Live. Laugh. Love. Trinidadians are the epitome of this through and through.
That was abundantly clear while at Curtis Eustace’s Annual Christmas Classic last Sunday.
Eustace, a leader in promoting and preserving Trini cultural heritage in Toronto, assembled a show true to the experience with which Trinis and their Islands neighbours are intrinsically familiar at the Metropolitan Centre in Scarborough.
What Trinidadian could possibly resist that sweet Latin sound strummed and crooned by parang bands Moka, Tony Maestre & Friends and, Los Amigos and Connector? And what would a classic show be without the fan-favourite throwback Wet Meh Down performed by Johnny King?
Even between sets, the entertainment kept everyone moving thanks to Larhythms and DJ BAD LAD.
Asked what makes them come back every year and if Parang as a tradition is at risk of fading out as younger people become further engrossed in commercialized mainstream culture, several guests said Caribbean-Canadians must maintain their participation and identity in such cultural events beyond food, music, friends and family.
The well-dressed crowd, including a mix of Islands people amongst the majority of Trinis, congregated at the front of the stage. Together they swayed fluidly like the slick waves of the beaches they gave up to be here in Toronto, under a melodic spell spurred by a steelpan.
Ken (Professor) Philmore’s face twisted as he vigorously beat his pan to My Girl, a song not exactly associated with the Christmas holiday or parang but he electrified the crowd, bringing them to their feet, delighted and proud of his declaration that this – the steelpan, the people, the food, the music – is “We ting”.
However, it wasn’t solely about the pride Trinidadians are usually characterized as having but rather more about paying homage to a culture that refuses to die no matter what country its people migrate to.
It was about the indescribable way being around your countrymen and women, the very people who share in the significance a simple piece of pastelle could make, that sparked an electric energy in the atmosphere.
Suddenly, the impending snow winter brings every year was pushed onto the backburner of our worries, and instead replaced with memories of Christmases past at ‘home’.
Every guest who had grown up in Trinidad many years ago spoke of how much of a staple in their life it was to go from house to house singing parang all through the night until the sun came up.
Their eyes lit up under the amber glow of the lights when they each reflected on such nostalgia.
Carol Mottley, a Trinidadian from Oshawa, perhaps put it perfectly by explaining, “Being with the people you love and sharing in the food your mummy or grandmother cooked for everyone, and the dancing, and just enjoying yourself is what makes Christmas for us.
“It’s who we are as a people. That’s what we know growing up. That is our spirit as a nation and because of that we are able to carry through our Christmas traditions to our children.”
As Mottley said this, DJ BAD LAD dropped the beat once more after Marc Trinidad’s millionth joke on Jamaicans, which never got old. The hall was no longer just a place to entertain. Eustace had instead given the Trinidadian community a space to essentially “find each other”, to reconnect with the memories that made Christmas special for them as a child in Trinidad.
His parang show, as always, proves that even though you may no longer live in Trinidad, the essence of the Islands will never cease.
Nonetheless, there is one worrisome thing that looms in the minds of many: Millennials need to get more involved, otherwise like all good things this may come to an end.
But how do we do this? It all comes down to support.
At Eustace’s Parang show, however, one could rest assured with one glance at the crowd of his most colourful supporters that as long as we have the right leadership on our side, there is truth in the Trini saying, “Together we aspire. Together we achieve.”
So, even when the harsh winter cold arrives to smack us in the face, all it takes is a little parang, a little pan, and a little comedy to temporarily transport us all back ‘home’.