The festival was transformed when the island's slaves were freed in 1834 as a consequence of the passage of the Abolition Act by the British parliament in 1833. The emancipated slaves first celebrated their freedom on August 1, the anniversary of their emancipation but soon participated in Carnival instead.
As part of this transformation, they started carrying burning sugar canes or "cannes brulees" which was soon called canboulay. The carnival soon featured ribald dancing by men and women in masks. The people would also gather in "kaiso" tents where a "chantwell" or lead singer would lead them in song to vent their feelings. "Kaiso" music has its origins in West Africa and was brought over by the slaves who (in the early history of the artform) used it to sing about their masters.
Captain Arthur Baker became the head of Trinidad's police force in the early 1880s and was determined to end the canboulay as a threat to public order. In 1881, Trinidad's police force clashed with the revellers in Port of Spain who had banded together against the police. This caused resentment amongst the ordinary people of Trinidad who valued the festival despite the clashes.
Due to the feelings of the population, Governor Sir Sanford Freeling confined police to barracks in order to calm down the situation. However, when Freeling was recalled in 1883, Baker sought to crack down at the canboulay in the southern cities of San Fernando and Princes Town during the carnival of 1884.
In Princes Town, the masqueaders attacked the police station after magistrate Hobson decided to confine the police to barracks because the crowd was too large. After Hobson was felled with a stone, the police opened fire on the rioters killing a youth and seriously wounding two others causing the crowd to flee.
There were also serious clashes between police and rioters in San Fernando during Carnival but the police gradually won the upper hand.
The chantwell became a calypsonian in the 1920s and calypso became widely popular throughout Trinidad and the Caribbean in the 1930s. Harry Belafonte, a Jamaican artist became hugely successful throughout the world with his 1956 Calypso becoming a million seller. During the 1960s, calypso was merged with Indian music and later soul and funk to become soca.
The Canboulay riots are an important part of the history of Trindidad and Tobago and are still celebrated today as Carnival.
Carnival draws fire-breathing dragons, glittery grim reapers and translucent butterflies to Calypso beats in Trinidad
Feb 07, 2005; PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer AP Worldstream 02-07-2005 Dateline: PORT-OF-SPAIN, TrinidadDisguised as fire-breathing...