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
dress up and play musical instruments - and they developed clever
ways to satirize both their condition and its perpetrators.
of this history, the mas is flavoured by memories and traditions
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
from slavery. Today it celebrates our
multi-racial, multi-cultural world. Playing mas also honours both
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
the spirit of good humour and fellowship. CLICK
HERE to hear from one master mas craftsman.