Serious liming & partying
If it’s one thing Trinis take seriously, it’s partying. Our reputation as the party animals of the Caribbean has been hard-earned and we do our best to maintain it. In addition to the numerous rum shops, holes in the wall and casinos (aka private members’ clubs) popping up across the island, Trinis love to put on their dancing shoes and head out to a club on the weekend.
Friday and Saturday evenings (weeknights too) on Ariapita Avenue in Woodbrook become virtual street parties as the crowds spill out of the many bars and onto the sidewalks, while others drift to and from the street food stalls and vans. From July to Ash Wednesday, the social calendar is taken over by literally hundreds of all-inclusive band launch fetes (massive parties), concerts, and boat rides where you will hear the soca hits for the year played and performed by the big bands.
Some of the most popular bar and club haunts are:
- Woodbrook & “De Avenue”: 51° Lounge; Coco Lounge; Drink! Lounge & Bistro; More Vino; Smokey & Bunty’s; and Studio Lounge
- Around Port of Spain: HAZE; Katalyst; Luce; Old Havana Cigar Bar; Paprika; Queen’s Park Oval; Sails (Chaguaramas); Siam; Trotters; Tzar; Vas; and Zanzibar
- Heading east: Sandbaggers (Trincity); and Trevor’s Edge (St Augustine)
- Around San Fernando: Hi RPM; Privé; and Space La Nouba.
A cauldron of creativity, visual artists abound in Trinidad, with galleries constantly exhibiting the many talented painters who call this island home — Horizons, Medulla, Soft Box, Y Art Gallery, Fine Art Gallery. The most famous expats are Peter Doig (“The White Canoe”) and Chris Ofili (Turner Prize winner), while late locals whom collectors fawn over include Michel-Jean Cazabon and Boscoe Holder. Other names to 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, 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.
Fashion & jewellery
Of course you have to look good since Trinis are extremely fashion-conscious. Designers from Trinidad have an edgy style and you can pick up the perfect little black dress, an abstract batik gown or funky suit that would rock any runway. Some of the top names to look out for are 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. For those looking for breathtaking hand-crafted jewellery in precious metals and stones, check Chris Anderson, Gillian Bishop, Janice Derrick, Akilah Jaramogi, Barbara Jardine, Rachel Rochford, Rachel Ross, and Jasmine Thomas-Girvan.
Theatre: our world onstage
Productions of both local and foreign musicals, plays, and experimental performances are staged by commercial, university, and community theatre companies. There are stand-up comedy acts as well. Look for shows at Queen’s Hall, the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA), Central Bank, Little Carib, Big Black Box, and 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 NAPA) in San Fernando.
Dance: all the right moves
We love to dance. Any opportunity we get, Trinis will start dancing. We are credited with inventing the limbo, after all. Originally an event at wakes, it was popularised by our own Julia Edwards, a dance pioneer who appeared in several films (Fire Down Below, 1957) and toured the world in the 1960s, performing the dance.
Another one of our dance legends, Beryl McBurnie, founder of the Little Carib Theatre, was the first person to promote Caribbean dance internationally. When the acclaimed dancer Katherine Dunham arrived in New York in 1938, it was McBurnie who gave her private lessons in the rhythms and dances of the West Indies. She also taught Dunham ritual Yoruba chants from Trinidad and dances such as the bongo — a dance, like the limbo, done at wakes — and kalinda, where stickfighting opponents dance (carre) in between exchanging blows!
Schools and dance 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 at many of the same venues as listed for theatre (above).
Ready to move it, move it?
If you want to dance (or can’t quite get the hang of this wining thing!) and want private lessons or classes, look no further than these two women-only studios (sorry, fellas): SHE Casa (Curepe, 398-8406) and Provocative Fitness (Woodbrook, 339-9496), which also offers pole dancing and aerial hoops (for children as well). The N9 Dance Studio is a one-stop studio for belly dancing, pole dancing, hip hop, salsa, merengue, cha cha cha, tango, flamenco, East Indian contemporary dance. There is also a kids’ studio (Port of Spain, 623-8134/758-1110. To learn the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira, check out Senzala Capoeira (Port of Spain, 764-8304). Mixed martial arts are quite popular and dojos can be found from Port of Spain to Arima, as well as Chaguanas and San Fernando.
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 section)
- 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).
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 section). Some home-grown features also get runs at local cinemas (the most popular of which are MovieTowne in Port of Spain and Chaguanas; Caribbean Cinemas 8 in Trincity and San Fernando; and the Digicel IMAX in Port of Spain). The UWI Campus Film Classics and European Film Festival (usually in May) host special screenings of regional and foreign indie films.
Music, like dance, is in the Trini DNA. 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. Of our indigenous music, these are among the most significant:
- 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. Calypso and soca are the building blocks for a range of other fusion forms.
- 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.
- Parang 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.
Indigenous music is only the beginning. Some of the most distinctive groups include fusion bands Freetown Collective, jointpop, and Kin Sound System; the rapso of 3canal; and local rock, and reggae, and jazz artists like Vaughnette Bigford. Groups like the Marionettes, Southernaires, Lydians, and Love Movement present western classical, opera, and Broadway, and are particularly popular at Christmas time.
As with everything else, Trinis have taken shopping to the extreme. You can buy just about anything here: from top brands in fashion, watches, jewellery, gadgets, phones, computers and sportswear to cars and gourmet food. If you can’t find it in one of the major malls (Long Circular, The Falls at West Mall, Trincity, Gulf City, Grand Bazaar, South Park Shopping Centre, Centre Pointe Mall, Centre City Mall), it’s sure to be in one of the many plazas that seem to be sprouting up everywhere (the older ones are Ellerslie Plaza, Price Plaza and MovieTowne Mall).
For local art, craft, fashion and accessories, check out the artisan markets (Green Market Santa Cruz, UpMarket at Woodbrook Youth Centre), and for Indian goods, look out for the Indian fair at Macoya (east) under the big tent, and the smaller ones in south and central.
Written by Nazma Muller and Caroline Taylor