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Supporting smaller bands to ensure success of Toronto Carnival
By Anthony Joseph
In Trinidad and Tobago, there is a saying that Carnival was just “round the corner.” As a child, I remember walking long distances, hoping to find Carnival round the proverbial corner. Of course, what the older folks meant was that the festivities would soon be held. Today, we find ourselves in a similar situation with Toronto Carnival approaching. It also is just round the corner.
The Caribbean Camera has already covered the mas’ camps and band launches for 2023. If your event wasn’t covered, it’s likely we were unaware of it. Times have changed, and some band leaders no longer prioritize local media coverage. If they have a wide enough circle of friends, they may consider that “word of mouth” advertising was good enough. However, some band leaders do value newspaper coverage without having to pay to support that media. Of course, it would be wonderful if the local media could afford to continually support the community without any support in return.
Local newspapers thrive when supported by local businesses, and local businesses thrive when supported by the community. Ideally, local businesses would support local newspapers, and the readers of those newspapers would, in turn, support the local businesses. We know that the community reads The Caribbean Camera regularly because of our healthy distribution and extremely high pickup rate with less than one percent returns.
When I first arrived in Toronto, many years ago, there were numerous small Caribbean grocery stores scattered throughout the city. Although a few still remain, they are gradually being overshadowed by well-financed grocery stores that operate as corporations. These stores may save you 25 cents on each purchase, which can add up in the long run. However, we must consider the cost to our community because these grocery stores rarely invest in our community or hire people from our community. Once our money leaves the community, it is gone forever. We must, therefore, find a way to keep our dollars circulating within the community to the benefit of us instead of allowing our money to take the expressway off-ramp into someone else’s community. Let us remember that charity and support must begin at home.
This year, we will have several competing small bands for Carnival 2023, including E.P.I.C Carnival with a mas called “Passion”; Sunline Mas is presenting “Desires”; Lavway Mas – “Then and Now”; Freedom Mas Band – “Carnival is Woman”; Costume Creators are bringing you “Goddess of Paradise”; Lux Carnival is presenting “The Legend of Diamonds”; Fantasia is staging “Carnival’s Odds N Oddities”, and Sugar Cane is coming with “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”.
These smaller bands often offer “better deals” and more personalized experiences, including costumes. By supporting these bands, you not only have the opportunity for a unique and possibly more affordable Carnival experience but you will also contribute to its growth and development.
There certainly should be more smaller bands consisting of around 200 members at the grand parade because it generates that family vibe. However, it becomes incredibly challenging for smaller bands to compete with bands of 5,000 or even 1,000 members. The results are often predictable with the larger bands consistently winning.
To address this issue, it’s worth considering bringing back the concept of two-tier Band of the Year winners. This would recognize both the overall winner, usually a larger band, and a separate category for the small band winner. Such a distinction would provide an opportunity for smaller bands to be recognized and celebrated for their efforts, further encouraging their growth and participation.
The elevation of smaller bands is not only important for the sake of inclusivity and diversity, but it also enhance their ability to compete for prestigious titles like Band of the Year. These bands have the potential to deliver exceptional portrayals and performances, showcasing their creativity and talent.
By supporting them, you contribute to the richness and variety of the festival, ensuring that it remains vibrant and representative of the entire community.
Smaller bands often have the opportunity to showcase their strengths and shine when competing on a level playing field. However, they often struggle to receive adequate support in larger events such as king and queen shows and the Junior Band Parades. It is crucial to recognize and rectify this imbalance by providing equal opportunities and support to all bands, regardless of their size.
Currently, the parade is dominated by four bands that sucks most of the energy of the festival. This must change if the parade to grow. We cannot have a parade with only four bands, where one band takes hours to cross the stage due to its volume while another band takes half an hour with no volume. Such an imbalance weakens the festival itself.
While the festival brings money into the city and benefits a few band leaders, we must develop the festival as a whole.
So, as Carnival approaches, I hope you are ready to embrace it with open arms and ensure that our culture continues to thrive in Canada.