoritism, etc. – that has seeped into the very fabric of our everyday life. In this sense, Carnival does not have a morality of its own, it is displaying the lack of morality that exists the rest of the year”.
Trinidad and Tobago writerRaymond Ramcharitar holds another point of view as stated in Newsday Trinidad.
“The contrived and unhealthy laughter of Carnival has always been evident to me watching it in the streets, parties, tents, press and academic conferences. I see drunken, glassy-eyed gaiety, grim performances of a good time, and an adolescent desire to show the world, Prospero, and low-rent tourists, how nasty we cud wine. Walcott noticed it in his poem Mass Man, and Naipaul pointed it out in the Middle Passage: “nothing pleases Trinidadians so much as to see American tourists applauding their culture”, he states.
“ It’s not that folks aren’t having a good time: it’s that they’re enjoying sick things. That’s perversion, not inversion, but who knows the difference? It’s clearer in the hot chick bands. In Tribe & co there’s another range of emotions on display-a display of the erotic and material capital of the brown, white and off-white, to enrage the lower orders into futile desire. This has more to do with unsavory historical psychodramas of power, race and sexual repression than healthy socio-sexual politics or titillation. Add the Canboulay reenactment-violent class and ethnic rage-and you’ve got a very disturbing “national festival”.
All this points to something less comforting than “catharsis” or the “pressure valve” theory of Carnival. Whether this has always been so is open to debate”
On the other hand, The Abstract from an article in APA PsycInfo headed Carnival celebration in Trinidad: Some psychological observations and impressions (Cangemi, J. P., & Kowalski, C. J. (1982). Carnival celebration in Trinidad: Some psychological observations and impressions. Psychology: A Journal of Human Behavior, 19(4), 18–20.) stated:
T+T Minister of Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell playing Pan for Carnival
“The psychological motivation behind Carnival celebration in Latin America. Findings indicate that the most vigorous celebrants and participants appear to be those in the lowest SES group. Carnival apparently offers a much needed change of identity, esteem-building experiences, and opportunities for creative expression. It offers the poor an apparently welcome opportunity to forget the plight of their uneventful, depressing status”.
Without a doubt therefore, Trinidad Carnival has become a relentless force in bringing people across all the world’s continents for one common purpose, to help all of us – as one people – to retrieve the sense of brotherhood which we all naturally yearn for in our quest to express our best selves. So while some people relish killing one another in war, Trinis have come up with another formula that is enduring throughout the history of mankind despite the many crises through which we have been dragged.
Every Carnival, T+T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley can be found playing his part to promote the idea of Trinidad and Tobago as the world’s first peace-keeping force by playing himself on the streets in the grand masquerade.
TT PM Rowley makes his moves for Carnival
Who could imagine the pain and suffering quietly endured by the people of Japan who were bombed into submission during World War 11? How can the Japanese forget this incident and move on? In this regard, take a hint of what miracles are possible as we listen to masqueraders at the Inaugural Trinidad and Tobago Carnival in Japan:
Najja Forbes, originally from south Trinidad and now living in Yokohama City, Tokyo prefecture, attended three of the weekend’s events, including the parade, and the Rum ’N’ Bass party held in Shibuya City, Tokyo.
“The crowd was energetic and joyful,” she told Newsday.
“It was clear that everyone came to have a good time, especially at the J’Ouvert and the Carnival parade.”
She said while soca music is not exactly known throughout the country to most, those who are familiar with Caribbean culture love it wholeheartedly.
“I think the soca community try their best to have a good representation of soca music by staying up-to-date with the new songs and having events throughout the year.”
Forbes said having TT artists come to Japan to perform was a great way to represent the culture.
Japanese masqueraders Iyona Mikuni and Chiaki Iida, who have both been to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival several times, enjoy Japan Caribbean Carnival in Chiba Prefecture. – Rhianna McKenzie
“I hope more artists come in the future.” She is excited to participate next year and believes the brand has potential for future growth.
“I believe in five to ten years, once they stay on track, it will only get bigger.”
She commended the organizers on offering a great experience and was particularly impressed with how well-organized the transportation arrangements were. Organizers created videos which were posted to their social media accounts to help visitors navigate the sometimes-tricky Japanese public transportation system, to find the hired buses that would take them to and from the venues. Forbes said while nothing compares to Carnival at home, it was nice to have a taste of it.
Larissa Hosein from Arima and Yoshoda Seelochan from Princes Town are friends who arrived in Japan in 2021. Having participated in Soca Weekend last year as visitors, they decided to help out the team this year. Hosein, who assisted visiting tourists during the tours of Tokyo, said the tours were primarily geared toward creating a unique experience for first-time visitors to Japan. She said many people go “Carnival hopping,” traveling all over the world to experience the culture, and the tours were designed as an attractive incentive for them to have that experience in Japan.
A Moko Jumbie tantalizes the crowd with a Soca in Japan flag at Japan Caribbean Carnival in Chiba Prefecture. – Rhianna McKenzie
Although she said there is a lot of room for improvement, she believes with the help of both the Japanese and TT governments the initiative has the potential to grow.
“With the support of sponsors and the Trini community…we can build it and maybe even reach the levels of Notting Hill (in the UK) or Caribana (in Canada).”
Princes Town’s Yoshoda Seelochan waves her Trinidad and Tobago flag during the Japan Caribbean Carnival in Chiba Prefecture. –
Seelochan said she believes there are also opportunities for business, particularly Caribbean food vendors, to come to Japan and ply their trade.
“There are many people coming from other Caribbean islands who are not familiar with the Japanese palette and some of the meals (in the morning) were Japanese-style breakfast. Having Trinidad caterers, from home, would be amazing.”
She said incorporating more traditional mas, such as canboulay and other Carnival characters, would also be an excellent cultural exchange opportunity.
The parade, which looked to be just about 200 masqueraders, was small but very diverse and, above all, enthusiastic, and participants seemed undaunted by Japan’s notoriously brutal summer heat. With added high humidity, temperatures in Tokyo during the summer have been known to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius. Travelers from Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, and US citizens with Caribbean backgrounds were all in attendance, proudly displaying their respective flags.
Traveling to Tokyo from New York, Sherry-Ann Prezeau, born to Haitian parents, has been to Carnival events in the US, but had never played outside the US.
“The experience has been wonderful. It’s like checking two things off your bucket list – coming to Japan and also getting to play mas.” She said it had been an amazing experience for her to see the culture so far away from the Caribbean. Prezeau was adamant that the experience, although expensive, was definitely worth it. “The payment plan is very flexible and I think everyone should do it.”
Another foreigner living in Japan who wished to be named only as Michael, said the experience was his first taste of Carnival. Hailing from Uganda, he was impressed to see the diversity of the group and how quickly they all connected with each other in such a brief time.
Trinidad and Tobago Permanent Representative Dennis Francis – 78th President of UN General Assembly
Incidentally, this significant event took place at a time when Trinidad and Tobago’s Dennis Francis sits as President of the UN General Assembly of the United Nations and the UN itself recently proclaimed Pan Day in recognition of T+T as the inventor of the Steel Pan – the only musical created in the 21st Century.
With all these credits therefore, Trinidad and Tobago is justified to take its place at the head of the class as the pioneer of world peace with music, art and culture as largely represented by T+T Carnival.
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