There are many elements that make up Carnival. Read more about them here and find out how they began.

Mud Madness

Camboulay moved from the daytime to midnight on Sunday at the beginning of the two-day carnival. This became known as ‘Jouvert’ – French for ‘the opening of the day’. During this celebration folk characters were acted out, but were eventually replaced by old mas characters. At present day Jouvert, people bathe themselves in chocolate, mud, oil and paint and pretend to be devils, demons, monsters and imps.

Pretty Mas

Mardi Gras continued to be celebrated on Monday and Tuesday under the hot sun of the streets. The Parade became known as ‘Pretty Mas’ as the people wore their finest costumes. The more beads, the more sequins, the more feathers, all the better!

Beat Bamboo

The British government banned drum beating in 1884, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any music! During the carnival, groups known as ‘Tamboo Bamboo’ bands would march through the crowded streets beating long tubes of bamboo and hitting out exciting rhythms. The word ‘tamboo’ comes from the French word tambour meaning ‘drum’.

Hitting D’Tin

In the 1930s musicians introduced metal containers, known as ‘iron’ into the tamboo bamboo bands. They would beat out rhythms on old car parts, biscuit tins, paint buckets, milk cans, dustbin lids and eventually empty oil drums.

Playing Pan

During World War II, carnivals were banned. However, musicians continued to experiment with their oil drums. These empty oil drums came from the US navy that was based in Trinidad during the Second World War. The oil drums were heated and hammered into sections to make a large range of musical notes. In 1945 steel bands were allowed to play in streets as part of VE-Day to celebrate the end of World War II. The metallic sound electrified the crowds and steelpan was embraced into the carnival celebrations.

Did you know the steelpan was the only instrument invented in the 20th century?

Calypso Vibes

When slavery was abolished Kaiso developed into Calypso. Calypsonians were like the newspapers we have today. They would tell interesting stories in their songs. Each year calypsonians will perform at the Calypso Monarch competition where the winner will be crowned Calypso King or Queen. 

Panorama Hype

Every year huge steel bands take part in a competition called ‘Panorama’. They compete for the title ‘steel band of the year’. A steel band orchestra will play different types of music such as calypso, jazz, pop and classical pieces. Although steel bands started in Trinidad, like Caribbean Carnival they now exist throughout the world, in places such as Germany, Canada, America and England.


In the 1960s musicians mixed soul with calypso music to create new funky rhythms known as Soca. This is great Carnival music! Soca is loud and lively so people can dance to it all day without getting tired.


Q.7: Do you have a favourite song that makes you want to dance when you hear it?

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Illustrations © Rhian Kempadoo-Millar
Banner photo © Tony Bartholomew (2019)