CARIBANA: PREPARING TO EXHALE IN 1997

 By Kenn F. Shah

The genesis of the Annual Toronto Caribana Festival is somewhat different to the Carnivals of Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean Islands. It is a composite desire and pleasure of emancipated peoples of African, Asian, Indian, Spanish, French, Chinese and Portuguese to celebrate for a moment through the exposition of their cultures in song, dance, music and food.

The inherent rhythms of the playing of drums, the ceremony and costumes, were all a great part of the African rituals and ceremonies that permeated through time and history and miraculously stayed with the African descendants who traveled to this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

As we ponder the continuance and changes we must make for Caribana to succeed in and beyond its 30th year we have to consider the balance between strict business practices and a reliance on the group of volunteers.

We have recognized that "non-profit" volunteer help will continue to be one of our greatest assets therefore there must be a definite adoption of business procedures and expanded professional permanent staff to execute the various programs. The Caribana festival attendance of one and a half million people has become an enormous undertaking that is stressing out the present structure of the handful of dedicated volunteers who "run" the Festival. Caribana 1967 to 1996 has grown in complexity to the extent of tremendous difficulty "how all the parts come together" with so little finances to be recognized as the largest festival in Canada, and rank highly among the world's Carnivals.

Those who organized the mas and music bands, calypso shows, dances, steelband competitions, J'Ouvert and the festival itself have done admirably, being aware of their limitations as regular working people with family commitments, dedicate their time and skills for the "love" of culture and community, as Caribana extends itself for two full weeks preceding the pageantry, colour and pulsating sounds of the " Grand Parade Jump Up" to "Last Lap".

To sustain and maintain the year round musical beats of calypso, soca, chutney and the Caribbean culture requires full time staff planning, development, and maintaining a constant update in the cultural pulse of this beautiful multi-cultural city with the ethnic communities and a working exchange with the Carnival peoples of the world.

Caribana has undoubtedly provided this metropolis with a handsome cash windfall. 1996 Caribana income - One hundred and fifty-two million (Globe and Mail Newspaper) But more significantly Caribana has embraced a wide cross section of this mosaic. Many communities have joined the fun with officials and masquerades intermingling with people as we pour out our cultural warmth and love in song, drink, and dance.

Caribana is preparing to commemorate thirty years of Caribbean Cultural Exposition in Toronto, Canada. Despite the political and financial interventions, we look forward to maintaining our heritage, history and cultural emotions not only for our own sanity but also for today's youth in tomorrow's world. We are a loving "freedom people", who cannot be enclosed or curtailed, particularly at periods of commemorations and celebrations as it is diametrically opposing to the genesis of our inheritance and culture.

We must be allowed to exhale.


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