In the hills of San Fernando is the Great Wall, the most famous Chinese restaurant on the island. This is a rags-to-riches story of owner Maurice Soong, whose passion for quality and service has won him widespread affection and respect. As they dance to the infectious calypso music of the island’s annual Carnival, members of the Soong family reflect on how their assimilation and personal choices will affect Maurice’s beloved restaurant.
Perhaps it was the lack of sleep or maybe it was the heat and the humidity, but the whole day of Mardi Gras felt like a fluid dream in blurring colours and overlapping music. On the first day of our shoot in Trinidad, we are thrown into the middle of a frenzy known as Carnival 2000. Kwoi had been shooting non-stop since six in the morning while I carried his heavy camera bag, at times leading and at times following him. We took a break in the afternoon, sneaking into the hilltop Hilton Hotel to sip tall drinks by the pool.
After the hustle and bustle of the Carnival, the end of our Trinidad visit is more relaxing. People are more laid back on Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras Tuesday, when everyone takes off to the beach. Needless to say, the whole city shut down and we had a leisurely time with Maurice and Brenda visiting Charlotte Street in Port of Spain, walking around a deserted Queen’s Park Savannah which had been filled with revelers on the previous day. Wednesday also coincides with the famous all-you-can-eat buffet at the Great Wall, and on this Ash Wednesday, Maurice danced with Brenda for our camera.
Trinidad Musical Landscape, Joy Lapps
Feelin de Vibe, Chinese Laundry
WEFM 96.1 revolutionized radio programming in Trinidad by catering to a predominantly young adult demographic. Playing mostly an urban array of music of rap, R&B, reggae and soca, the radio station is co-owned by one of Trinidad’s best DJs, Anthony Chow Lin On, a.k.a. Chinese Laundry, and Johnny Soong, son of our restaurant owner. It is from Johnny that I got a CD compilation of the best of Carnival 2000. Among them is Chinese Laundry’sFeelin de Vibe. There are many artists of Chinese descent in the Caribbean, the most prominent being Jamaica’s pioneering Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.