Prescription from The Carnival Doctor

Rhadi Ferguson, PhD
"The Carnival Doctor"

For the best information in the world concerning carnivals please visit For the most comprehensive site available for fete tickets and masquerader costumes, please visit

For more information on how to properly prepare for carnival like a true veteran, please visit

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    After getting off of my flight and through customs on Friday, quite honestly all I wanted to see was the back of my eyelids.

    I. WAS. TIRED.

    As I made my way through customs and then outside, I saw the driver holding up the sign "Ferg."

    I hailed him up and said, "I'm Ferg." And then he summoned my ride and to my surprise my friend, Chauncie who had arrived an hour before me, was in the car. Instead of going to the hotel and resting, she decided to stay in the taxi and stop by a jerk chicken spot. So when I got in the taxi she handed me that wrapped up aluminum foil with that chicken inside and it gave me life.

    Just so that you know, Carnival in Jamaica was a wonderful experience and I cannot recommend it enough. And although I can most certainly recommend it, recommending it without providing the appropriate direction and advice is pretty nonsensical.

    Any carnival goer knows how difficult it is to plan for a carnival that they've never been to. The first thing that we do is get on Google and start searching for the dates and then we look to our carnival veteran network and find out who has been to the particular carnival that we want to go to and then we piece things together from there.

    After missing TNT 2017, I am looking forward to Jamaica Carnival this weekend for more than a few reasons. One of them being.... I just really want to be inna fete during carnival when that song "Full Extreme" drops so I cyan "hold dem and wuk dem."

    What Is Soca Brainwash?

    Soca Brainwash is a fete where fun and fete expectations are meant to deliver an experience in harmony with the theme.

    It’s a fete where fetting becomes an ideal of social consciousness. Where the necessary medicine to cure today's social ailments are prescribed through and within the fete. 

    It’s is very difficult to bring the vibes of carnival into a fete.  More often than not the fetes are provided as a means to the “finish” to the emotional "roadgasm" that is reached through the road experience.  What most fetes never accomplish is how to integrate and interstice that “roadgasm” feeling into the fete experience.  J’Ouvert themed parties and paint parties can somewhat do it as they blend the dutty mas and the Old mas thema into the fetting experience but few have been able to integrate the pretty mas experience inside of a fete.

    We have all seen fetes that have had models and participants walk around in costumes in an attempt to bring that feeling into the fete. And while all of these efforts are great, they still somewhat miss the mark. Like two beautiful people who just can’t seem to click on a personal and sexual level. I mean, they look great together but there is just something missing with the chemistry.
    Now, I don’t really believe in good fetes or bad fetes. I truly believe that the people that you are with and the attitude that you bring to the fete determines the time that you had. With that being said, I had a great time.  I was with my friends and we were all together to attend a fete and not a funeral so I count that as a TREMENDOUS blessing. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my job is to critique fetes in total, not just from my personal experience.

    We’ve all missed flights, arrived at rental car counters when there are no more cars, and have had housing arrangements cancelled. The hard part was not about missing a fete or two or about not being able to get some of that vacation time from work reinstated. The hard part was knowing that the same storm that we were trying to “dodge” in order to have fun just brought destruction and havoc to our friends and families in the Caribbean.  The tough part was seeing that person in the fete with a flag from Haiti or the Bahamas…... And while throwing a lil’ wine, you lean in and ask them… “How’s your family? Is everyone okay?”  And then they respond, “We haven’t heard from them since the storm, so we are just praying.” All while the soca music is blaring and the bass is beating off your chest. All you could do is lean in and give the person a hug while understanding that carnival is a celebration of life and you still must celebrate because time waits on no one.  And there was a balance of unadulterated madness and passion mixed with understanding and compassion which we all tried to maintain. As the time went on we were able to remove ourselves from the reality of the day and connect with the life mirage that carnival provides. And that is what made this carnival so different. It made it sad, great, and emotionally overwhelming all at the same damn time. 
    Any movement’s ability to shape, change and transform communities and persons is based upon touch. It’s based upon the experiential effect of the experience.  When you do not move around the community on the road you miss and important part of the movement and the culture.  You actually stifle the culture and kill it at is roots.  If you speak to any anthropologist they will tell you that there is something incorrect about taking mas off the road and putting it into a park like setting. Or removing mas and just fetting with no road experience.  You will literally over time kill the carnival experience as it should be and turn it into a series of fetes culminating with a big party in a park with trucks that have music. That is not mas and that is not affecting the masses and the surrounding communities.  Even the gospel had to spread through travel and through touch.
    Because I live in the United States in South Florida, I can actually arrive on Friday and do the amazing Friday night concert and then do J’Ouvert and the Parade of Bands on Saturday and leave on Sunday.  With two small children and a wife who knows that I am a carnival junkie this is absolutely appealing to me.  It allows me to experience the things which I love the most and do them in a timely fashion and return home. Granted, there are some events in Bermuda for which Bermuda is KNOWN for, like the Raft Up. The Raft Up is an event that Bermuda has perfected over time during their Bermuda Cup Match Weekend celebration where there are a number of festivities including a Soca Vs. Reggae party, various fetes and, of course, the Raft Up party.  I have NEVER attended a Raft Up party and for me to try to explain it would do it a severe injustice so I will just provide you with the best illustration  possible:

    The Carnival Ref describes it as, “A barge with a sound system with boats all around….”

    One of the most difficult challenges about the middle of the year carnival season for those of us who "peak" for Trinidad is that we get caught in that window where we need a break.

    Just so that you understand, for those of you that do not understand. 

    Many of us carnival junkies use the 10 to 12 week period between Miami Carnival (the last carnival on the carnival circuit) and Trinidad Carnival (the first carnival on the carnival circuit) as the time to get our cardio and nutrition on point.  In Miami we get into what we call "good enough to go"  shape. Which is really the foundation that we need to have so that we don't have so far to go between Miami and Trinidad in order to reach our goal.
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