Reflecting the different ethnic groups, as well as the strong presence of international agencies and oil companies in T&T, the diversity of food and restaurants on the islands is more varied than elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The Indian influence is most strong on Trinidad, and foods like roti and doubles have become national favourites. Rotis Trini-style are flat bread wraps most often eaten at lunch, where something like a savoury pancake layered with split peas is filled with a choice of curried vegetables and/or meats, such as potato, channa (chick peas), bodi (string beans), sweet pumpkin, bhaji (spinach) and curried mango.
Most common meats are chicken or beef, but you’ll also find shrimp, goat, duck and other fillings on occasions. A very popular breakfast or nighttime snack is doubles, always served street-side and consisting of two small flat breads with curried channa spooned over them and toppings of pepper, cucumber or mango sauces.
Trinidadians are rightly proud of their national instrument, the Steel Pan drum: the only instrument in the world invented in the 20th Century. With its origins in the inner-city areas of Port of Spain, panhas grown to be an international phenomenon representing the Caribbean as a whole.
Each February the national steel pan competition Panorama runs concurrently with Carnival, with sessions at every pan yard each evening – well worth a visit.
Each steel pan orchestra is incredible; there are around thirty large bands in Trinidad alone, each with between 130 and 160 musicians. Competition is fierce – even to get a place in the band – and the immensity and dynamics of the music is like no other musical experience on Earth.
To get the real experience you have to stand in the middle of one of these bands, which you are welcomed to do during practice sessions held several times per week. We will be happy to introduce you!
Calypso too is a Trinbagonian music form, born from the early sugar plantations and changed through the centuries to incorporate Latin, French and British influences into its very African-style commentary. Made hugely popular in the 20th Century by the legendary Mighty Sparrow, calypso has come to be the most popular form of social commentary and political wit and humour on the islands.
Through the decades, scores of famous calypsonians have added their own styles to the genre, such as the inimitable David Rudder in the 1980’s who established a more energetic feel. You can hear calypso live during the Carnival season in Calypso Tents where various artists perform nightly – out of the season and all year round you can experience live Calypso in a small club in Woodbrook – a visit here is part of our Night Tour – we will help you with the interpretation of the songs…
Developing calypso into an even more eminently danceable form in the 1990’s came soca. A more frantic pace with influences from Indian drumming as well as the African tradition was accompanied with electronic instruments and lyrics more focused on jumping, waving and wining than on dealing with social issues. With the song Hot, Hot, Hot! probably the world’s most famous soca hit, you’ll be hard pushed to find it still played here; much more likely are the songs of superstar Machel Montano who for the last decade has led the way with a new album each year and a long series of catchy tunes. In the central and south of Trinidad, Chutney Soca holds sway, with risqué lyrics sung in Hindi and English, and dance moves and beats mixing with the classical Indian music form.
Aside from the most mainstream and popular forms, there is also a good rock music scene in T&T. A number of local bands like Jointpop and Orange Sky regularly fill dancefloors with their catchy tunes. Currently, well-known Trinidadian sitarist, Mungal Patasar is also proving popular, and who together with his eight-piece band, plays a popular mix of Indian and jazz music together with steelpan.
Reggae, of course, is heard all over Trinidad and Tobago – except in Carnival season when Soca and Calypso most definitely hold sway – but every dancehall, club and bar will switch between genres in an exceptionally refreshing way that will have you moving whatever your tastes!