HartsCarnival first began in 1961 with Edmond and Lil Hart and their Carnival presentation “”Was this Greece”". For the next 30 years Edmond and Lil continued to successfully produce Carnival bands. Edmond was famous for patterns, Lil for designing, and production was a family affair.
It was during these years that Lil became known as “”The First Lady of Mas”", since a bandleader was traditionally a position held by men.
Confusion reigned when Lil broke tradition and designed a band with a fantasy theme rather than a historical one which was common.
The Harts with the help of their children continued to produce bands until October 1990 when Lil passed away leaving three of her six children the dream of continuing the Harts Carnival band.
In 1991 Thais, Luis and Gerald successfully designed and produced their band, Total Recall, in memory of Lil and to this day each Harts Carnival Band produced for Trinidad is dedicated to Lil… in her memory, in her honour, with her dreams.
The Band has continued to design and produce costumes at the highest standard and quality which has led them to become one of the largest, safest and most popular bands in the Caribbean. No other Band can compete with the Harts 47 years of experience.
• Harts was the FIRST Carnival Band to be labeled " The Fun Band" in the 1960′s by the print, television, and radio media.
• We were the FIRST band to forgo our chances of winning a Carnival title or prize in order to ensure that our Masqueraders are provided with a non-stop party experience for the entire two days of Carnival. And we remain to date, the "only" large Carnival band that consistently puts you, before, us.
• Harts was the FIRST to introduce amplified Steelband music on the road, Carnival Monday and Tuesday, bringing an entirely "new" experience to the people that played in our band.
• The FIRST CarnivalBand to have a female designer of Mas Costumes had to be Harts! Competing with the likes of legends of Carnival such as George Bailey, Harold Saldenha, Wayne Berkeley and Carlysle Chan, the first woman of Carnival, Lil Hart, made an impressive statement of costume design and mixtures of colors in Carnival that was never before attempted. The reviews were astounding. One radio commentator of the day described one of Lil’s fledgling Carnival designs this way " absolutely stunning, when Harts is on stage, the whole Savannah lights up".
• Lil Hart, the original designer and co-owner of Harts was the FIRST designer to take the then described "bold step" of producing a Carnival Band with costumes in fluorescent (neon) colours. " So brilliant were the colours of Lil’s designs that press photographers complained that their photographs were coming out blurred". Thank God for colour film, because you just could not stop Lil Hart in producing yet another FIRST.
• Drink Carts? The original drinks cart was the brainchild of three Harts Masqueraders: Ransford Thomas, Wayne Dalla Costa and Desmond Caracciolo. These innovative drinkers used a grocery cart as the original version of what is now a standard feature of Carnival. The cart, which was packed with what these young men referred to as their "vital supplies": rum, whiskey, beer, and "chasers", and which was pushed by hired hands, was FIRST seen in Harts Carnival Band. By the following year, several variations of the " Drinks Cart" were out…long handle carts, broad handle carts, and yes, even a few more "grocery carts" suddenly appeared with additions like Roti, Pelau, Chinese food and other goodies. A far cry from the current carts with showers, cell phones and Johnny Walker Blue!
• As you know, Carnival bands and music go hand in hand. The younger generation of Harts, Luis and Gerald, nagged their parents to let them mount Purple Haze, the boy’s Disk Jockey title, on the trucks. Purple Haze put together a concoction of amplifiers, mixers, microphones, cassette players and, according to Edmond Hart, " boxes the size of a short man" on top of the trucks to play for two whole days of Carnival. While "no other band would dare to do this", as Edmond said at the time, the boys put DJ music as "par for the course" into Trinidad Carnival.
• Beads and under-wire two piece bathing suits for women? Yes…again Harts was the FIRST to take such a daring risk. We tried it with just one section at first and the result? … Well, look around at all the bands today and what do you see?
• By the end of the 1980s, security of the Masquerader became an issue. The Harts responded by being the FIRST to introduce organized security in a Carnival Band. It was a bold step and many thought they were mad to do it but the response from the Masqueraders was astounding. Nowadays, is there any large band without a security force?
• Well, after all this, what else? What about the fact that Harts was the FIRST Carnival Band to see the need for and develop an internet Website with online registration, HARTSCARNIVAL.COM. ? Never satisfied to be second best, Harts led the way again.
• Wouldn’t it be really nice for Masqueraders to be able to move through a Carnival Band hearing the same song in each Section without having to change rhythm of dance because you’re hearing two tunes at the same time? We thought so… and introduced the FIRST linked up music truck system so that our Masqueraders don’t have to miss a beat… drunk or sober, is only one sound throughout the band, so yuh still stepping good!
In her own words…
In 1998, after winning Miss Trinidad and Tobago, Peter Elias re-introduced me to the children of the legendary mas’ makers, Edmond and Lil Hart.
Peter felt that as Miss Trinidad and Tobago Universe 1997, I needed to be very visible at Carnival 1998 and there was no better band in which my visibility would be amplified than in Harts.
Harts has built a reputation as the band with the most beautiful and well-toned women in Trinidad and Tobago. Peter, always my biggest fan and supporter, therefore surmised that the “hottest body and most beautiful of them all” could not be anywhere else for Carnival 1998! Gerald, Thais, and Luis, now running the carnival dynasty created by their parents, kindly obliged. There began a relationship with this close-knit family that has withstood the excitement and frenzy of Miss Universe 1998 and 1999, my time living abroad thereafter, and my pregnancy during the 2006 Carnival season.
As a child, I interacted with the family socially through the Lions’ Club of Port of Spain Central to which both my father and Edmond Hart were members. We, the families of the Club members, interacted occasionally. The Harts kids are a little older than my sister and I so our interaction was minimal. I do remember Down de Islands “limes” with the Club and how close the Harts all were. Central to this fun, close family was Lil Hart.
This sense of family and family loyalty is evident in their Carnival band on the road. It is a well-oiled, fun machine that just feels like home. Harts is truly one of, if not the only, large family owned and operated band in Port of Spain for carnival. The costumes are all designed by Gerald Hart, who is to pretty mas’ what Georgio Armarni is to the tailored suit…consistent, creative, detailed and luxurious. Luis is the king of logistics. Harts has had band security long before any other band. It is the only large band I have experienced in which costumed masqueraders are not squeezed out of the space around their music trucks on the road at 4:30 PM on Carnival Tuesday and we never feel trapped or imprisoned by the security intended to protect us. Some how Luis manages to keep this big band (with a legion of young followers that out-number its masqueraders) in check without this massive effort being obvious to either the Harts masquerader or the Harts fan.
My first Harts costume took me to the first place in the national costume competition at Miss Universe 1998 and gave me the edge to win that competition. Before being crowned Miss Universe 1998, National Geographic Magazine requested a photo of me in my “Freedom” costume for a story they were doing on global standards of beauty…a testimony to the beauty and power of this presentation. In that costume I felt like Peter Elias envisioned me…the epitome of beauty and grace.
I’m the first to admit Gerald Hart can build a deck on a woman’s chest like no other. With minimal effort he could put Victoria’s Secret out of business. His attention to detail inside and out and his creativity is unsurpassed. No designer understands and celebrates the female form more thoroughly and gloriously.
Thank you Gerald for your friendship, eye for design and consistent belief in me. Our decade of mas’ together is just the beginning.
Like so many other Harts masqueraders, three generations of Fitzies will take to the streets for Carnival 2011. My Mom, Juditha, will likely be a fancy sailor. I will, of course, don whatever costume Gerald decides I should wear. I will have no idea what it will look like completed until 6:30 AM on Carnival Tuesday when I dress at the Mas’ Camp. My son, Ailan, will spend a few hours on both days, hands in the air and costumed, jumping with his grandma and mama both looking and feeling like Trini Goddesses. We will not have a care in the world for we will be captivated by the Harts’ Magic.
By Wendy Fitzwilliam