It was cold and blustery outside the Temple Israel auditorium in Silver Spring Saturday night, but inside, the band was playing the calypso tune, "Hot, Hot, Hot," for 400 carnival revelers who had come to celebrate Black History Month.
The music was steel drum and there was a guest appearance by Mighty Blackbyrd, who sang his latest hits, "Trinidad Whine," and "Grenada Sweetness." The festivities were reminiscent of the way carnival, a pre-Lenten festival, is celebrated on Trinidad and Tobago, said Von Martin, 42, a Trinidad native who helped organize the party. Most of the guests were from Trinidad.
"Carnival in Trinidad was brought in by the French, who celebrated with masquerade balls . . . and the slaves had no way of celebrating . . . " Martin said.
So slaves mimicked the French "by disguising themselves and painting their faces," he said. "The master laughed and was having fun seeing this, but didn't know he was being made fun of."
In memory of this tradition, the dance featured an "ole mas' " competition: At half past midnight, the dance floor was cleared to make way for a dozen costumed participants who strutted in to "play mas,' " as masquerading is called in Trinidad.
The masqueraders circled the dance floor and "wined," an energetic Trinidadian dance done with feet apart and knees bent while thrusting the pelvis to a syncopated beat.
Brian Walker, 33, a draftsman and member of the Caribbean Heritage Dancers, took first prize -- two bottles of Trinidad Old Oak Rum (a gala sponsor) and three calypso albums -- for his "Ghostbuster" costume.
Cynthia Williams, 39, a proofreader from Trinidad, came dressed as a rat.
"It's a carnival," Williams said. "You can do anything you like. It's an opportunity for a prince to come as a pauper and a pauper to come as a prince and have a good time."
Sylvia Proctor, 40, a management consultant from Hillcrest Heights, said she had never been to a real carnival before.
"I'm here tonight to get some idea of what carnival is like," Proctor said. "If you watch closely, it is almost as if a play is unfolding before your eyes." She added, "It's a sense of complete freedom. You just let go."
The gala was sponsored by Third World International Communications Foundation, a production company, and the rum company.