Check It Deeply: What is Carnival Tabanca?

Words by Marcha M. Johnson—

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Tabanca. Some of you may have no idea what this refers to and others may be all too familiar with this phenomenon.

Ever felt a deeply rooted longing and insatiable desire? A sense of helplessness that eventually consumes your mind and manifests itself in the form of aches and pains, leaving you in a sort of vegetative state? Okay, it’s maybe not that drastic but you can see where I’m going with this. Some might call tabanca the west Indian equivalent to being lovesick. But it definitely does not only pertain to a yearning for someone. In one of his biggest tunes from 2013, the Soca Viking himself, Bunji Garlin, addressed a kind of tabanca that masqueraders around the world (but mainly in Trinidad) feel: A carnival tabanca.

Tabanca is one of those things you just can’t escape, even if you’ve tried your hardest, especially if you’re completely passionate about someone, or something, that has taken a leave of absence from your life. So next time you find your mind drifting into a bottomless abyss of emotional turmoil, don’t worry—it’s just tabanca. And as with most other ailments, it’ll pass (especially when you’re reacquainted with the object of your desire or find an even better replacement).

Carnival tabanca can occur anywhere on your calendar where the carnival season isn’t marked off (essentially March through December), despite all the preparation that takes place during this time. This would explain the unanticipated, but overwhelmingly appreciated, June 2013 release  of Garlin’s nostalgic track “Carnival Tabanca.” The lighthearted track has a therapeutic quality for many Trinis and carnival addicts of all nationalities. And though six months have passed since the release of the song’s video, last week the soca powerhouse (in collaboration with Beach House Entertainment) unveiled a “videomentary,” offering insight into the concept behind the track.

As it turns out, Bunji literally caught an actual, temperature-and-all fever while abroad just after Carnival, leading him to write the song. Evidence, perhaps, that tabanca truly is a real thing.