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Trinidad Carnival History

Trinidad has a rich history. Here you will find a great insight into how Trinidad Carnival got started and why.

During the 1700’s the Spanish were ruling the island of Trinidad. During this time the French had their slaves on the island. The Spanish lured settlers from elsewhere to the island, including exemption from taxes for ten years and land grants. These new immigrants established local communities of Blanchisseuse, Champs Fleurs, Cascade, Carenage and Laventille. Trinidad’s population grew immensely from 1,400 in 1777 to over 15,000 by the end of 1789.

Trinidad became a British Colony in 1797, with a French-speaking population, which was encouraged due to the French Revolution.In 1845, many more immigrants from other parts of the world (from India in particular) changed the ethnic make up of the island. These people brought their own folk music, primarily from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, to the creole mix, resulting in chutney music. In addition to Indians, Syrians, Portuguese, Chinese and Africans came to the islands between 1845 and 1917.

There was a large impact on Trinidad’s culture due to the French Revolution of 1789. It resulted in the emigration of Martinique planters and their French creole slaves to Trinidad where they established an agriculture-based economy (sugar and cocoa) for the island. The Mas tradition started in the late 18th century with French plantation owners organising masquerades (mas) and balls before enduring the fasting of Lent. Indentured laborers and the slaves, who could not take part in Carnival, formed their own celebration called “Canboulay”. Canboulay (from the French cannes brulées, meaning burnt cane) is a precursor to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and has played an important role in the development of the music of Trinidad and Tobago. Where Calyspo once embodied the traditional Carnival they have today, soca music has now taken over. With top artists such as Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and Destra Garcia. Click here to find out more about the traditional Carnival music.

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