Well, as I am reliably informed there are only three carnivals in the world that form the list of Best Carnivals in the World. They are Rio de Janeiro, Trinidad and Tobago and finally Notting Hill in London. Thus far, I have only achieved my local one in Notting Hill in the United Kingdom, but the other two are definitely on my Bucket List of things to do.
Here are some interesting facts and details on each of these top three carnivals in the world:
This carnival (or carnaval in Portuguese) is probably the oldest as this dates back to 1723. It is also probably the biggest as estimates give attendance at 2 million people a day to this carnival. One bloco party at the Rio Carnival in 2012, was estimated to have had 5 million participants. Bandas are blocos encourage people to join free of charge and enjoy the street party in the various carnival blocks. Banda de Ipanema is one of the most famous bands, being created back in 1965.
Music and dancing, in particular carnival samba is inter-woven throughout the festival, with the samba dance even prevalent in the ghetto and favela areas. The music of samba is played using percussion instruments to create the addictive beat to which the sensuous dance is performed.
The carnival in Rio De Janeiro is probably the largest and most extravagant of them all, with floats, revellers and samba schools which is the main difference to the other carnivals in the world. The schools number up to 200, are split into 5 leagues where these neighbours in their neighbourhoods build a strong sense of community throughout the year, as they built their floats, create their story and choreograph the whole event for the annual event. Great pride and much effort is taken over the preceding year to make elaborate costumes and floats, as well as creation of the song/story with which the school will set their mood for the event.
Initially the Samba School parade was conducted in the streets, but in 1984 it was moved to the Sambadrome Marqûes de Sapucaí, with a capcity of 90,000 and tickets at 55 to 3,000 US Dollars. Some events are held at other venues and in the streets locally, however the most spectacular is the Samba School Parade. The whole carnival event takes place over five days from Friday to Tuesday, and is again pre-Lent in February or March.
The event is now split with the major schools (or Series A - LIERJ schools) on Friday and Saturday, and lower schools on Sunday and Monday (LIESA), as the event has grown in stature. Tuesday or Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, or the equivalent of Shrove Tuesday is when the Series B of LIERJ marches.
There is much symbolism and the carnival will only begin when King Momo presents himself. He is crowned officially by the mayor on the Friday during the opening ceremony. King Momo can either be a real man, who has to be tall and fat in stature as the role dictates, but sometimes is substituted by a paper-marché figure. Additionally, there is a queen and two princesses of the carnival, who keep the crowds suitably hyped during events.
Brazil is an amazing tropical paradise, which has much adventure in the various places to visit and of course, probably the best carnival in the world. Please click here for more information about the Rio De Janeiro carnival.
The flag of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago represents sun, sea and sand; this perhaps offers the most authentic description of the atmosphere captured in this carnival. There is dancing galore in the sunshine, with the backdrop of breathtaking beaches in a paradise of sunshine.
This carnival takes place on the Monday and Tuesday preceding Lent, so will typically occur in February and March. This timespan is known as Shrovetide and is the time up to Shrove Tuesday, when many Christians begin to reflect on their wrongdoings and then enter a period of penance for six weeks of Lent. Penance is basically the act of self-examinations and spiritual improvement, where forgiveness is sought with the help of God. There are several symbols of penance, the most common of which is fasting, refraining from eating meat and sometimes dairy products.
The concept of carnival is built around Shrovetide in that a period of excess and merrymaking, using the wearing of masks and displays of exaggerated bodily features is common at the carnival. People exhibit a carefree attitude where they wear masks and costumes allowing them to display behaviour contrary to the normal everyday expectation.
Adults and children masquerade in costumes where even designers are commissioned to make extravagant outfits for the parades. The carnival and particularly its calypso music is believed to have originated from the parallel festival held by slaves called Canboulay, which was bourne out of rebellion at not being allowed to participate in the masquerade balls held by their plantation masters. Canboulay is derived from the French words 'cannes brulées' meaning burnt cane, as this was typically a harvest festival of music, dancing and song. Calypso music was created by these slaves in mockery of their masters, where African Kaiso and canboulay music were merged in a secret code language of French Creole. Thus calypso music was created, which is the typical carnival music of the Caribbean.
Probably one of the best parts of this carnival is the distinct music, as you can expect to hearing Calypso music by such greats like the Mighty Sparrow (also known as Grand Roy from Grenada) and Lord Kitchner. This music is still popular, but probably more so with older Caribbean citizens. Soca music with its distinct drum rhythm has increased in popularity as it lends itself more to lively dancing, so typical at Carnival.
Steel pan music and steel bands are the typical instrument to beat the tunes at carnival, and this required great skill but produces a very distinct and catchy type of music. This music again dates back to the days of slavery, where stick fighting and African percussion music were banned, so frying pans, dustbin lids and oil drums were the only available alternatives. The steel was stretched and then the note array marked and moulded into the metal originally using hammers. Trinidad and Tobago was the birthplace of the steel pan, which is said to be the only non-electrical instrument created in the Twentieth Century.
The carnival nowadays is probably most popular for its numerous competitions, which potentially launch the careers of musicians with contracts, endorsements and have large amounts of prize money attached. An example of this is the Calypso Monarch title and competition, which is televised and even boasts a car as part of an array of fabulous prizes.
Prized as one of the ultimate events in the Caribbean timetable of the Islands, the carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is not to be missed. The destination has much to offer, and a holiday at this time of year will definitely be a great experience.
More information about travelling to Trinidad and Tobago can be found on this website, please click here for further details.
Most people will probably think to Notting Hill the movie with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, however with revenues of nearly one million a year, this event is equally important to the economy of London in the United Kingdom. Attracting close to a million visitors to this event, the Notting Hill Carnival is now one of the largest street festivals in the world, since its brith in 1966. It is still organised by the British West Indian community, who arrange many cultural aspects to be included in the events.
Unlike the earlier two carnivals this carnival is scheduled for the last weekend of the month in August. The event runs from Sunday to the Bank Holiday Monday, with even a family day where special floats and children-orientated events are arranged.
You can expect to see an eclectic mix of nationalities at this event, as London attracts visitors from around the globe. The event is set in the streets and fields near to the W10 areas of Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Grove with local businesses, entrepreneurs, schools, charities and of course, the public taking part. There are processions each day with lorries converted into beat box mobile music and dancing floats, with each one having dancers who will dance alongside the float in colourful costumes.
Radio stations often become involved and host free live music events with current artists performing on stage during the carnival. This is a great way to see current and upcoming musicians for free in a lively but relaxing atmosphere.
Notting Hill carnival offers a unique opportunity to experience ethnic dancing and food. The cuisine is perhaps one of the best things about the carnival as local people will be allowed to literally create pop-up restaurants for consumption of ethnic dishes in a chilled atmosphere. You also get traditional drinks which you otherwise would not be able to access in the normal marketplace.
There are of course, safety tips to follow which go for any open event, such as not carrying valuables or wearing them on display. It is always wise if travelling in a group to walk in a vertical line and hold hands, as there are several saturation points, where the carnival gets very crowded and gridlocked. Equally, be friendly and it is best to leave as it starts to become dark as the night does not bring out the best quality in folks, especially when alcohol is being consumed without limit in the day.
It should be noted that alcohol is not permitted on the underground tube network for obvious reasons. Equally, due to crowd control sometimes certain stations may be closed if they become crowded as a safety measure. Make sure you have a map, phone with apps to check for alternative transport and always wear trainers so you are equipped for walking.
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