T ‘n’ T massive, flash up uno lightah

Which translates to “if you’re from Trinidad & Tobago, hold up your lighters” for my non-Caribbean friends. 🙂 Now strictly speaking, that phrase isn’t colloquial Trini, it’s Jamaican, but it’s one of those cross-over phrases that fits into any Caribbean jigsaw. Something more along Trini lines would be “all yuh, hol’ up yuh lightahs” probably followed by instructions to jump … because everything seems to be followed by jumping. LOL.

Yes, it’s Caribana time in the city again. And what a time it is. I was saying to some of you a couple of days ago how weird it is that I don’t miss the frenzy of activity that used to engulf me at this time of year. For so many years, Caribana was IT. It was bigger than Christmas, New Year’s (Ol’ Year’s for us Trinis), my birthday, graduation, everything. It was The Weekend. There were weeks of clubs, shows, picnics, etc before Caribana and the long, grand fiesta that it has become.

And I don’t miss any of it.

I’m upset that I don’t miss it. I worry that it might mean I’m falling away from my roots, my heritage. I love that part of myself. I love being from one of the most amazing cultures in the world. I love Trinidad and Trinidadians. But, help me Jah, I do not miss the hustle and flow that is this weekend. It’s just too … much. I must be one old fogey now, a fuddy duddy, an old gringo. I’ve been rebuking myself for years about this but it doesn’t make me say “yes” when friends call about going to parties. I would actually rather be home with Ricardo, listening to the soca on the radio than experiencing it live. Weird. I swore I’d never, never, never (never) get this way. I’d always be at a party. Hell, I’d die at a party. My funeral would be a huge party and I’d only enter the Pearly Gates if they were throwing a massive block-o. What happened?

Can’t answer that and won’t attempt to here, tonight. I took Richard down to Caribana today. (Well, I dunno if it’s Caribana or not now. I thought it was the Great Festival of Caribbeanness in Canada or something equally stupid but everyone is still calling it Caribana. Yay for the power of a good name!)

It’s such a wonderful event. A great time with fantastic, lively music, gorgeous costumes, yummy food and fun stuff to buy. The weather was absolutely perfect – a blue sky, just hot enough without humidity, a lively breeze blowing in off the lake. Perfect. The music trucks pounded out the bass rhythms of our lifeblood all over the street, once again rejuvenating this city. I really do feel Toronto would be a diminished place without Caribana. It’s the second best Caribbean Carnival in the world, after Trinidad. It attracts about 2 million people to the city each year – it’s a big deal.

But I digress. The other night I wrote about coolness seeping into me like love to a starved heart. What Caribana makes me realize every year is that my heart is actually starved for it. I might not need the parties but I need the pounding soca, the glinting colours of ethereal costumes, the hearty laughs and smiles of my own lovely people. We may not be the most organized of cultures or the safest culture around (these days my family, these days) but we have so much fun. We just know how to let it all go and allow the music to reach into our hearts, into our souls and bring out something primeval. Our joy.

When I heard the music of the steel drum bands, I felt that wondrous familiar welling up of movement, rhythm. I just love to dance (hence the constant partying when I was younger) but I never do the steps to anything. The music moves me, it flows in and becomes part of me and it calls me to move and I do anything it tells me to do. I always lose myself dancing, especially to reggae, calypso and soca music. It’s the only bit of home I have, the only corner of Trinidad that I can touch no matter where I am. And I love it.

We aren’t just a culture of party animals or happy, funny people. We have scientists, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, musicians. Trinidad has contributed much to the world and I hope we can continue to do this. I hope I can raise my child to be proud of this ancestry, to embrace it and revel in it, all the while, taking its accomplishments up a notch. Guess to expect that, I’d better get to doing some it myself.

I wasn’t able to forget the road of dead children that lie in the empty spaces between the notes of our music. Nor the people in my family and just about every family that have been bullied, beaten, abused and abased by the corrupt government currently in power. We need to do something about this. Things are really not copasetic. So how can we dance while P.o.S. burns? I think that we don’t party to escape or hide from it; we sing and dance to spite it, to show the evil that Trinidad will never die. Corruption can rot our land but not our souls. Soon, we will figure out how to fight back. Very soon.

So, breds, we can’ backslide. What I saw today is too good to lose. Our children too beautiful to be fed to the dogs in the Red House. Our pride too strong to submit. Happy Caribana to you all. Enjoy it to the max. Power to the people and peace, love and unity to you all.

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3 thoughts on “T ‘n’ T massive, flash up uno lightah

  1. merrill says:

    o wowwww …. don’t know how to respond to this because you speak of such a sense of *belonging* – of people, place – that I have never experienced. My hometown is Liverpool but I have cultivated a *lack* of identity with there over the years.

    I have lived all my life in the UK, in England, yet do not feel and identify as “English” or “British” – or anything much at all 🙂

    I am *me*. And wary of any sense of identifying with others (JRRT fans no less than “the English” …) That’s why I don’t join things.

    Because in any group I can only see the *differences* (as being overwhelmingly more important than the similarities)?

    Why would I align myself with everyone else who was born and raised in Liverpool? The UK? Ridiculous!!!!

    Why would I put my nation’s flag on my blog page? Irrelevant!!!

    But clearly there is something in all this identity thang …..

    Bears thinking about …

    [what *do* bears think about, anyway ….?]

  2. ~lara says:

    Well, I dunno. I mean, maybe you are the smart one. This nation identity thing is just an extension of tribal association. Religious identity is the same. And wars are fought over this, from this ground of “my tribe.”

    Yet, there is such good that can arise from it. Advancements can’t be made without adherence to a collective and pride in that adherence. (I guess we can discuss whether or not advancement is a positive thing but that’s not quite the issue here.)

    I have always felt very strongly connected to the place of my birth – that is “home” to me and yet, I don’t have any strong pull to keep visiting. (That is “boring” to me. LOL) There are so many places to see in this world and so many friends (Martin!) to meet. I guess I feel about Trinidad, the way Gandalf feels about the Shire. As long it’s standing I feel like I have a foothold in this world, a place of comfort and deep satisfaction.

    I don’t usually form associations easily and my hermit leaning is almost overwhelming. But I really found that going to Caribana was like water to parched lips. I soaked up the calypso, the steel pans, the people, the food … Just that great atmosphere.

    I’m not making any sense whatsoever, eh? 😉

  3. ~lara says:

    Hahahaha … I just realized how confusing this post is. I say I don’t miss it and then … I do! LOL.

    What I meant is that I don’t miss the constant going out and partying, but I do miss the warmth and liveliness of my own culture and country. Not so much that I dislike where I am – I love Canada. But there is a sense of identifying with “home” that I miss.

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