Crème rising to the top

By Alwyn McGill

It was refreshing to see veteran band leaders step up their game for the 50th Anniversary of  the Toronto Caribbean Carnival last Saturday. Maybe it was because two week prior to the big ” jump up,” a new band, Venom, won the Junior King of the band title and tied in the race for the Junior band of the year with Carnival Nationz – only to lose in a tie breaker.  But whatever the reason, the competition on the Lakeshore was keen.

It was not hard the see the bandleaders’ anxiety and competitive juices flowing as the carnival  procession moved along the route. There is no doubt that bringing home the top award on the 50th Anniversary was a big incentive for the mas’ men.

As one who regularly covers soccer, it was crystal clear to me that when a new band or a new team enters a competition and breaks into winners circle in the first (Kiddies) line of competition. it augers well for the organizers.

It is at this point that I decided to interview the leaders of some of the top mas’ bands. I discovered they were  pleased by the decision of the Festival Management Committee to change the route of the parade to allow masqueraders “more  room to have fun ” while displaying their costumes without interference from spectators.

I also learned that Venom band leader Hayden Joseph was an integral part of both Carnival Nationz and Louis Saldenah bands individual winning creations and he was now in competition against his former partners and was coming off  with a win.

Then on to the King and Queen of the bands competition at Lamport Stadium on Carnival Thursday. People seemed less inclined to predict a winner as in previous years since the field expanded and the race for Band of the year seemed wide open.

However, there are horses for the courses and the crème usually rises to the top. Carnival Nationz under the controls of Joella Craichton and Shane Reid Mungal proved that for the umpteenth time when they destroyed the opposition to win their seventh consecutive individual King and Queen titles.

The much anticipated showdown at the finals of  Pan Alive at Lamport on Friday was another indication of class when Pan Fantasy, playing last, clinched its eighth title in a row as the bar was raised by several bands that performed the same rendition of the Road March song “Extreme”

The action then turned to the big stage on Lakeshore Blvd for Saturday’s parade.  With no disrespect to the earlier bands, the real competition started with the Toronto Revellers coming up in Number Two position.

Led by the Toronto Raptors assistant Coach, Jamaal Magloire. the band portrayed Let the rhythm move you with an accent on the different cultures of music. They were followed by Carnival Nationz and Louis Saldenah’s band and in no time flat Lakeshore was consumed by an atmosphere reminiscent of Trinidad Carnival.

Louis Saldenah who experienced frustration with the delays in getting his band on stage, won the 2017 Band of the Year award for the 18th time in the history of Toronto Caribbean Carnival. With an  estimated 4,200 masqueraders,  his band  was the biggest to cross the Lakeshore stage.

As I write this piece, let me remind you that for the better part of 39 years, this  parade called the Toronto Carnival is still internationally known as Caribana. Clearly, the bandleaders deserve a lot of credit for putting on a grand display for the 50th anniversary.

All things considered, Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival turned out to be an enjoyable event that passed with no major incidents

Trinidad Carnival was ALWAYS the blueprint for the Caribana parade and that mold has prevailed for all Caribbean Carnival festivals worldwide. While adhering to byelaws and regulations the cultural aspects of Carnival should not be compromised.

Many of the original organizers of the CCC have since passed and should be honored for  launching  what is now the largest festival of its kind  in North America. So hats off to Peter Marcelline, George Lowe, Dr. Alban Liverpool, Charles Roach and others who cultivated Caribana TOGETHER.