By Stephen Weir
By all rights, the Trinidad and Tobago’s red, white and black flag should now have a small maple leaf stitched into its corner in honour of Canada’s participation in the just concluded Trinidad Carnival. A large contingent of Canadians came to the island to supply costumes, pan music, inspiration, comedy and song to the world famous festival.
From the King and Queen competition, to Panorama, to the J’ouvert and the actual parade of bands, Canadian carnival experience was put to work. Hundreds more joined bands and took part in the street jump up , or, simply stood on the sidewalk and took it all in.
The annual event got off to a rocky start when reports of a possible terrorist plot became a much repeated news item across the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. Last Thursday, according to Trinidad media “T&T Police Service revealed they had uncovered and prevented a threat to disrupt Carnival activities mere days before the festival … 13 persons were detained.”
There were no “terrorist activities” although local media reported yesterday that there had been four murders, a series of robberies, shootings and the death of an elderly United States citizen (who was killed when a truck backed over him) These were some of the incidents “that marred this year’s Carnival celebrations.”
“There were no problems that I saw during Carnival. None at all. I didn’t play mas’, opting instead to walk around Port of Spain, taking in the fetes and watching it all,” said Toronto-based Alicia Sealey who is currently in Trinidad managing the 32nd Music Festival in Port of Spain.
“There were heavily armed officers carrying machine guns on the street and three and four officers and inspectors at every major intersection. People I talked to said they were happy that there was a police presence (given the earlier threat).”
“What a morning “ said Toronto ticket promoter and commercial printer Tony Chankar. “San Fernando is the best place in the world to play J’ouvert!! I am seeing a lot of Canadians. You couldn’t get a flight to Trinidad (from Canada) in the past two weeks!”
So who were some of the Canadians making the Carnival the success that it was? The Caribbean Camera contacted by phone amd email over a dozen people who took part in the festival.
Bandleader Marcus Eustace of Carnival Nationz was an integral part of this year’s King and Queen competition at the Dimanche Gras show at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Sunday.
“I designed and built a King and Queen costume. Both placed second,” said the Toronto mas’ man. “The king lost by one point which prevented me from a 3-peat. (His costumes won in 2017 and 2016). His brother, Ted Eustace, “wore the king” and Krystal Thomas, the queen.”
Earl Thompson was the 2018 King of Carnival winner in “Death And The Maiden, The Fancy King Sailor Plays Pegasus” while Ted Eustace grabbed second place with “Los Bandditos”. Krystal Thomas, tied for second place in the Eustace costume De Head Huntress.”
Veteran Toronto mas’ man Louis Saldenah of Mas’K Club didn’t make it to carnival but his brother and son did. “Yes. Trini Revellers played a tribute to Harold Saldenah my father (and famous Trinidad mas’ man),” said Louis Saldenah. “My brother lives there and my son, Ronnie, went down for carnival. So we were well represented.”
Although the Toronto mas band, Tribal Carnival, was not at the Trinidad carnival, its costumes were. Dexter Seusahai and his daughter, Celena, supplied custom costumes to Canadians to wear in Trinidad.
Many members of Afropan, Toronto’s oldest steelband, were in Trinidad playing with different local groups. Kerry-Anne Wright performed with the Renegades Steel Orchestra, the winner of Panorama.
“Hey! Yes I was! “texted Kerry-Anne Wright. “It was my first time playing Pan in Trinidad and my very first Panorama. There were a few others from Afropan and a couple other people who play pan with Pan Fantasy with us.”
LaToya Brown, another Afropan member, joined the Skiffle Bunch Steel orchestra which took second place in the Panorama competition.
Earl LaPierre Senior, the founder of Afropan, was a radio host for a live broadcast on WACK 90.1 FM covering the Panorama Semis with host Kenny Phillips. Earl LaPierre Junior was also playing in Trinidad for Carnival.
Some of the entertainers who performed both at carnival events and fetes have a strong Canadian connection, including singer David Rudder, now an Ajax ,Ontario Toronto resident. Also in Trinidad for the carnival were Toronto comedian Jean Paul and Connector, the reigning Canadian calypso Monarch.