Carnival Tabanca....A Male Perspective


Right away you are probably asking yourself what is “Tabanca?” and is it even a word in the dictionary?   Anyone from the West Indies would be quick to say, "but of course it is."  They would go on to say that, "it is a painful feeling of unrequited love, typically for a former lover."  And so, with that you would probably ask yourself what does Carnival have to do with unrequited love?  And there our journey begins!

If you’ve never experienced a Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago it must be an item added to your bucket list.  It is truly marvelous to see so many people from various backgrounds come together and literally shut down an island, to experience a culture so rich in its diversity, food, and love for its music….SOCA!  It is even richer to see the lengths Caribbean people, especially Trinidadian and Tobagonians, would go to ensure they make it back home for Carnival.  I’m sure many employers have stories of Trinis just quitting their jobs, because they couldn’t get the vacation time off, just to make it to this annual festival.  Or in Trinidad itself, people taking out what is called Carnival loans so that they can pay for all the parties and festivities that start right after Christmas and end on Ash Wednesday.

I recently had a chance to ask one of my friends how Carnival 2017 was for him.   While I was waiting to get all the colorful details of the steel bands, the new songs, the fetes and the costumes on the road, I was shocked to receive silence!  A mean the man looked like he was in a deep depression!

He went on to explain that he experiences three (3) waves of Carnival Tabanca.  The first one comes right after the Hyatt Lime fete.  In his words, he describes how the Hyatt Lime all-inclusive sets the tone for Carnival for him.  He talks about the outdoor atmosphere on the water paired with the numerous selections of food from around the world, top shelf liquor, all the top bands performing the latest Soca songs; coupled with thousands of joyful people, just make this one of the best fetes of the Carnival season.  Now for him the Hyatt Lime fete may set the stage but for others they may say Machel Monday's or Tuesday on the Rocks or Beach House is what does it for them.  In the end, what is clear is that it is the ongoing parties in the different settings that heightens the Carnival Season.

The second wave of Tabanca for him happens on Carnival Sunday, when all the big fetes are over and you know all that is left is the two (2) big days of Carnival on the road.  It's at this point that he realizes he only has a week left of vacation and that Ash Wednesday is approaching fast; where he'll have to put away his alter ego and return to that introverted, not so social man who no longer lives in Trinidad. My friend goes on to further expand on what having his body painted truly does for him.  He describes this act alone allows him to hide his shy, anti-social personality and emerge a fearless man who is in every picture, talking to everyone, forging new relationships with all kinds of people.  He further explains that all the hottest women who are having their bodies painted are so open and willing to talk while being in some compromising positions, an openness he states they would never have with any man on the road.

His third and final wave of Tabanca comes on Carnival Tuesday night when the dreaded midnight hour quickly approaches.  It's almost like a Cinderella moment. The music shuts down, the unity of the island begins to fade away as people begin to regain their pre-Carnival life style and start to only socialize with their respective clicks. Most people stop drinking as Lent starts and the reality that Carnival is over is right upon you. Now for others, the feteing continues past Ash Wednesday where they head to Tobago for a few more festivities before heading home on the Sunday after, almost instantly feeling PCD - Post Carnival Depression!

And so, in 2013 Bunji Garlin decided to write a song, Carnival Tabanca, that captured the essence of how people felt when Carnival was over and they left the island.  It eludes to them missing the feeling of unity, two weeks of an unforgettable party experience, and two days of jamming on the road with a drink in their hand, surrounded by old and new friends.  In essence they miss the feeling of freedom and the Shades of Influence Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago brought them.

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