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MY SOCA JOURNEY: TRINIDAD CARNIVAL 2023 – VOLUME #2

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

Written by Dr. Donald Farquharson, this blog is Volume #2 of My Soca Journey at Trinidad Carnival 2023. If you thought Volume #1 was captivating, Volume #2 promises to be even more sizzling and exhilarating. This installment includes highlights from my ultimate party experience at Trinidad Carnival 2023.


Sunrise Sunnation - Yaad Party


If you haven't read Volume #1 yet, please click on Volume #1 to embark on my soca journey. Now, let's delve into the continuation of my extraordinary encounters at Trinidad Carnival 2023:


Day 8


Carnival Friday, the most highly anticipated day of Trinidad Carnival 2023, was dedicated to the Sunnation Sunrise and Bayview parties. These two remarkable events held immense popularity: Sunnation Sunrise, an exclusive branded ultra-all-inclusive 'yaad party', attracted a diverse mix of international soca enthusiasts, while Bayview was a prestigious cooler party that drew the crème de la crème of Trinidad society.


Jamaican promoters spare no expense when it comes to creating a visually stunning atmosphere and serving delectable cuisine. On the other hand, Trinidadian promoters prioritize providing exceptional bar service, premium liquor and top-notch entertainment. For these two events, the Jamaican and Trinidadian promotors delivered in true form. Attendees at Sunrise enjoyed seamless access to the venue via a walkway adorned with beautiful flora. The well-designed food court offered a diverse range of delectable dishes. I personally savoured the delicious ackee and saltfish. As I ventured into the party zone, I warmly greeted my friends with kisses, hugs and handshakes.

Hypeman in Action (click for video)


The stage was an impressive sight, featuring drapery made of flowing, silky, white material and a mesh cover forming a fancy sky over the enthusiastic crowd. The venue was adorned with an abundance of signature umbrellas suspended throughout. Strategically positioned large cabanas surrounded the stage, while smaller ones were nestled among the trees. At the back, a massive bar, spanning the length of the venue, was expertly staffed with talented bartenders and offered a diverse selection of alcoholic beverages. Additionally, a mini dance floor and cooler were thoughtfully placed in close proximity to the bar, allowing attendees to fully enjoy the experience.


I also noticed that the ground retained moisture in some areas due to the overnight rain that fell. The humidity hung heavily in the air, intensifying the steamy morning heat. Seeking respite, I found refuge in an air-conditioned space furnished with impeccably maintained indoor bathrooms and a wine bar offering a delightful assortment of wines. For the next hour, I relished in the cool sanctuary, savouring white wine and engaging in lively conversations with friends who came and went, enjoying moments of breaks from the scorching sun.

Smiles and Soca


As I emerged from my cool sanctuary, the energy of the party had escalated to a new level. I met with a few of my friends at the mini dance floor, deliberately engaging with fellow partygoers as they relished in the refreshing breeze emanating from the massive fan. Suddenly, a captivating, elegant woman with a radiant chocolate complexion, graced the dance floor with sensual skills and cool confidence. We were all in awe of her presence; she exuded a mesmerizing beauty. In no time, I immersed myself in the soca rhythm, winding up a storm in front of her. Her smile was delightful and strangely familiar, almost as if she recognized me. It suddenly dawned on me that we had first crossed paths on a flight back to Jamaica many years ago.

As the scorching sun positioned itself directly overhead, we decided to relocate closer to the stage, protected by the shade from the surrounding trees. From there, I moved in and out of the crowd, dancing and acting like a man possessed, tapping into the fiery energy that engulfed the space in front of the stage. We were all focused on celebrating soca. We gyrated together, fuelled by the vibes and music.


When the pulsating beats of dancehall filled the air, I fell into a trance, completely engrossed in my own dance moves. Some onlookers from the cabana above, I am sure, wondered if I was under the influence of powerful spirits. When a light drizzle descended from the heavens, I suddenly sought refuge in my friend’s cabana until the rain subsided. On stage, the clash of soca titans for 2023 was worth seeing - Bunji Garlin, Skinny Fabulous and Nailah Blackman added the final touch of brilliance to the day. Although the party seemed to end too soon, it surpassed all expectations and easily claimed the number one spot, dethroning A.M. Beach.


After the exhilarating Sunrise party, I found myself severely dehydrated and even experienced intense muscle contractions. Thankfully, I had brought along hydration salts, allowing me to replenish my fluids on my way home. I went straight to bed when I arrived home. Unfortunately, my sleep was abruptly interrupted when my friend asked if I could accommodate a Jamaican friend who had flown in without any accommodation arrangements. I said yes and arrived at the Bayview party venue two hours early to pick up my expected house guest, only to discover that he was a no-show. Cho! I was extremely upset that I had given up the comfort of my bed.

Entrance to Bayview


Still, Bayview boasted one of the most spectacular party venues of the season. Situated off the Chaguaramas Boardwalk, it offered a breath-taking view of William Bay and even afforded a glimpse of Port of Spain in the distance. The venue itself was expansive and thoughtfully laid out, with many sponsor booths, food and drink stations occupying one half of the venue, while the other half along the coastline was reserved for partying. I particularly enjoyed the entrance and the open concept of the venue, although I must admit that the food fell short of expectations and the offerings from the sponsors didn't contribute much value to my night.

Relaxing Mode at Bayview


I didn't have a cooler of my own, but my entire party team was at Bayview with multiple coolers. These coolers were well stocked with a wide variety of liquor and strategically placed in two different locations for easy access. I decided not to consume too much alcohol and ensured that my cup was continuously refilled with water. I strolled through the crowd a couple of times, trying to build up the energy and excitement. Perhaps I had arrived a bit early, as it took some time for the party to truly come alive. The performers on stage were not the most popular acts, and at times they felt more like a distraction. However, I found inspiration in the seasoned Trini ladies who were dancing all night beside us. They reminded me that soca is all about embracing the joy of group fun.


At one point, a younger partygoer seemed determined not to be outshone by us aged folks. She enthusiastically joined in, but her enthusiasm was quickly subdued by my exaggerated moves. After about ten minutes, she hugged me, thanked me for the dance, and retreated to the side to observe. By then, I was filled with energy and could not help but jump up and down like a wild bull. Admittedly, it must have been a bit intimidating for her.

Soca is Group Fun (click for video)


As I made my way through the crowd, I unexpectedly encountered another Nigerian crew, I guess Nigerians really love soca. As I passed by, a groovy song filled the air, and I couldn't help but notice how fluid and graceful the ladies were dancing. Intrigued, I decided to mimic their slow movements, and it seemed like they were impressed by my confident hip swaying as well. I moved towards one of the ladies, our smiles provided the unspoken permission to dance together. We danced together much longer than I expected, I knew I had exceeded my usual dance duration with my new friend. Thankfully, my prolonged dance was interrupted when another gentleman joined us in the midst of the soca frenzy. Sensing an opportunity, I discreetly made my exit and joined the safety of my crew. Bayview truly delivered an enjoyable experience for its mature audience, who danced up a storm all night.


Day 9


Carnival Saturday is dedicated to the grandest soca festival in Trinidad each year, Soca Brainwash. This all-inclusive party has evolved into a massive stage show and festival. While the party may have lost some of its charm from its earlier days, it remains an event that feels obligatory to attend, as you are convinced that your money is always well spent.


Soca Brainwash 2023 embraced multiple themes, including ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘Soca Brainwash: The Beginning’, ‘Festival of Love’, ‘Fun’, ‘Heaven’, ‘70's, ‘Wonderland’ and ‘Treasures of the Orient’. All the themes had been used in previous editions. The party took place at Nelson Mandela Park. The venue was ingeniously designed, featuring a food court, business centres, recreational areas, bars, dance floors, covered party zones, a massive stage with Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and breath-taking fireworks. It was truly a grand enterprise.


Arriving at the venue around 4:00 p.m., the ticketing process was efficient, and I received a cup, while others collected headgears and flags. I made my way straight to the food court, which proved challenging to navigate due to the long lines. Opting for less popular food options with shorter queues, I settled for a chicken wrap and callaloo. Unfortunately, the food did not meet my expectations, but luckily, I had eaten before leaving home. I grabbed a non-alcoholic beverage and positioned myself strategically at a booth that provided shade as the sun descended towards the Northern range.


Observing the crowd entering and leaving the food court, as well as making their way towards the main stage, proved interesting and satisfying. After 30 minutes, I relocated to another booth that was near a bar to indulge in my first alcoholic drink, Black Label and coconut water, while continuing to admire the attendees passing by and capturing moments with photographs.


As the sun dipped and the temperature cooled, I ventured out from my spot and started exploring the vast venue. I was particularly impressed by the various areas designed for relaxation and photo opportunities. Although I felt somewhat apprehensive about immersing myself in the densely packed crowd directly ahead, I decided to approach from the right-hand side, where a small covered dance area awaited. The tent's roof featured a magnificent, multi-coloured feathery design that allowed the wind to flow through, creating a refreshing and cool ambiance.


At the outer edge of the expansive tent, I stumbled upon a lively gathering of Jamaicans, revelling in the rhythm, jumping, and exuberantly shouting. This area quickly became my designated spot, providing an ideal vantage point from which to dance and fully immerse myself in the on-stage performances. My favourite DJs of the night were Back to Basics and Private Ryan. They skilfully guided us on an exciting soca journey, delivering an exceptional variety of soca selections that had resonated throughout the entire soca season.


The pinnacle of the night arrived when Private Ryan played the top two songs, ‘Hard Fete’ and ‘Come Back’ repeatedly. It was an unforgettable experience for all soca chasers. Hugging and dancing together were seamless. It was undeniably a celebration of love and unity. As I ventured across the main tent in search of my team, I soon regretted this trip as the crowd was so thick and the air was filled with perspiration. Unable to locate my crew, I made the decision to remain on the outskirts of the main tent, enjoying the remainder of the night. Soca Brainwash undeniably lived up to expectations (click for video).


Day 10


The ultimate party for my last three Trinidad carnival experiences, without a doubt, was the enchanting powder and water street celebration known as Soaka. In 2019, my Trini friends strongly urged me to add Soaka to my party itinerary, insisting it was the hottest event on the Trinidad carnival calendar. I intentionally arrived at Soaka around 6:00 a.m as the morning sun rose and the heat of the day started to build. Breakfast held no allure for me. My sole desire was only water, powder, drinks, and wining.


Soaka in the early morning hours was a thrilling experience. As I stepped into the venue, it became evident that the party was already in full swing, Skinny and Nailah was on stage (click for video). In the meantime, my glass was filled with a long, robust concoction of Black Label and tonic water. The music throbbed loudly, reverberating through the crowd and people bounced with infectious energy. I made a beeline to the edge of the soca madness, adjacent to the roadside and marvelled at the tightly packed party zone.


At the forefront, men armed with water and powder hoses sprayed the crowd from trucks, while a music truck with a stage atop delivered electrifying live performances. Hundreds of revellers, their bodies adorned in vibrant colours, danced with coolers at their feet. I spotted a charming little cart being enthusiastically enjoyed by several beautiful gyrating partygoers. The cart swayed from side to side under the pressure, bedecked with flags and colours representing Jamaica Carnival. Below the roadside, a wet and slippery slope provided access to multiple stations offering alcohol mixes and paint, serving as a replenishment oasis amid the madness.

Surveying the Soaka Crowd (click for video)


I located my Trini crew with two coolers positioned on the road's edge, offering a prime view of the madness below. Drinks flowed abundantly as my friend swiftly prepared a beverage for me. One distinctive aspect of this event was that once you entered the party zone, you never ceased moving. The crowd was dense, lively and fervent, yet I effortlessly navigated through the various groups, revelling alongside them all.


My friend Ravi guided me to his crew, and I observed my new Trini friends revelled with boundless enthusiasm as the forceful water from above kept us in a constant state of imbalance. I became overwhelmed with emotion when Ravi embraced me and said, "I hope next year, this time, you will be right here, doing what we do best."


I found myself drifting down the muddy, slippery slope multiple times, making my way to a drink station where I indulged in a snow cone scotch and syrup, a delightful treat. With my body infused with a mixture of various drinks, I ventured towards an area where Jamaicans were partying. As I arrived in the area, the waterman unleashed a flood that cascaded upon us like torrential rain, drenching our bodies. It was an overwhelming sensation, feeling simultaneously wet, cool, and steamy. I felt a renewed surge of energy, as if I could continue jumping and skanking for hours on end.


Amidst all of this, I witnessed the most beautiful display of love and connection. Three of my soca friends, who likely had not seen each other together since the onset of the COVID pandemic, were reunited. I observed deep embraces followed by moments of anger, as if questioning, "Where were you all this time?" They displayed frustration and walked away to allow tears to flow, but then they returned to all embrace. The three ladies shared an embrace of profound depth, with tears flowing as abundantly as the water from the hoses above. I offered a hug and bore witness to this genuine outpouring of love and affection.


Upon my return to my base, I discovered that most of my team members were still immersed in the festivities. Below me, I spotted another party group with whom I had been partying with for over seven years. Descending onto the wet road, which was brimming with flowing water heading towards the nearest drain, I positioned myself precariously at the edge of this watery channel. Anchored in that spot, I danced with a sense of danger. Throughout this period, my cup was replenished from multiple coolers, while my friends joyfully jumped and swayed around me.


When ‘Come Home’ by Skinny and Nailah played repeatedly, it evoked memories of some of my best moments at carnivals in the Americas. I held my hands high in the sky and begged the soca Gods to allow me to live like this always. A touch of melancholy crept over me, realizing that the party was drawing to a close. The aptness and sweetness of the song's lyrics, "then I promised from today I go jump like I never jump, wave like I never wave, wine like I never wine before," perfectly encapsulated this magnificent soca moment. By then, I found myself in the embrace of my soca partner, concluding what felt like a cinematic experience.

Dwight and Friends


As I left the park, a profound sense of fulfilment enveloped me. Once again, I felt completely captivated by this Soaka experience. While walking out, I witnessed my soca brother, Dwight, embracing and cherishing some of his female friends. We acknowledged each other and mutually confirmed that what we had just experienced was truly beyond this world. It was anything but ordinary. I made my way to the nearest bar within the vicinity, pleading for a bottle of water to quench my overwhelming thirst and the intoxication that had taken hold of me.


In my consciousness, I realized that I hadn't taken a single picture to document this historic moment. I implored Dwight to capture a couple of photos, understanding that if I never partied in a similar fashion again, this memory would remain etched in my mind for the rest of my life. Soaka undeniably crushed the competition, easily securing the number one spot (click for video).

The Mature Man


Day 11


I left home around 4:00 a.m. to meet up with my Jouvert band, Cocoa Devils (click for video). Upon my arrival, the band was already in motion, so I parked my car on the roadside and swiftly joined their ranks.


As we made our way towards the Savanna, I opted to conserve my energy. The sight of multiple bands intersecting and revelling together was awesome. All roads seemed to converge at the Savanna, where revellers from different bands intertwined, displaying their fervour and love for soca. When the trucks veered away from the Savanna, the Cocoa Devils and their enthusiastic revellers were primed for action. For many Jamaicans, Cocoa Devils was the preferred choice for Jouvert. Under the radiant sunlight, we all revelled and had a blast.


Normally, I'm not one to embrace chocolate on my body, but on this morning, I relished every bit of it at Cocoa Devils (click for video). Even a sign pole became an impromptu part of the party, with a soca reveller climbing and dancing on it (click for video).

Jourvert was Fun


My Jamaican crew and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, creating mayhem and excitement wherever we danced (click for video). The madness was unparalleled, with ladies backing up (click for video) and displaying their wild behaviours. In the scorching Trinidadian heat, it was imperative to seek water to quench our thirst and stay cool by a water truck. I caught my Trini friend violently gyrating, his face displayed his complete immersion in the soca experience (click for video) as he eagerly climbed aboard an energetic bumper.


The party exceeded all expectations. The intensity and sheer enjoyment were beyond belief. Cocoa Devils did not triumph over Soaka, it was one of the best events during Trinidad Carnival 2023.

Chocolate Jouvert


Carnival Monday


When I arrived on the Avenue around 1:00 p.m., the Tribe band was making its way up the road. I was filled with excitement and energy. I was ready to embrace the festivities (click for video). I ‘buck up inna my Jamaican crew’ who were dancing up a storm on the sidewalk. They were true soca enthusiasts in their stunning Monday attire (click for video).


On our way to the Tribe lunch stop, I had the rare opportunity to meet Shal Marshall (click for video). It was a lively encounter as he and Toni X entertained us. During lunch, I collected my meal and retreated to the comfort of my air-conditioned car. I took a nap and woke up feeling refreshed and ready for 'di road'.

Carnival Monday - Hot Day


The Tribe revellers appeared revitalized and brimming with energy. Their smiles were infectious, as they prepared to create an unforgettable experience on the iconic St. James Avenue (click for video).

The revellers were ready.


Sweet soca melodies played, setting the rhythm for our bouncing steps down the road. Even the DJ’s couldn't resist the infectious vibes (click for video), getting swept up in the energy. The large trucks exuded a certain allure on the road, adding to the visual spectacle of Tribe's procession (click for video). The road became our stage, where jumping, walking and wining became an art form, as revellers got on bad (click for video).


The stunning sunset provided a backdrop that added to the dramatic ambiance. Skinny and Nailah's ‘Come Home’ soared (click for video), captivating the crowd and onlookers. The beauties were out in full force (click for video), radiating their allure and captivating the onlookers with their undeniable charm. Being back on the road in Trinidad felt exhilarating. There's a unique and indescribable feeling that soca ignites within me. When the band arrived at Tragarete Road, it was clear we were not ready to go home.


Day 12


Carnival Tuesday marked the highly anticipated costume road march day. Despite leaving home late, I managed to catch up with the band on St. James Avenue. St. James Avenue, with its iconic allure, held a special place in my heart (click for video). The scorching sun didn't dampen the pulsating vibes already coursing through the atmosphere.

Pulsating Vibes - St. James Avenue


Carnival Tuesday brought out my inner enthusiast, as I fully embraced the soca spirit alongside my fellow Jamaicans who were out in their glory (click for video). It was a lovely sight to see scores of ladies gracefully modelling their costumes down the road, the splashes of colour and beauty epitomized the essence of soca. The highlight of the day came when we crossed the Socadrome (click for video). For some time, I opted to sit in the grandstand of the stadium, watching the revelry unfolding on the stage (click for video).

Socadrome was party central


After two years of anticipation, the energy and vibes within the stadium were electrifying, evoking an exhilarating feeling that urged me to climb over the Socadrome stage (click for video). Attending the Socadrome wasn't just about standing around; Bunji's ‘Hard Fete’ entertained us over and over, adding to the already exciting atmosphere (click for video). Once our time on the Socadrome stage (please request file) came to an end, we made our exit, leaving the stage behind (click for video). Following the Socadrome, I joined Ravi and his friends in Bliss. Walking and mingling on the Avenue proved to be a delightful highlight of Carnival Tuesday for me.

Ravi and Friends


As I strolled down the Avenue, I revelled in the diversity of bands on display, each offering their unique flair and energy. After a satisfying lunch break, it was time to hit the road once again. Witnessing the fervour of a freelance skater (click for video) and a little girl being handed a costume added to the thrill (click for video). St. James Avenue blazed with excitement as the day ended, fuelled by Bunji Garlin's ‘Hard Fete’, which was the top soca song for Trinidad Carnival 2023 (click for video).


I had the privilege of witnessing soca legend Machel Montano and international artist Nicki Minaj send soca enthusiasts into a frenzy (please request file), adding an unforgettable touch to the festivities. Eventually, I left the road and headed to Mandela Park for the after-party. I concluded the night in the company of my African friends I had met at A.M. Beach. Carnival Tuesday night served as the icing on my Carnival Trinidad 2023 experience.


Conclusion


Trinidad Carnival 2023 was indeed good to me. Everyone needs a source of happiness in their lives, and for Caribbean people; music and dance serve as a historical and cultural phenomenon that amplifies our joy. Carnival unites like-minded individuals who love to walk, dance, skank, and wine to the vibrant rhythms of soca music. Soca isn’t an event, it’s an experience..... TO KNOW IT IS TO LOVE IT!!!!!!


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3 Comments


N T
N T
Jul 09, 2023

Great recap!!! 2023 was epic and 2024 will be the same. Cheers to you Don!!🥂

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After that read, who can tell me that I wasn't there? I got the entire experience.

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P KG
P KG
Jul 03, 2023

Nice. love the addition of the videos.

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