Aviane Hunte, aka Trini Nista, is a communications professional (on hiatus) from Trinidad and Tobago, and a full time Masters student in London. She loves travelling and exploring new places, cultures and meeting the people who make each town or city so unique. Read her blog on life and style and the London lifestyle at http://trininista.blogspot.com
On 7-8 March this year, millions of people will converge on an island that is a mere dot on the world map, but which radiates euphoria, creativity, spectacular colour and revelry. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is known as “The Greatest Show on Earth” and for many Trinbagonians, there is nothing better.
Notting Hill Carnival
Miles away, across the Atlantic, the Caribbean diaspora in the United Kingdom have recreated the magic of the island revelry in Europe’s largest street festival: London’s Notting Hill Carnival. With Trinbagonian origins, Notting Hill Carnival is a celebration of the Caribbean traditions of masquerade and innovation, and is a manifestation of the colour and camaraderie of Caribbean people in London.
Origins of Notting Hill Carnival
Recreating the “mas” in West London goes back to 1964, where calypso, steel pan and mas formed the nexus of a celebration of a community, far removed from their origins physically, but striving to keep their links to the islands intact. Since then, the festival has grown in popularity and takes place every year over the August Bank Holiday weekend (28-29 Aug in 2011). The streets of Notting Hill are transformed from black asphalt carriage ways to waves of colour and people, from different backgrounds and experiences, accompanied by the blare of Caribbean music from massive sound systems and the rhythms of steelpan and drums. Add the aroma of rich Caribbean food and it’s an exotic weekend getaway, without really going anywhere.
Sounds of Carnival: Steelpan and Soca
Trinidad and Tobago joins the rest of the English and non-English speaking Caribbean in making Notting Hill Carnival a true blend of cultures and diversity. The sounds of steelpan and soca, (the popular music of Carnival parties or fetes) help define the festival, echoing its parent festival in Trinidad and Tobago. The musical art form has continued to evolve with the Indo-Caribbean influence creating chutney and soca-chutney music, with rapso and ragga soca, with strong American and Jamaican influences, also laying claim to the hips of revellers.
It is easy enough to try to describe a festival like this, and the energy which comes from the people – strangers of all shades, sizes and personalities, who meet each other on the streets of West London and form friendships over a beer, or a wine (the hip gyrating dance associated with soca music). Yet to really experience the vivacity of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean, you really just need to be there.
Experience Notting Hill Carnival
So, while Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, which Time Magazine recently described as the “technicolour giant of all Caribbean carnivals” heats up in the southern Caribbean and you sit in London, wondering how and when you can experience such a thing – take a turn into Notting Hill in August and engage in the spontaneity and effervescence of the islands of the Caribbean. You don’t need much besides a camera, a posse, your waistline and a sense of adventure because this is a slice of the hot and spicy Caribbean in the heart of London.
Have you been to Notting Hill Carnival? Perhaps you’ve experienced another aspect of Trinbagonian culture in London? Tell us about it in the comments below.