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Trinidad arts & culture: the lay of the land for 2017

Choreographer and dancer Dave Williams in his iconic performance ‘Scan’ (2009). Photo: Jeffrey Chock courtesy the Coco Dance Festival.

Choreographer and dancer Dave Williams in his iconic performance ‘Scan’ (2009). Photo: Jeffrey Chock courtesy the Coco Dance Festival.

This is a hugely creative society. In a nutshell, and in alphabetical order, here is a taste of the arts scene in Trinidad. This is merely an appetiser, so for much more, visit our Arts & Culture section.

Fashion & jewellery

  • Fashion: check out CLD, Ecliff Elie, Adrian Foster, House of Jaipur, Heather Jones, K2K, the Lush Kingdom, Meiling, Millhouse, Claudia Pegus, Pilar, The Cloth, and the Wadada Movement
  • Jewellery: Chris Anderson, Gillian Bishop, Janice Derrick, Akilah Jaramogi, Rachel Rochford, Rachel Ross, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, and others create breath-taking hand-crafted jewellery in precious metals and stones.
A design by Shurnel is modelled T&T Fashion Week. Photographer: Edison Boodoosingh

A design by Shurnel is modelled T&T Fashion Week. Photographer: Edison Boodoosingh

Film & cinema

The film industry has long been earmarked for growth, and incentive and rebate programmes have made the islands an attractive location for filming. Work by locally-based and Caribbean diaspora artists are on show at the annual T&T Film Festival (see our Festivals guide for 2017). Some home-grown features also get runs at local cinemas (the most popular of which are MovieTowne in Port of Spain, Chaguanas, and San Fernando; Caribbean Cinemas 8 in Trincity and San Fernando; and the Digicel Imax in Port of Spain). The UWI Campus Film Classics, Studio Film Club, and European Film Festival host special screenings of regional and foreign indie films.

Literature & books

  • For book lovers: book launches, readings and lectures take place at the National Library, the universities of the West Indies and Trinidad & Tobago, the National Museum, at bookstores (like Paper Based and Nigel R Khan), and during the Bocas Lit Fest (see our Festivals guide for 2017)
  • Good reads: look out for works (spanning fiction, plays, poetry, local history, culture, and the environment) by Nobel laureates VS Naipaul and Derek Walcott, plus Michael Anthony, Gerard Besson, Lloyd Best, Angelo Bissessarsingh, CLR James, John La Rose, Earl Lovelace, Ian MacDonald, Elizabeth Nunez, Judy Raymond, Monique Roffey, Sam Selvon, Amanda Smyth, Julian Kenny, and former prime minister Eric Williams
  • Publishers: a handful of companies produce books and magazines, including Paria Publishing and MEP (our publishers, who also produce magazines like Caribbean Beat, and books of Caribbean interest under book imprint Prospect Press).
Safiy St Clair competes at the Bocas Lit Fest's 2016 Poetry Slam. Photo courtesy Bocas Lit Fest

Safiy St Clair competes at the Bocas Lit Fest’s 2016 Poetry Slam. Photo courtesy Bocas Lit Fest

Music

CALYPSO & SOCA

  • Calypso dates back to pre-Emancipation times, when slaves created songs as a form of praise or derisive social commentary, and rose to international popularity in the 1930s–50s
  • Soca — calypso’s up-tempo progeny born in the 70s and incorporating Indian musical influences — is the islands’ party music. Some hits have become international sensations. Click on the following links to learn more about the parties and Carnival activities where you can best enjoy soca music!
  • Calypso and soca are the building blocks for a range of other fusion forms.

CHUTNEY & TASSA

  • Chutney: born of Hindi folk songs and instrumentation (like the sitar and dholak drums). There’s also a hybrid with soca (called, you guessed it, chutney soca!)
  • Tassa is a drum-driven music central to the Muslim festival of Hosay, but the drums are fused with other musical forms and celebrations year-round.
  • Click here to learn more about the festivals where you can best here this music in 2017.

PARANG

This is Trinidad’s Christmas music, with origins in Venezuela, and featuring instruments like the cuatro, box bass, and maracas, and lyrics usually sung in Spanish.

STEELPAN

This Trinbagonian invention, pioneered in Port of Spain in the 1930s, is the only acoustic musical instrument created in the 20th century. It’s traditionally made from oil drums, which are cut, tempered and beaten into notes — as distinct from the more modern iteration, the G-Pan. Carnival time is peak season for pan. Steelbands now exist all over the globe, from the US to Japan and Australia. Click here to learn about the making of a steel pan.

Exodus plays. Photo courtesy TDC

Exodus plays. Photo courtesy TDC

AND SO MUCH MORE…

Indigenous music is only the beginning. Some of the most distinctive groups include fusion bands 12theband, Freetown Collective, jointpop, Kin Sound System, and Orange Sky; the Indo-Caribbean music of Mungal Patasar & Pantar; the Orisha songs of Ella Andall; and the rapso of 3canal and Ataklan. There are also local rock, jazz, and raggae artists. Groups like the Marionettes, Southernaires, Lydians, and Love Movement present western classical, opera, and Broadway, and are particularly popular at Christmas time.

To learn more about Trinidad’s music scene, click here.

NAME-DROPPING

Tony and Grammy winning singer/actress Heather Headley; Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Angela Hunte; award-winning rap/hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj; and the late, celebrated performer Geoffrey Holder are all Trinidadian.

Marionettes Chorale Les Misérables. Photo by Butch & Allan Limchoy

The Marionettes’ production of Les Misérables. Photo by Butch and Allan Limchoy, courtesy the Marionettes

Theatre & dance

THEATRE

Productions of both local and foreign musicals, plays, and experimental performances are staged by commercial, university, and community theatre companies.

DANCE

Schools and companies present in a range of styles — regional folk dance (including the indigenous limbo, bongo, and bele), ballet, jazz, modern, and Indian classical, plus experimental multi-media productions.

VENUES

Look for shows at Queen’s Hall, the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA), Central Bank Auditorium, Little Carib Theatre, Trinidad Theatre Workshop (Port of Spain); the CLR James Auditorium and University of the West Indies (UWI) in the east; and Naparima Bowl and SAPA (the southern campus of the Academy for the Performing Arts) in San Fernando.

Indian classical dance. Photo by Chris Anderson

Indian classical dance. Photo by Chris Anderson

Visual arts

VENUES

Art galleries in Trinidad exhibit both new work and collections of historical importance. See: the seven galleries of the National Museum, and spaces like 101 Art Gallery, Alice Yard, Fine Art, Horizons, Medulla, Softbox Studios, Studio 66, among others. The Art Society of T&T: artsocietytt.org, 622-9827

RENOWNED ARTISTS

Look out for MP Alladin, Sybil Atteck, Ralph and the late Vera Baney, Pat Bishop, Isaiah Boodhoo, Edward Bowen, Carlisle Chang, Leroy Clarke, Chris Cozier, Ken Crichlow, Jackie Hinkson, Boscoe Holder, Paul Llanos, Dermot Louison, Che Lovelace, Shastri Maharaj, Wendy Nanan, Lisa O’Connor, Shalini Seereeram, Peter Sheppard, Irénée Shaw, Sundiata, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, and Noel Vaucrosson, to name but a few; and the 19th-century painter.

Weavers of the Dust by Trinidad artist LeRoy Clarke

Weavers of the Dust by Trinidad artist LeRoy Clarke

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