If there is a dance, Canadians seem to be most comfortable dancing to rock and roll music from their high school days. Since I never went to a high school dance or listened to the music, that has always been out of my comfort zone.
There may have been dances at high schools in Trinidad but I wasn’t aware of any. Virtually all parties involved dancing and they were going on all over the place, all the time. What struck me the most was that everyone was dancing at these parties – from the 2-year old to the 72-year old.
In those days most people had very little furniture, so clearing a space either inside or out for dancing was not a problem. All you needed to have a party was some music and some space. You then mentioned the time and date to a few friends and when that time arrived, 50 to 100 people would show up.
One night Mr Gomes (of a family we knew) came home from work and wanted to have a party. He plugged in an extension cord and routed it up the street to the savannah; he set up his boom box on a card table and within 15 minutes there was a street party going on and everyone was dancing.
And then there was carnival.
Carnival celebrations started 6 or more weeks ahead – beginning with parties two or three days a week and on the last week, parties every night. One of the parties was in a hangar at the airport. More than 6000 people showed up. Music was non-stop with a brass band and a steel band. When one stopped, the other begin. Dancing was easy, even for me – jump-up, something anyone can do.
During the day on the weekend you could go to the calypso tents and watch the best calypsonians perform. Then Sunday night before carnival was Dimanche Gras – final competitions for Queen of the bands, King of the Bands, Steel Band, Brass band and Calypsonian of the year.
The show ends around 10 pm and from there you went to a party somewhere in Port of Spain. Again – brass band and steel pan with non-stop music until 5 in the morning. Then there is a 1 hour break while the bands get their wheels. Brass bands go on truck beds, steel bands have wheels on the pans themselves. At 6 am, the music starts again from parties all over the city as bands head to the city centre. Music and dancing continue non-stop from Sunday night to midnight Tuesday. The city centre is a crush with a million people squeezed into a small area of the island.
We did all that until around 10 am Monday morning at which point we went to the botanical gardens and fell asleep. We headed back to Arima around noon.
A lot of Trinidadians don’t show up for work Wednesday morning.
Photo below is of a bunch of tired people the morning after: Marilyn’s younger brother and Marilyn on the left with one of the Gomes next. Raymond has the hat and the rest are Raymond’s friends from Venezuela.