Ready to party

Jouvert, barre yeau , 
par levez lamain asseux yeaux..
An’ a ping a ling a ling
She pac, she pac pac 
De bottle an’ spoon, an’ de tamboo bamboo.

Roaring Lion’s take on Ole Mas

 After several near death experiences, the annual Caribbean festival has not only beaten the odds, but now enters its 52nd year with colours flying. A remarkable achievement considering the funding issues the managers of the festival face year after year in staging this wonderful Caribbean gift to the city and the country.

Still, the scribblers are unhappy because apart from Donald Trump, they can’t find a decent scandal these days to chew on. Joe Halstead and his happy band have seen to it that the surly scribblers could only report good news. Wellll, most of the time….

The Caribbean Camera has and continues to be a great supporter of Calypso and Steel Pan, but they are still treated as the weak leg of the Caribana tripod – the other leg, which takes pride of place is the grand masquerade. Calypso and Pan’s annual subvention from the FMC remains inadequate, hardly enough to mount a proper calypso and pan season without the musicians going deep into their own pockets. It is remarkable that they have created so much with so little.

The parade is nothing without calypso and pan; can you imagine the masqueraders waltzing down the road to Chopin and Mozart? Not even the police would enjoy that. In fact, last year a uniformed policeman was seen beating pan on one of the trucks last year…and he was on tempo.

But calypso has been going through a lean time, unable to muster enough funds and manpower to stage the tents. Still the Organization of Calypso Performing Arts (OCPA) is hanging in by staging their Calypso Extravaganza featuring both local and invited artistes from the Caribbean. Last year and this past Sunday, the Extravaganza kept calypso alive with some vibrant jamming’. OCPA hopes that these successes will lead them back to holding the tents and a return of the Calypso Monarch competition. We at the Camera unreservedly endorse this idea.

If calypso suffers through lean seasons, the steelbands have suffered every season from poor support and funding from the Festival Management. And for the record it should be noted that maintaining a band is an arduous and expensive undertaking, yet the steelband carries on under its own steam; it had to because there is virtually no supply of steam from an external source. This is galling for the local “panmen” who remember the honoured pace their music holds in the history of carnival. It has been a virtual founder of the grand masquerade that is the primary feature of the Trinidad carnival, the granddaddy of them all. And yet….

With all that, this coming Friday evening, the steelbands will gather at Lamport Stadium for the annual Pan Alive music competition and will fill the bleachers with pan and music lovers who know that despite its lowly status in the pecking order of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Pan Alive remains the grandest musical experience of the season.

Of course we tip our hats to the mas bands who have carried the carnival banner with great distinction. Without them there would be no colour, no pageantry, no lime. Mas is a big reason why tourists and our Caribbean family connections will flock to our shores this weekend, filling the hotels, the stores, restaurants, and the Lakeshore parade route.

The Caribbean people realize that once a year society needs a cathartic event to clear out the winter blahs and, in the words of the late and great Mighty Shadow. “ease de tension.”

To that we say: “Come and have a grand time! And bring all the goodwill to Toronto where the welcoming carpet is prepared and open to all!”