As a carnival enthusiast, “Which carnival is the best?” is a question I get asked often. I’m sure all Trinidad Carnival loyalists will proclaim that Trinidad Carnival is the best of the best. While there is no question that Trinidad reigns as the Matriarch of all Caribbean Carnivals, I have to admit that there are a number of things about Trinidad Carnival that I don’t fancy. This is why I prefer to approach the question in an unorthodox way.
My response usually begins with explaining that there’s no way for me to fairly determine who is the “best” because there are different things about each carnival that I love. Using the term “best” is completely subjective. Typically, people inquire in order to make a decision on which carnivals to attend. This is why I would prefer for them to pose the question along the lines of, “Which carnival(s) do you think would be the best fit for me?” Of course I would only be able to answer this if I knew them and their preferences.
Since this was a hot and heavy point of discussion recently, I’ve taken it upon myself to share a few of my favorite things about each carnival (that I’ve attended) with you.
My first international carnival experience was Crop Over 2010. I was such a neo back then! Once I popped my Crop Over cherry, I attended religiously until 2013. My favorite things about Crop Over are the music, the waistlines and food. There is something oh-so special about bashment soca. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the music before heading to BIM – but it is now one of my favorite genres of soca. The music and the waistlines clearly go hand-in-hand. Folks can fight me on this topic, but right now, Bajan men are still at the top of my podium for best waistlines. The wukkups are unmatched at the moment.
I had the honor of visiting Grenada for carnival in 2014 – back when it was a hidden carnival gem. There should be no surprise to me stating that my favorite thing about Grenada is Jab Jab. Greenz does jouvert like no other land! Jouvert in Grenada is an immersive experience that you won’t forget and cannot run away from. Their music goes HARD – and they make it a point to make sure that it’s what you hear the most. They stay true to themselves.
Guyana held its first carnival in 2018 – and I was certainly present. While I don’t have much to go on, I’d say the most memorable things about being in Guyana was its rich culture and the scenic parade route.
Carnival in Jamaica blessed my spirit from 2016 – 2018. When I first found out about it, there was absolutely no question that I had to attend. As the dancehall addict that I am, I needed to be there. I needed to be inna ya’d bustin’ all the latest moves. I expected dancehall, and that’s exactly what I got. Needless to say, the dancehall element is what I love most about Carnival in Jamaica – followed by their wide roads and local attractions.
I touched St. Lucia Carnival for the first and only time in 2019 – right before the masses invaded. It’s a special place with amazing music. No one comes between me and the Dennery segment okuurt! I have a friend that isn’t a fan of Dennery and I definitely look at her like she has four heads every time she reminds me of it. To each their own right? Right.
I can now say that Trinidad has seen me more than any other Carnival. I’ve been attending since 2015. While I don’t always attend during the core carnival weekend, I do grace TT with my presence at some point during the carnival season. The fetes are honestly what keep me going back to Trinidad Carnival. I haven’t been to many countries that consistently show up and show out with their fetes like Trinidad does. From the decor to the venue selections and the goodies upon entry – the fetes are hands down my favorite things about Trinidad Carnival. Second runner up is their world famous street food.
As you can tell, the music element is trending amongst my favorites. Each island predominantly highlights their own sub-genre of soca music (with the exception of Jamaica, which does play a decent amount of soca from other Caribbean countries).
If I had to distribute awards based on my experience, they’d go as follows:
Best Road Experiences: Jamaica
Most Memorable Fete Experiences: Trinidad
Best Jouvert Experience: Grenada
Most Convenient & Safest Experiences: Barbados
Every carnival has something unique to offer. Let’s respect the individuality of each experience and set reasonable expectations. Should you expect to have fun? Yes! Should you expect to receive quality costumes that won’t fall apart? Absolutely! But if you’re headed to a new carnival destination expecting it to be a replica of a previous carnival you’ve attended (or heard about), you’re setting yourself up for some serious disappointment.
I don’t know about you, but if all carnivals were carbon copied I’d certainly be saving a BLEEP ton of money every year. I’m in it for the variety bay-bee!
Until next time… Keep those minds open.