I love all kinds of music, especially some Reggae, Dance Hall and Soca!! For the past three years some friends and I have gone to Toronto, Canada to enjoy Caribana Festival during the first weekend in August. This annual festival brings together Caribbean people of different backgrounds to one spot to enjoy the music, the fetes (aka parties), and the costumes worn by the masqueraders from different bands.
I was too excited because this year, for multiple reasons. Number 1: This year my friend, Amber, and I used a service called HomeAway to find a lovely condo to stay in for the weekend instead of a hotel. Now, to me this was a big deal. We were residing in Toronto like real residents, not tourists, and we were getting a bang for our buck. Number 2: We were playin Mas the right way! We didn’t want to be stormers and jump over fences to get in the road. The two of us signed up to play mas with Saldenah, 17 time band winners… and the band who had Machel Mantano on the truck!!!!!! Mr Fete himself!
This trip turned out to be everything I hoped for. Friday evening, my friend and I came into Toronto and went straight to get our costumes. Even though this was my first experience getting a costume, it was a wee bit disorganized. They were still making costumes as we waited in line! thankfully ours were completed but there were soo many people it took some time.
All I can say is…I’m going to try and never be a stormer again. This was an experience: the music, the energy, the sun was blazing, everybody’s feet were stomping. Now there are some serious misconceptions about the purpose of this whole event and the other festivals that happen in Barbados, Trinidad and the other Caribbean countries. People think it is okay to hop the fence, grab at people in the street, be aggressive and disorderly, and block the judges table as the masqueraders come through. Amber said it best: “this is our culture!” It is a tradition of performance art complete with themes, costumes, music, marching, and dancing. Competitive spirit and pride in the band you’re running with is allowed. Whole cities and towns are shut down for days, people are cooking for hours, babies are wearing costumes, old people are whining, people are spraying powder and water, the streets are filled with beautiful people singing and dancing. People are jammin, chippin, fetein, wukkin, whinin ALLLLL DAYYY and ALLLLL NIGHT. When you come out to play mas, you have to leave all the negativity behind because it just causes a disturbance. At least three times on different parts of the road, young people who stormed the street attempted to fight with each other and all the people who came out to play mas were so angry. All the DJs on the trucks kept stopping the music and saying exactly what Amber said: “Respect we culture!”
I had so much fun. Being on the road with the music, people… and rum :-)… I wish I could jump in the road every day! Honestly, according to Amber’s iPhone, we walked over 70 thousand steps in just that one day! I mean look at the map of the parade route!
And after being on the road for hours (from about 10am to 7pm), we went to the Carnival Kingdom concert where Lyrikal, Kerwin Du Bois, Destra and Machel Montano all performed. We woke up so sore! But how could we not? The music had us moving nonstop. My favorite Soca songs right now have to be: “Party Done”, “Lucy” and “Loner”:
There were few issues I had with the trip but at least we know what to do for next time! Number 1: Despite the fact that we had an awesome condo complete with secured parking, a balcony, pool, and hot tub, it was removed from the hotels where the majority of Caribana crowd stayed so we did not get to mingle in the street pre and post parade as much as we would’ve liked. We’ve got to stay closer to Dundas St. Number 2: The stormers made it really tough this year. They knocked through two sets of really tall fences/barricades into the road and just thrashed around. The back of my costume was messed up and I was bumped so hard (Amber would probably say I was dancing too hard), I dropped my phone and didn’t realize it until 30 minutes later. But, I must say that Canadians are some nice people because I got my phone back (Thank you Ms Takia and grandson)!! Number 3: The concert was great, however, I will be spending the extra bucks next time to be in VIP. I was sandwiched between rude and angry patrons, one of which started trouble with Amber (kinda my fault, but I digress). I need to be around people who want to whine, drink and know how to leave attitude outside of the Soca area.
Even with all of that, I still had a blast! Now I’m moving on to get ready for Labor Day Parade in Brooklyn, NY! Already reserved tickets for Machel’s concert on Sept 5th, now I just have to find a place to lay my head.
Talk to me. Hotep.