Canuck Invasion At Trinidad Carnival 2018
By Stephen Weir, as published in the Caribbean Camera
By all rights the Trinidad red, white and black flag should now have a small maple leaf stitched into it’s corner tin honour of Canada’s participation in the just concluded Trinidad Carnival. A large contingent of Canadians came to the island to supply costumes, pan music, inspiration, comedy and song to the world famous festival.
From the King and Queen competition, to Panorama, to the J’ouvert and the actual parade, Canadian carnival experience was put to work. Hundreds more joined bands and jumped up in the street, or, simply stood on the sidewalk and took it all in.
The annual event got off to a rocky start when reports of a possible terrorist plot became a much repeated news item across the Caribbean, The UK, and the US and in Toronto. Last Thursday, according to the Trinidad Guardian “T&T Police Service revealed they had uncovered and prevented a threat to disrupt Carnival activities mere days before the festival … 13 persons were detained.”
There were no “terrorist activities” although the Trinidad News reported this Wednesday that there had been four murders, a series of robberies, shootings and the death of an elderly United States citizen (who died when a float truck backed over him) were some of the incidents “that marred this year’s Carnival celebrations’.
“How come so many Canadians in T&T this year? No idea...but we did see quite a few,” said Toronto Mas Maker and artist Jackie Forde. “It probably is because it has been so bloody cold this year in Toronto, but strange as the flights were ridiculously expensive. There were less Americans. Maybe the terror threat scared them off. We had no issues at all and felt quite safe.”
“There were no problems that I saw during Carnival. None at all. I didn’t play Mas, opting instead to walk around Port of Spain, taking in the fetes and watching it all,” said Caribbean Camera’s Alicia Sealey who is currently in Trinidad managing the 32nd Music Festival in Port of Spain.
“There were heavily armed officers carrying machine guns on the street and three and four officers and inspectors at every major intersection. People I talked to said they were happy that there was a police presence (given the earlier threat).”
“There is a new law in place that for the first time forbids a man from coming up behind a strange woman and winning on her,” continued Ms. Sealey. “ If the woman complains he is arrested on the spot. I don’t know if anyone was taken in, but, women feel good about the new rules.”
“What a morning “ said Toronto ticket promoter and commercial printer Tony Chankar. “San Fernando is the best place in the world to play J’ouvert!! I am seeing a lot of Canadians. You couldn’t get a flight to Trinidad (from Canada) in the past two weeks!”
So who were some of the Canadians making the Carnival the success it was? The Camera talked by phone, email and Facebook with over a dozen people taking part in the festival.
Carnival Nationz – Marcus Eustace was an integral part of this year’s King and Queen Competition at the Dimanche Gras at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Sunday.
“I designed and built a King and Queen costume. Both placed second,” said Marcus. “The king lost by one point which prevented me from a 3-peat (Marcus costumes won in 2017 and 2016). My brother Ted Eustace wore the king and Krystal Thomas the queen.”
Earl Thompson was the 2018 King of Carnival winner in “Death And The Maiden, The Fancy King Sailor Plays Pegasus” while Ted Eustace grabbed second place with "Los Bandditos”. Krystal Thomas, tied for second place in the Eustace costume De Head Huntress.”
Mas K Camp - Louis Saldenah didn’t make it to carnival but his brother and son did, with good reason. “Yes. Trini Revellers played a tribute to Harold Saldenah my father (and famous Trinidad Mas Man),” said Louis Saldenah. “My brother lives there and my son Ronnie went down for carnival so we were well represented.”
Tribal Carnival – Although the Toronto mas band wasn’t on the road this year, their costumes were. Dexter Seusahai and his daughter Celena supplied custom costumes to Canadians to wear in Trinidad.
AfroPan - Many members of Toronto based oldest pan orchestra were in Trinidad playing with different local groups. Kerry-Anne Wright performed with the Renegades Steel Orchestra, the winner of Panorama.
“Hey! Yes I was! “texted Kerry-Anne Wright. “It was my first time playing Pan in Trinidad and my very first Panorama. There were a few others from Afro Pan and a couple other people who play pan with Pan Fantasy with us.”
LaToya Brown, another AfroPan member joined the Skiffle Steel Orchestra who took second place.
Earl LaPierre Senior. The founder of AfroPan Earl LaPierre was a radio host for a live broadcast on WACK 90.1 FM covering the Panorama Semis with host Kenny Phillips. Earl LaPierre Junior was also playing in Trinidad for Carnival.
Many of the entertainers performing both at carnival events and fetes have a strong Canadian connection including: Singer David Rudder – Trinidad’s favourite son (and now Toronto resident) at the Socadrome and on the road with Lord Nelson and the Etienne Charles' Street Party. Comedian Sean Paul was in Trinidad for Carnival, as was Connector the Canadian Soca Monarch.