Unbeknownst to some, carnival is more than an opportunity for me to wine my waist and carry on bad. I can’t lie, it definitely started out that way but at this stage in my life it’s the best way to mix business with pleasure. I was always curious about how things worked. I wanted to know what it was like to be a masquerader and I wanted to know how things operated behind the scenes. The only way I could get my questions answered was to get involved.
I started out playing with a couple Jouvert bands in Boston. Then I eventually upgraded to being in a t-shirt section for Boston Carnival. After that, I lived vicariously through my bestie who went to Crop Over for the first time in 2009 and jumped up with Power by 4’s Kadooment Band. With every experience I soaked up information. I thought to myself well, now that I know a lil sumthin sumthin I think it’s time to really dive in. I bought my first costume in 2010 when I went to Barbados for Crop Over. I researched the history of this Bajan (or Barbadian) tradition because it was important for me to know and understand what I was getting myself into. It’s not just about the jump. They are actually celebrating their accomplishments and sticking to their annual traditions. Long story short, I had the time of my life that neophyte year and haven’t looked back since.
After Crop Over 2010 … carnival action was nonstop every year. There was Labor Day Carnival in New York, Boston Carnival, Miami Carnival every October, Atlanta Carnival, DC Carnival, the list could go on. All of them unique in their own way; some I loved and some I could do without. I knew from my first Labor Day experience that I had no desire to play mas in NY ever. The most they would get from me is attendance at a few fetes (if that).
Although there are almost-always hiccups, carnival and traveling are wonderful addictions. So many lessons learned from each experience, equipping me with the knowledge to make wiser choices about lodging, bands, fetes and of course, costumes. Not only that, but giving me the opportunity to investigate the intricacies of every costume I purchased. If my friends were in different sections I’d examine their costumes as well. As a creative mind, I wanted to know how they were made and what materials were used. Was it sewn or hot glued? Did they use wire or hard plastic? So many questions! As always, I wanted to know so that I could make my own pieces moving forward. There’s no way that could have happened without my first hand experiences over the years.
It’s hard making changes to plans that become so routine; for me, going to Barbados every July and Miami every October was starting to become too regular. I wanted to break away from them and invest in something new. Thus came Grenada Carnival (a.k.a Spice Mas) and the highly anticipated Trinidad Carnival. Both mind-blowing experiences! When I sit back and think about my active carnival years, it really hasn’t been that long; however, I have to remember that one year is packed with so much carnival action.
So just imagine what I’ve learned if there is so much that I can soak in from one experience alone. For example, I learned from my first experience that playing mas whole day in tennis shoes was NOT the best method for me. After years of trial and error I’ve learned that combat boots work best for MY feet and thigh high boots are great for holding my valuables.
Here’s another one…after several years of having my sweaty thighs rub together on the road I learned that wearing the right tights was not just for visual appeal…those things protected my lovely thighs! Because who wants a heat rash between their legs?! Not I said Shamair. Shout out to www.CarnivalKicks.com for their awesome selection of pantyhose. It took me a while to figure out where I could get durable, complexion-friendly pantyhose that were sheer from waist to toe…or better yet, footless. For my jouvert, mudd, paint and powder shenanigans I ran to my local beauty supply store for some funky fishnets and bright colored tights.
To my carnival newbie’s I say get out there and do it. If you have to, start small. If you’re not afraid, start big! But just start. You are welcomed to be a bystander and watch/dance from the sideline as the bands go by. But, there is a far more fulfilling experience if you participate as band member, especially in countries with well established carnivals/festivals/celebrations etc.
So again I say, I don’t just do this for the love of Soca. At the end of the day it’s Business. It’s networking. It’s obtaining information for me to build a better T’ingz Nice. It all started because I had (and still have) goals to achieve and I was practically clueless about what it took to achieve those initial goals. So… I put on my “student cap”, I did hardcore research (on and offline) and I gathered information from people who were veterans in the field. I made things happen and am moving on to the next phase of the plan. Which means more research, more networking, more learning. These things don’t happen overnight…everything of great quality takes time (and I’m all about quality).
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