6) Which Mas Band Do I Play With?
Before I answer that, let me give you some background info…
In Trinidad, the act of wearing a carnival costume while dancing in the streets is called “playing mas”.
A “mas band” is an organization that designs, makes, and sells carnival costumes.
Mas bands will generally have a theme each year, then design various costumes that fit this theme. Each different costume is called a “section”. So a mas band is made up of multiple sections and you choose which section of the band you want to be in.
Photo credit: IG | @jason.portraits
In addition to the costume, a lot of the most popular bands pride themselves on providing an all inclusive experience. Therefore, in addition to the costume, the fee you pay also gets you:
- A goodie bag with “free” stuff
- Multiple meals on Monday and Tuesday
- Unlimited alcohol
All of the popular bands will also have “wee wee trucks” (trucks carrying fancy porta potties) that follow the band, so you don’t have to go off route to find a restroom. Additionally, if you’re tired of walking, and you just want to sit for a while, some bands have buses that follow, so you can take a break and sit without the band leaving you behind.
Playing mas can cost you anywhere between US$250 and US$2,500 depending on the band, the costume, and your gender (male costumes tend to be cheaper than female costumes).
Photo credit: IG | @jason.portraits
Which band to play with?… well that depends. Carnival is actually a competition. The mas bands are competing to win the title of “band of the year”. This title is generally given to the band with the best designed and highest quality costumes. HOWEVER, these days a few of the most popular bands have decided that they don’t care about the competition and they avoid a lot of the judging points. So while most bands may go through all of Port of Spain, these other ones do not, they stick to Woodbrook and the surrounding areas.
So to answer your question, if you want to play with the band that won “Band of The Year” in 2019, then “The Lost Tribe” is your band. The Lost Tribe has great costumes and a great crowd. But beware, The Lost Tribe is an “alternative” mas band of sorts. While other popular bands generally have designs that are basically glorified bikinis, The Lost Tribe puts a lot of effort to design more unique costumes. So even though the costumes are also bikini based, there is a lot less “nakedness” in this band.
Photo credit: IG | @nadyakshah
If you don’t care about the competition aspect (most of us don’t) and you just want to shake your half naked ass in an elaborate feather lined bikini, then the most popular bands for that are, Tribe, Bliss and Yuma. Tribe being the biggest most established one.
Photo credit: IG | @siriandavis_
There are A LOT of carnival bands, and each offers something for everyone, but if you are in the 21-40 age range and you want to play in a band with other sexy people in your age group, then these are the bands you want to be in. One problem you may encounter however, is that Tribe tends to be an exclusive band. The majority of the registration in the band happens through committee members. Only if a section is still available after that process will they put it on the open market. Despite this however, you can use the website Fine ah Band to buy a costume from someone who is selling theirs because they can no longer make it for Carnival (you can also buy sold out fete tickets on this site).
Photo credit: IG | @anthmauphoto
The Best Way To Get Into Tribe:
I spoke to a couple different people affiliated with Tribe to ask them what’s the best way for tourists to find a spot in the band. Outside of going through a third party service like We Plan You Jam (honestly going the 3rd party route is probably your best option) you should:
1) Follow Tribe on Instagram. After the band launch has taken place (will explain what that means in the next section) they post each costume on Instagram. Under each post they announce (and most time tag the IG handle of) the person who designed the costume, and the organization who is marketing/registering people for that section. Pay close attention to this.
2) Find the section of the band you want to be in and immediately DM or email both the designer and the marketer of the section and tell them you want to be added to the pre-registration list. (If you’re decent looking, this may work, because they will want all the pretty people in their section). You have to be included on the pre-registration list in order to be able to register and buy a costume (it probably wouldn’t hurt to message a few different designers)
3) On tribe’s IG they also have a post with the name of every committee member. They don’t normally tag all the committee members, so you may have to do some digging to find out the handles for these members, but once you do, Message them to ask to get on the pre-registration list for the section you want; cross your fingers, hope for the best.
4) Once you have been successfully added to someone’s list, when registration is finally opened you will be emailed. Click on the link in the email, register and immediately pay the downpayment.
Once you’ve gotten that far… YOU’RE IN!
(The Tribe affiliates who suggested these, specifically told me not to mention them by name in this article because they don’t want everyone at Tribe to be mad at them for the influx of social media requests they receive hahaha)
A Lot of Trinidadians will have strong opinions on which of these bands are better, but to be quite honest, as long as you’re with your friends, you’ll have a good time in any of them, so you don’t have to jump through Tribe’s hoops just to have some fun. (Tribe IS the largest of these three though, so infer from that what you will).
The good news is, if you are successful in doing this, then the next year you won’t need to jump through all these hoops again because you will already be in their system as a past approved customer!
Full disclosure, these 3 bands tend to have an uptown/tourist clientele. So if you’re looking for a more “downtown” experience, I would suggest the bands “Legacy” or “Ronnie and Caro”. They both have a great reputation, are safe, and have a lot of the same conveniences that you would find in the 3 I mentioned earlier. The main difference is the demographics of the masqueraders. The only reason I did not mention either of these two at the top of the list is because, as a first time tourist/visitor, I think you’d probably be more comfortable in a band where there are more people that sound like you. It should help ease the culture shock.
Photo credit: IG | @k_corbin
“Band Launch Season” (the time of year when mas bands show off their new costumes for the upcoming carnival) tends to be around July/August. More than 5 of the most popular bands, including Tribe, Bliss and The Lost Tribe, showcase their new costumes at a joint event called “Festival of The Bands”. You can find out the date for this event by following the social media accounts of Tribe, Bliss or The Lost Tribe.
Photo credit: IG | @nessytg
Once this event has happened, pick the costume you like and get on the pre-registration list. Registration will open a few days/weeks after this event, so once registration opens you’ll want to get yours done FAST (just like with fetes, these things sell out fast). You will be required to put a down payment on your costume when you register and the remainder will be due when you pick up your costume in Trinidad.
Once you pick up your costume, included in your package will be instructions on where to find the band on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. As well as other pertinent information related to playing mas with that band.
Photo credit: IG | @nadyakshah
Pro-tip: Download the app “D Junction”. It has the GPS location of many major bands and will help you locate your mas band on Carnival Monday and Tuesday – especially if you oversleep and miss meeting them at the assembly point in the morning..