My first carnival – Part 2: Lessons my first carnival taught me

My first carnival – Part 2: Lessons my first carnival taught me

Back in 2014, I experienced my first carnival in Berlin. Part 1 ended with Soca on the Beach, so this is also where I am starting now: 

“I want a fat gyal, I want a rolly polly!” It was prime time at Soca on the Beach, as this tune was coming up. People were lit, having their 10th drink in their hands, misbehaving all over the place. “Where are my rolly pollies?”, the DJ was asking the crowd. It didn’t take long until three girls with let’s say a pretty curvy body were entering the stage. It turned out to be a dancing competition where each girl was giving a performance. The crowd loved it, they were shouting, clapping their hands and cheering the girls. I was absolutely amazed by the view and at the same time admiring the dancing skills of these girls. How they were splitting, rolling their massive asses and wining their bodies down the ground as if it was the easiest thing in the world. 

Growing up in a world where being as skinny as possible is desirable, I enjoy watching how people are cheering girls who definitely don’t try to look like that. That indicates acceptance and celebration of other body types too (of course I don’t want to advocate for obesity – a healthy body and a healthy weight should always be the goal). Getting to know about different beauty ideals than the ones I grew up with helped me a lot to gain confidence when it comes to my own body. But that’s another story. 

When carnival was finally about to happen on that weekend, I was absolutely unprepared. I was doing Fun Mas, as my friends were doing the same, but to be honest, I didn’t even know this whole thing was called Fun Mas (Fun Mas is the cheaper version of participating in carnival – you don’t wear a costume, you just a get a shirt which you individualize by cutting and styling it). Nor did I know that I was supposed to cut my shirt. So I was pretty surprised as I saw my friends starting to cut their shirts early in the morning on the day of carnival. 

Even though I would call myself a creative person who has some talent for craft, in that moment I was totally unable to produce anything aesthetic. Being exhausted from the countless number of parties and also being under pressure as we had to leave soon, the result was some kind of distorted looking asymmetrical piece of clothing with an irregular cutting pattern including plenty crookedly cut fringes. It was a mess.  

But that didn’t matter. At least I had cut my shirt, had some kind of cool hair style and pretty make up (at least back then I thought it was pretty) and was more than ready to go. So I put on my sandals (!!!!) and left the house. Yeah right, sandals. Despite all warnings, I wore uncomfortable, cheap, plastic sandals for my first carnival. Biggest mistake ever as I would learn later that day. 

A dream coming true on the streets of Berlin

As we were finally on the road having our first few drinks, all worries were forgotten pretty quickly. I loved the parade, the people, the music and especially dancing on the streets. I felt free and relieved and with the rum kicking in I was wining my body like crazy on the streets of Berlin. Soon the alcohol was done though, so we were looking for some liquor store. Unfortunately, that turned out to be more difficult than we thought as all the stores were sold out by that time already. The only thing we could get was cheap rum with warm coke. Probably the most disgusting thing I have ever drunk, but there was no other choice. 

With some effort and lots of disgust I managed to drink the cheap rum warm coke drink, but the next problem arose in a minute. My feet, which got really dirty in the meantime, started to hurt. Also, the toilet issue came up. Despite all these obstacles, it was still a great day. I loved my first carnival. The music, the sun, the happy people and dancing on the streets – a dream came true. Above all, I was absolutely pleased by the fact that I was able to experience some authentic Caribbean culture in Berlin, Germany, thousands of kilometres away from the Caribbean. That was a highlight for me, which I definitely didn’t expect in that form. I am really grateful for events like Berlin carnival which make it possible for us to experience carnival without travelling so far. 

As I came home this evening, totally exhausted, dirty and with destroyed feet and shoes, I dropped dead straight into my bed. I was extremely tired but happy. It was a magical day for me, filled with joyful vibes, a taste of true freedom and a sense of unity. 

My first carnival  – Part 1: Endless Energy and Captivating Craziness

My first carnival  – Part 1: Endless Energy and Captivating Craziness

It’s hard to believe but this year we will finally be able to enjoy carnival again. Notting Hill Carnival in London is coming up and I am more than excited to participate. I guess after such a long time it will somehow feel like my first carnival back in 2014. My first carnival experience was Berlin Carnival and it was simply amazing, causing a never-ending craving for Soca music and carnival. It’s a love-at-first-sight story.

In 2014, I was invited to come along to Berlin carnival by my dear friend Teresa who has been a fond Carnival lover for many years now. Although I have been listening to Reggae and Dancehall since I am a teenager, I didn’t know much about Soca or carnivals at that point of time. 

After a long 8 hour bus drive we attended the first party on Thursday. I remember loving the whole scene from the first moment, as I realized how many people from all over were coming to Berlin to celebrate together. Another thing I noticed pretty soon is the high levels of energy present at Soca parties. Until today I get goose bumps from these intense vibes of joy, unity and zest for life. From the first minute of my first Soca party I loved to watch how people were freely expressing their happiness through dancing, singing and enjoying themselves to the max. That was something I had never seen before to that extent and in that way until then. 

In the course of the following days one party followed the next and while I love to attend so many fetes I got more and more exhausted. Surprisingly on the contrary, other people seemed to get more and more energized. They were jumping and dancing around without a break while sleeping little and drinking a lot. Until today I have absolutely no clue how some people are able to do that without dropping dead. 

Destination Happy Soca Planet

Soon I understood that to a big extent it’s Soca (and definitely also the alcohol) causing the high levels of energy. These strong, catchy and fast riddims combined with the motivating lyrics inject immense doses of energy and get you moving, regardless if you want or not (also regardless of how much sleep you actually lack). Sometimes the music even seems to have a mesmerising effect, altering people’s states of mind and transferring them to some kind of happy Soca planet, where they experience states of ecstasy through movement and the powerful bass penetrating their whole body. Just one of the reasons why people love their Soca parties (and why I love Soca parties).

While I love Soca and wining to its riddims, I have to admit that it does get too fast and too wild for me sometimes. When it gets too crazy, I pull back and watch from the edges. And yes, it does get pretty crazy at Soca parties. Although I had already experienced some craziness at Jamaican parties Soca people just showed me another level of craziness (no offense though, I always enjoy watching how people let go and just do whatever they feel like without caring about what others think). So when I attended my first Soca on the Beach in 2014, I was amused by people doing all kinds of things in the sand: forward rolls all over the place, climbing on top of each other building human towers, wining down to the ground while jumping on each other, etc. Again, I can’t deny that alcohol probably does play some role in that. But also Soca with its instructions (“pick up something, anything”) could partly be blamed as those are taken very seriously by many.

That was part one of my first carnival experience. In part two I am talking about Rolly Pollies owning the stage, the feeling of freedom carnival gives me and the beginner’s mistakes I made at my first carnival.