If you haven’t yet heard about this festival, it’s basically Carnival in the summertime, where you can experience the same competitions, events, and fetes, just further north…Way north, in Toronto, Canada!
Understand now, why it’s in the summertime? :-)
It’s a lot of fun. I first heard about Caribana, years ago, when I befriended some people with Caribbean roots, namely Trinidad, which is where the creators of the of the festival hail from. I was more intrigued when I heard Soca music (that stuff is great), and learned that this festival is dedicated to this type of music, and I could easily get to it…Excellent! (At the time, passports were not needed to enter Canada) Combine that with parading around with complete strangers, in revealing costumes, adorned with feathers & jewels, and you have yourself a good time!!
So while I knew about it, I still didn’t have access to it. Then, something wonderful happened. A girlfriend of a friend, had actually played mas, in the Caribana parade! I said: ”Dude, you gotta let me talk to her! I need to know how I can sign up. How this stuff works!” So I talk to her, and she assures me that try-outs are not necessary, nor is learning a choreographed dance routine! I laugh at that, now, but when you are observing the spectacle that is Caribana, as an outsider, with the big fancy costumes, and the seemingly synchronized dancing, it looks like there may be some requirements! Steps need to be learned, you have to make the cut!
But, no. The only requirement is money, and to pay it on time!
Now that she had demystified Caribana, for me, I thought about it… Then thought a bit more, and then decided that since I was finally close to Toronto, that I should go to Caribana. But I wasn’t going to be on the sidelines, standing and looking, by myself. I was going to get in and parade with the rest of them! Why not?
She gave me the names of some of the bands, and I go to their websites to see the costumes. This was about three weeks before the parade, so the likelihood that there would be something available, was pretty slim, as it is common for costumes to sell out.
One band grabbed my attention, so I called the number of the section leader, and lo and behold, there was one costume left that was exactly my size! Ahh, yes -- It was meant to be! Sign me up!
So I went, played mas solo, and had a blast! So much so, that I have played mas four times, since, and the last two times, as frontline! Good stuff!
After the parade, I was able to meet up with my “Caribana Coach” and she marveled at the fact that I actually came up there, by myself, and played. But it was no big deal! It wasn’t going to get done, otherwise, and I would have missed out on a fun cultural experience that really sticks with you…even if you don’t know any of the lyrics!
Fortunately, that first time, there was another girl that was also solo, so we buddied-up and had a nice time! See, you can always make friends and have a great time, when you take a chance and go it alone!
Play mas: v.To wear a costume and masquerade in a carnival parade.
(Caribana) Band: n.An organization of volunteers that coordinate to design and then build costumes for the different sections within a band, year after year. On parade day (Caribana Saturday), a single band can have upwards of 2000 masqueraders!
Frontline: n.The group that leads a section as they cross the stage. These costumes are usually larger and more elaborate.