Fox Carnival Band
    Masquerade at Notting Hill Carnival
Carnival means play Mas

Masquerade at Carnival
In Carnival terms, playing mas is shorthand for the word "masquerade". It means to dress up in costume or, like Fox Carnival Band, to carry standards and parade as part of a mas band.

Playing mas comes from Trinidad, where it originated during slavery. For the six weeks of the European Carnival, slaves were permitted to dress up and play musical instruments - and they developed clever ways to satirize both their condition and its perpetrators.

Because of this history, the mas is flavoured by memories and traditions from Africa. But it also incorporates elements from Western celebrations, such as Christmas, that African slaves encountered. When East Indians were brought to Trinidad as indentured labourers, they too imported their own cultural ingredients.

The sources for our modern mas have come from all over the world! Therefore, playing mas involves different kinds of celebration. Historically, it commemorates the liberation from slavery. Today it celebrates our multi-racial, multi-cultural world. Playing mas also honours both teamwork and self-expression.

To play mas, bands of people don costumes or paint their bodies. They dance in the streets to the musics of calypso, soca, reggae and sound systems. The biggest mas bands offer lavish presentations, each of which revolves around a chosen theme. A mas may celebrate heroic feats from history, offer satire or make political commentary. Or it may simply try to be the most beautiful.

"Mas camps" are where Carnival costumes are constructed, always in the spirit of good humour and fellowship. CLICK HERE to hear from one master mas craftsman.

Helping Out
Carnival Year by Year