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347 Carnival
CleAnn talks about the big tradition of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.
Todd: So CleAnn, can you talk a little bit about Carnival in your country?

CleAnn: Actually, Carnival in my country started a very long time ago. After the end of slavery. And now it has kind of changed a lot into a big festival where everybody basically dances in the street wearing very little clothes. Very colorful costumes, listening to music. It lasts for two days; it's called Carnival Monday and Tuesday. And for those two days, that's when we have the big parades in the street, with big costumes, small costumes, and a lot of music.

The days leading up to carnival may actually be more important than the two days of Carnival themselves, because that's when we have a lot of concerts and competitions for Calypsonians, and Calypsonians are people who sing Calypso, which is music that's native to Trinidad and Tobago. And we have a lot of steel band festivals, and steel bands are like big musical bands who play the steel drums, which were invented in Trinidad and Tobago.

Todd: So, this is a national holiday. Everything's closed down?

CleAnn: Everything's closed for at least a week.

Todd: A week?

CleAnn: Yeah, even before... before Carnival Monday and Tuesday, it's closed from the Wednesday of the week before. So, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.

Todd: And then everybody goes right back to work?

CleAnn: And the following Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. It started I think as kind of a religious festival. I've seen examples of it all over the world, including Europe. And actually, it started from the Catholic Church, so on Ash Wednesday, people are supposed to go to church and confess their sins and get ashes. And I can assume that we probably have a lot to confess after... Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

Todd: And so is it usually pretty much the same thing every year, or does it change a little bit year by...

CleAnn: It always changes because it's not government run, and the carnival bands, that means the bands of people who parade the streets in different costumes, they're actually competing with each other to get, to win the band of the year, and they're judged on their costumes. So we have private owners of bands who design different costumes every year with different themes, and they have to portray these themes on the street. And the aim is to win the competition for band of the year, and every year the costumes are different.

Actually, Carnival is launched from the year before. So I think, this year, Carnival will be launched somewhere in... Actually I think they already launched it last month, July. And so, from July, you're going to see all the bands coming out with their costumes on display for people to decide which band they want to play, which costumes they would like to use. Artists start to release their Calypso singles, 'cause there's also competition for Best Calypso and other different types of music which are not as big as Calypso music in Trinidad and Tobago.