Weekend launch of ‘Bird of Paradise’ and ‘Straight out of John John’

Weekend launch of  ‘Bird of Paradise’ and ‘Straight out of  John John’

By Stephen Weir

Call it Toronto Doubles, if you like.  Two mas’ camps holding  band launches on the same Saturday night the second weekend in a row.

This past weekend it was a pair of long established mas’ camps – the Costume Creators Cultural Arts and De New Regulars and Foreva Carnival.  Both launches were successful in bringing out the carnival revellers.

Costume Creators Cultural Arts. the oldest mas’ band in the festival and the only one that can lay claim to being part of the first Caribana parade in 1967, now has a longer name. It’s called Costume Creators Cultural Arts with Freedom Carnival.

 Founders Whitfield and Calvin Belasco have turned over Costume Creators Cultural Arts to Melissa Ramlochan, a model and cutting edge costume designer. Ramlochan is known as Freedom Carnival – the second part of the mas’ band’s new name.

In keeping with the theme of the launch – the Bird of Paradise, de Dancin’ Wings –  there were wings and colourful feathers in many of the costumes modelled by the eight sections in the band.

The frontline costumes were elaborately designed- many with fibreglass to allow “easy motion” of the wings.

The models came out on a small stage and then took a few steps down with their costumes vibrating,  onto a dance floor, surrounded by revellers.

“I think what makes us stand out is that we are the only mas’ band that is located in the city’s west-end” Ramlochan told the Caribbean Camera.

“We held the launch at the Rose Garden Banquet Hall in North Etobicoke and we will be opening our camp and showroom in the west end as well.”

“We flew in M.C Rose from Bacchanal Radio in New York City to host our launch.  It was a live broadcast and we plan to act on the positive exposure she won us in New York,” said Ramlochan.

“We had about 200 come out to see the show and Bacchanal Rose had them super involved.”

Costume Creators Cultural Arts with Freedom Carnival is now looking for “a suitable space” for its base of operations. Once it is open, it plans to have” two events a month for members until the parade” and to work with local businesses to showcase their models and costumes.

Across town,  longtime mas’ band, De New Regulars and Foreva Carnival, held  its launch in Northeast Scarborough at the Nugget Lounge.

While the band has been taking part in the parade for many years under the leadership of Michael Williams, the big difference this year is the role that two “20 -plus” women are playing.

Christel Griffith, 23, and Shantel Webster,25, are the Foreva Carnival in the mas’ band’s name.

“We are the new upcoming generation in the Carnival” Shantel Webster proudly told the Caribbean Camera.

“Michael (Williams) has turned over the costume designs, the sections and management of the camp to us.”

” On Saturday we had 40 models in eight sections up on the stage.”

In addition to the presentation of the costumes, the launch featured the Silhouette pan orchestra, a dance troupe and ” lots of food.”
The theme for the evening:  “Straight Out of John John”.

” John John referring to a housing district in Trinidad,” said Griffith.

“ It is also about Janet Lewis, aka the ‘flag woman,’ who is a true Caribbean icon. We are celebrating Janet’s contributions to Carnival in Toronto and the world.”


Photographs by Don Moreland and Anthony Berot