Carnival Lingo 101

Historical Backdrop of Carnival

Carnival is a celebration that originates from the disruption of pre-emancipation societal norms and structures which were deemed to be oppressive. Modern-day Carnivals throughout the Caribbean region, as well as the diaspora, continue to reflect the origins of Carnival.

I decided to write this piece for two reasons;

  1. I got a few inquires regarding commonly misconstrued aspects of modern-day Carnival.
  2. To do some blogging outside of academia.

Carnival Costumes

Backpacks

Mas Camps or Bands usually offer revellers, or those seeking to play mas, different variations of backpacks. So what exactly is a backpack? A backpack is usually the feathered piece that accompanies the body wear of a Carnival costume. The size and elaborateness of a backpack are usually determined by whether it is backline, midline, or frontline.

Headpieces

Headpieces are pretty much another version of a feathered backpack that adorns the head instead of the back.

Backline, Midline, Frontline, Who’s Line is it Anyway?

Mas Bands usually offer revelers different tiered options of a section that are often labeled as backline, midline, and/or frontline.

Frontline costumes often come fully loaded with bodywear, a backpack and/or headpiece, and accessories such as leg or arm pieces. The detailing on frontline costumes are more intricate than midline or backline options.

LUXE Carnival Creole Wire Monokini with Luxurious Frontline Backpack (source: https://www.luxecarnival.com/)
LUXE Carnival Creole Male Costume with Premium Headpiece (source: https://www.luxecarnival.com/)

Midline costumes are a tier down from frontline costumes and usually include bodywear, foot and arm pieces, and a smaller backpack.

LUXE Carnival Arawaks Midline Option (source: https://www.luxecarnival.com/)

Backline costume packages often consist of bodywear and foot and arm pieces. These costumes usually do not come with backpacks or headpieces unless you choose to do an add-on.

LUXE Carnival Caribs Backline Option (source: https://www.luxecarnival.com/)
LUXE Carnival Male Costume (source: https://www.luxecarnival.com/)

Carnival Related Phrases

Get in Yuh Section

Each mas camp/band is divided into several sections. This phrase is used when making selecting a costume pre-Carnival as well as on the road when passing the judging point to organize revellers into their respective sections.

(P)on de Road

Where all the action happens! Usually referring to the parade route on parade day.

Fete

Fete is derived from the French word “fête” meaning festival. Fetes are usually parties during Carnival that last a couple hours with various acts including djs and artists.

Playing Mas

The word mas comes from the term masquerade which has ties to plantation days when slaves would mock slave masters and their Masquerade balls. To play mas means to participate in a mas camp or band during Carnival.

Jouvert

Jouvert is another derivative of a French word meaning “daybreak”. Jouvert or J’ouvert celebrations usually include paint, powder, water, and in some islands oil.

Wuk-up

A term that essential means to dance ⁠— in a way in which the hips gyrate.

Wilders/Wylers

A genre of music commonly found in St. Kitts and Nevis. It’s name relates to the music’s fast pace. This is also known as “Band music.”

1 Comment

  1. Great read. Thanks for the education on the many things I been hearing but never put them fully into perspective.

    Thanks for the education on what type of music is that is played in St. Kitts and Nevis.

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