In conversation with Jai Ojah-Maharaj
Making a Caribbean Connection online
For more than 30-years, Jai Ojah-Maharaj has been a radio host in Toronto of calypso and soca -first with his CHIN radio programme, Caribbean Connection, and more recently, on the Trinidadian Super Soca MyCaribbeanRadio online station (currently his show is offline).
Time was when he was always busy DJing at events around the city. But that was then. Now he has time to have a “cold one” and chat online with Stephen Weir about how he is coping with the virus shutdown.
STEPHEN WEIR: Where are you? And with whom are you in quarantine?
JAI OJAH- MAHARAJ: I am at home with my wife. I am gardening and it looks very good. There are, unfortunately, car repairs to look after … and I used to take a daily walk on the nearby golf course ( 90 minutes a day). But now that the golf couse is closed to walkers, I will be getting on my bicycle
STEPHEN WEIR: Have you been able to use this enforced downtime to be creative? And if so, what might appear when you emerge from quarantine?
JAI OJAH-MAHARAJ: What I have been able to do during period is to totally re-file and catalogue my vinyl record collection. I am separating my huge collection into calypso, soca, soca-parang, chutney, rock; light pop, jazz, light listening classics and my soul and R&B collection. I am doing that as well for my CDs.
The same is being done for my collections of pictures that relate to my time as the producer/host of the Caribbean Connection on CHIN RADIO and the CNE picnic . And there are our family pictures, too.
STEPHEN WEIR: Will you be back with the Caribbean Festival?
JAI OJAH-MAHARAJ : Yes I would like to be part of the Caribbean festival next year. This year off should give everyone an opportunity to regroup and come back with an abundance of creativity. It should give the Festival Management Committee some breathing room to deal with its financial shortcomings and sponsorship challenges.
STEPHEN WEIR: After the pandemic is over, what do you think the new normal will be in terms of the music and how people will react to it?
JAI OJAH-MAHARAJ: I think it is sad that the many soca artists who produced fabulous hits for 2020 are not getting the opportunity to perform to huge crowds. And there is the issue of lost revenue for these performers. But in times like these, their creativity comes into play and I am sure there will be great material produced for next year. However, are we going to see the huge soca fetes of 20,000 in Trinidad and Tobago or the 3,000 we see in Toronto? That’s left to be seen. It would be sad if it has to scale back and we have to go into a sterile atmosphere, which is not what soca music is all about. It is about audience participation and interaction.