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August 9, 2007 - Volume 1, No. 7

Toronto, Toronto

As the summer moves along I decided to visit the new Toronto Caribana. I joined the Brooklyn bus ride and traveled to Toronto to take in the carnival scene. The trip took about 12 hours. There were four buses which were scheduled to leave at 11:30 pm Thursday night but did not leave Brooklyn until about 1:00 am. I don’t know why bus trips leave late. It must be traditional. Even boat rides suffer from the same malady.

Our first stop was to get something to eat. Well, the diner did not cater for four buses so it mayhem. Lines round the corner. After one hour the bus driver decided that it was time to go because he had a schedule to keep and we were behind time. We next stopped at Niagara Falls for an hour because the cultured folks wanted to see one of nature’s best scenes. The falls sure are a beauty to behold. So much water it is amazing. Back on the bus it was music time with Bolo and I beating iron and the Soca jamming. The next stop was the border. That was where the bacchanal started. Two people on bus three or four did not have their papers. So, the bus had to take them back to New York. It was funny.

We got into downtown Toronto around 4:00 pm Friday morning and everyone got off at the hotel where many were planning to stay. I was being picked up by my friend Selwyn. I walked around for an hour to see if things had changed much in my old home town.  When Selwyn arrived he greeted me with hugs and laughter. We got into the car and it was pan music galore. Selwyn was City Syncopators Steel Orchestra’s pan soloist at the 1966 Steelband Music Festival. He is trying to get his groove back together so listening to pan was primary. We exchanged tastes and talked about the good times. We then stopped for a roti and sweet drink at the local restaurant. Soon it was time to prepare for the Panorama which was scheduled for 8:00 pm that night.

The Panorama was held at Lamport stadium. I was shocked because the bands played two songs a piece. There were 12 steelbands competing. Each band played a calypso and their bomb tune. I would not call that Panorama. They called it “Pan Alive”. Since the steelband competition was held in the stadium the bands were far away from the audience. I don’t know whose idea that was but it created a wide separation between the panjumbies and the bands. Because the bands were so far away and all had canopies I could not see the players properly. There was one large speaker where the music came through. So, when I thought a band was playing it was another band. I suggest that the organizers of “Pan Alive” build a stage for the steelbands.

Saturday morning was the Caribana parade. All the steelbands came out to play their calypso tune.
For my money, Afropan was the best playing band on the road. That band is led by Earl La Pierre who
did a wonderful arrangement of “Band from Space.” Pan Masters was another good playing band.
They also played “Band from Space.” The Mas was very beautiful. The costumes were larger than Brooklyn’s costumes. The Mas bands had lots of masqueraders. And, they were very young.
All of the Mas bands were integrated. There were Africans, Asians, Whites and Spanish.
I saw many interracial young couples. More that I have seen in New York. It was truly amazing.

There were many police officers providing security. The police were civil and patient. At one time I went outside the fence and left my friends inside. My friends decided to stay inside. I went up to a policeman and showed my New York ID and told him that my friends were inside and I wanted to get back to them.
He went to my friends and asked them if they knew me. The said yes and he beckoned me to enter. Wonderful! I thought about New York labor-day’s police. Never happen there! My only serious criticism
was the fact that there were not enough toilets and the few they had were far apart. But,
when I entered one it was super clean. No paper on the ground. The bowls were immaculately
clean and white. I was impressed.

Saturday night my friends and I went to see Machel Montano and Destra at the stadium. Machel is a great entertainer. Machel held the audience throughout the show. He is a born showman. I compliment the City of Toronto for their full support of the Caribana. Unlike New York carnival the non Caribbean Canadians participate fully in the festival. All the Mas bands were fully integrated. They could teach New York a thing or two. But, New York still has the best Panorama and jouvert. I look forward to next year’s Caribana.

Stay Blogged

P.S. If readers don’t understand any of the carnival or steelband terms used here, please go to the
Port of Pan ABC at pan-jumbie-com. Otherwise you may contact this writer. Thanks for reading.

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