22 February 2023
Carnival is held on different dates throughout the Caribbean, but the months leading up to the big parades are just as busy and entertaining.
Every year, the mas bands reveal their themes and new costumes in advance of the season. These events are usually part-fashion catwalk, part-celebration – and all show.
Swanky and Wristband reveals
Carnival is a much-anticipated time in Cayman, with local steel pan bands beating the rhythm for revellers in costume as they make their way along the road.
Always happy to host functions that are culturally important to the Cayman Islands, Camana Bay will see two CayMAS bands officially launch their 2023 themes and costumes in February, before they parade along the Seven Mile strip on 1 July.
23 Feb.: 5-8pm
Free to attend
Wristband is the newest group to join the CayMAS family, with 2023 being their first year to shine.
Their "Into the Light" collection can be seen on the Paseo, outside West Indies Wine Company, where nine models will bring "Dawn," "Eclipse," "Aurora" and "Ra" to life. There will be a DJ onsite to provide the vibes and all are welcome.
25 Feb.: 8-11:45 p.m.
Tickets are $15 (which count as a $20 costume credit)
Swanky, by far the largest mas band in CayMAS Carnival, will be doing things differently this year. Rather than an outdoor stage with models walking the runway, the evening starts at West Indies Wine Company at 8 p.m. for cocktail time. Then, ticket holders can attend either the 8:45 p.m. or 9:15 p.m. showing of a 20-minute film at Camana Bay Cinema, where Swanky’s "Cayman Style" theme will be revealed in all its glory on the big screen.
Seven costume styles ("Thatch," "Banana Orchid," "Cayman Parrot," "Las Tortugas," "Cayman Coral," "Nor’wester" and "Seafeters") will be on display, giving the public a peek at what they could be wearing, come parade day.
After the screenings, there will be an afterparty in Gardenia Court with DJ Rocksteady spinning the hits until 11:45 p.m.
“I am particularly proud of this year’s lineup,” said Craig "Festa" Frederick, leader of Swanky. “A young Caymanian – Tatiana Ramoon – has designed two of our costumes, and I can’t wait for people to see them.”
Carnival has a strong history in the regional islands, but where did it all begin? Although it is difficult to pinpoint the actual time when this colourful addition to the annual calendar first appeared, historians believe it was around the late 18th century that it started in Trinidad and Tobago.
French settlers brought their traditions with them, including Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. (In fact, "Mardi" is the French word for "Tuesday," and "Gras" translates to "fat" – we’re all familiar with Mardi Gras.) The word "Carnival" comes from the Latin, meaning “farewell to meat” – again, referring to preparations for the period of Lent when Catholics would abstain from eating meat.
Islanders not only adopted these transplanted celebrations – they made them their own as time went on. When all immigrant slaves in Trinidad were emancipated in 1834, Carnival took on another life, as people felt free to express themselves and their own culture through music, costume and dance.
As a true Caribbean Carnival was born, so were the beginnings of what would eventually become the world-famous, yet uniquely Trinidadian, steel pan. Percussive instruments were formed from scrap metal and metal containers in the 19th century, with the first "modern" version of what we recognise today appearing in the 1930s.
Over time, Carnival spread to the other islands, and now it can be found happening somewhere almost every month of the year.
Nearly time to touch di road
23 Feb. | 5 - 8 p.m.
25 Feb. | 8-11:45 p.m.
$15 (which counts as a $20 costume credit)
Throughout Town Centre
This article was originally featured in the February 2023 print edition of Camana Bay Times.