Thursday, August 30, 2007
WE is not an acronym for West Indian Entertainment, but rather a reflection of you and me. It mimics our community. It celebrates the Canadians we have become and the West Indian niche in Canada we have created. WE is a reflection of the old countries of the Caribbean and all of our island's cultures and people. It celebrates what we have brought to our new northern home.
WE aims to represent you in the way you would expect to be in a quality periodical. WE will bring you the stories that matter to you. WE will keep you in the loop with what's happening within our community here in Canada and in the West Indies.
When the executives of WE Magazine first got together, it was with the intention of sharing ideas on marketing for our respective businesses. At the table was Tony Chankar (The Printing Press), one of our community's top printers, Jef Lo who operates the #1 West Indian website in the world (Toronto-Lime.com), Jason Singh (president of Soca Bookings) and myself Anthony Joseph, president of the #1 Caribbean newspaper serving the people of Toronto (The Caribbean Camera). Jef spoke about the number of people he met daily who expressed the need for a glossy, sexy Canadian mag that caters to the young at heart. The thought quickly gathered a life of its own and the next step was obvious - create a mag ourselves. Fill the gap ourselves. We took guidance from the old saying: Don't complain about it, just do it.
But even among a group of go-getters, ideas can die on the page moments after such sessions, but to my surprise Jason returned later with some compelling statistics that indicated that WE had to be created. Still, I did not think that my time or lack of it would permit me to be a part of such an enterprise, but with the encouragement of Raynier Maharaj, my business partner at the Caribbean Camera, passing on this exciting project was not an option. So here we are.
We intend to make WE your go-to periodical at month’s end when you can kick back, relax and dip into the glossy pages for perspectives on West Indian Canadian lifestyles, sport, entertainment, fashion, the spoken and written word in prose or verse written by some of the hippest writers in our community.
We will welcome your participation by keeping our editorial doors wide open because WE doesn't belong to only the people entrusted with its publishing and day-to-day operations, but to the people WE Magazine serves. WE is all of us.
For more information visit www.WEmagOnline.com
“I want to be seen clearly.” Behind the blinged-out tour bus, away from the thousands of adoring fans, there is a man called Machel Montano who simply is. The 32-year-old soca icon is celebrating 25 years in the business in 2007 and it’s a celebration like no other. The season began with an incomparable impact on Trinidad Carnival, linked to a cache of hit songs that swept through the Caribbean and its Diaspora reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s thriller album of the early eighties. The collector’s item was a CD called, Book of Angels. Jumbie won road march and the region has been spellbound by the hypnotic spirit of Machel Montano HD ever since.
And so engrossed was I, on a picture perfect Friday afternoon when I met the man responsible for so many fond memories of my adolescence. No band. No big screen. No light show – just a cool-ass dreadlocked guy in a button-down shirt and jeans, liming in the lounge of the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto.
“I came in involuntarily as a Calypsonian. You know, I never really saw this as what I want to do. I never really had that dream. I wanted to be a lawyer. And when I started to decide I have to make music, I have to be in this music world as a career, I started to have to create my way,” admitted Montano.
“I grew up in a carnival world, in those characters in carnival, in that lifestyle, in that nation carrying concept of carnival. I have become somebody who lived through it, who lived as different characters in there at the same time,” he said.
The decision to pursue music was made on Machel’s behalf as a child. He began singing in the choir at Trinidad’s prestigious Presentation College, where teachers encouraged him to represent the school as a junior calypsonian. In 1984, his voice earned him his first pay cheque for USD $1600 singing at the Mother’s Day Show at Madison Square Garden. Two years later he would be the youngest entrant in Trinidad’s national calypso competition, placing fifth overall with “Too Young to Soca”. Then it was back to the United States to become the first ever soca artist to appear on Star Search when he was just 11.
“It really dawned on me that I was sort of a young person that was put into a big world when I was 9 years old. I was in Madison Square Garden performing with all these adults and my life has been that way. I have never ever been one to have stage fright and I wondered why. I was always prepared to go on stage even though it wasn’t my thing. I didn’t think I was born for this. I always say, I’m not the best dancer, I’m not the best singer, I’m not the best musician, but I can put all of them together and do a good job,” Montano shared.
He is the consummate chameleon. Adapting to any situation that befalls him, Machel has learned to blend his colours and observe before going in for the kill.
“At that time, young people didn’t like soca music, so we had to learn hip-hop, we had to learn reggae, we had to be exposed to a lot of pop music, and we had to learn it to sorta influence them and then throw in the calypso there. When we wanted to work at the really big shows with the adults, we had to make our way to the stars to kinda be accepted. And I’ve been thus far on that sort of evolutionary path where I’m always trying to create something new to be accepted on a wider basis and it is the movement of soca music, ” said Montano.
It was a revelation that I hadn’t considered before. Here was a Caribbean man who was led into fame, his hands gently guided by those of his parents. Now as an adult he was infinitely more famous, calling the shots on his own, not from a place of pride, but humility.
“Ever since 2000, I’ve been on a sort of spiritual path, a spiritual quest, which means I had to reintroduce myself to what God was and the meaning of God and life.” Montano says, he knows that he is blessed. I observed as recognized various members of the team working tirelessly to keep him on top. However, I noted that Machel is no bleeding-heart trying to win approval by portraying false modesty. Realness oozes from Machel like melted cheese. He won’t hide the essence of what is inside, whether he’s angrily correcting a touchy-feely fan from the stage, or flirtatiously chatting up his interviewer from across the table. Clearly, chameleon changes only in colour.
“I want people to see more of me in the music, in my image, in my words and the things that I do. Becoming simpler, but becoming more complete. So you see less, but you see more,” said Montano.
In 2007, Machel Montano became Machel Montano HD, with the focus of the musical act zeroing onto him directly as the star. “I have to develop into the best artist I can be, which would mean working with the best writers, the best musicians, and creating anything I could possibly want to create to represent exactly what I want to say. Because I really want to connect with people about the things that go on in my life, the things that I’ve been faced with, the things that I’ve seen from my point of view,” said Montano. The man and the band became synonymous. The concept of oneness is borrowed from the artist’s personal spiritual philosophy.
“What are they doing when they transmit in HD or when they have a movie in HD? They are transmitting at a higher quality. They want you to see things clearer. They want to paint a more vivid picture with colours. I mean, this is just what it was for me,” Montano explained.
“I’m trying to compete on a world level. The only competition is me trying to give a higher standard. To be a leader in setting trends in the world, it’s deeply rooted in having that side of spiritual understanding. I’m trying to increase all my training in dancing, singing, instrumentation, and at the same time do better business for all the artists who are around me.
“Soca music for me in the beginning was ‘the soul of calypso’, now it’s kinda changed perspective. Now it’s the culture of the Southern Caribbean. So I kinda see myself as somebody who is spearheading the movement. Any movement would be upward change, constant change, constant positive dissatisfaction. It’s almost like you always want to be better than you were before. And with that, I kinda live my life very alert and very aware of what’s happening worldwide. I look at those changes and I wonder how do those changes affect me? They become changes I could put in my music. It becomes something new every time. So, every time I go to speak, I go to speak in music. I speak about myself in relation to where the world is at,” said Montano.
Currently, the soca world is at his feet. Off the heels of his return to the Garden for a sold out anniversary performance, Machel is stronger than ever. He is marking the 40th anniversary of Caribana by providing music on the road for NBA player Jamaal Magloire’s Toronto Reveller’s Mas Band. Then he takes the Machel Montano HD show to Lamport Stadium on Caribana Saturday and to the DOCKs (Fire Fete) and the Kool Haus (Breakfast Party) on Sunday.
With every reason to feel higher than high, Machel pushes forward positively dissatisfied. “I think I’ve grown with a generation of people who are now poised to actually look back to influence and affect the generation that’s coming.
“I think it’s very special for me being someone born of African heritage in the Caribbean. It’s a special place. We’re faced with a lot of serious decisions to make as a world, not as a race, not as a continent, or a country or a flag, but as a world. Things like the environment, the changes that we are experiencing right now. We have to sing songs about that. We have to influence people about that. We have to think about that together, so our responsibility is a little greater,” he says.
“I want to be the soundtrack. I want people to tell their kids and their grandkids, ‘You know, this was our time, and this was the music that accompanied it.’ This was the person who gave us that energy to go on everyday,” Machel pondered in an audible whisper.I closed my notebook, energized. We exchanged niceties and promised to keep in touch, both aware that his music might become our only point of contact. The heavens had opened and the sun kissed day I had left earlier was transformed to into a stormy scene from a horror film. Silently I exited, entranced by the jumbie.
In 2007, Toronto celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Caribana. Like many Caribbean festivals, on the exterior we see bacchanal, beads, feathers, mud, and revelry…but rarely do we hear of the sacrifices and substance behind the carnival tradition. In the four decades lifespan of Caribana, countless Caribbean expatriates and native Torontonians have toiled so that the community may collectively bask in Caribbean culture. WE honors those who’ve worked and given so much of themselves….we give you the story of Caribana.
1967 marked the centennial of the passing of the British North America Act – the legislation that made Canada a dominion in the British Commonwealth. In an effort to commemorate its hundredth year, in 1966, the Canadian government invited different cultural communities within the dominion to participate in the celebration. Dr. Rita Cox, then a volunteer who helped to facilitate the Festival, recollects that the idea for the exhibition was born of the “community’s response to the invitation from government of Canada.”
“The Canadian government reached out to all of the different communities to participate in the centennial celebration. Bringing our carnival culture was our gift to Canada. In those days we were a small community and it was an opportunity for all island people to work together on a project,” explained Dr. Cox.
The Caribbean Centennial Committee, including a five-person board of governors and a four-person executive committee, was formed in December 1966 with the purpose of promoting “a Caribbean trade and cultural exhibition.” As for the name Caribana itself, it was coined by Fred Hope, one of the first persons hired to work on the Festival. Dr. Cox explained it simply, “we were all talking together about a name for this inter-island collaborative effort. Fred Hope suggested it and everybody liked it,” and it stuck. Some nine months later the first Caribana was held from August 5-12, 1967 in and around Toronto City and its islands.
Much like its modern day incarnation, Caribana 1967 included a series of events designed to synergistically showcase the richness of Caribbean culture, most notably: a Kiddie’s Carnival event, a carnival pageant parade, a centennial ball, art exhibitions, and a “morning market,” which according to the original program from 1967 featured “fruit and crafts direct from the West Indies.”
Though a completely novel occasion in Toronto, the festival received an outpouring of support from everywhere from volunteers in local citizens and civic associations to donations of costumes and sponsorships from Caribbean governments.
Dr. Cox remarked that “people worked in those days for the love and the pride of it. Even now when I speak with the people who were the main founders about Caribana there is such a spirit of togetherness that we had at the time. So many of them have talked about the role that women played through volunteerism- if it hadn’t been for the work of the women it may not have been such a success. In those days there was a group of women - the Canadian Negro Women’s Association; they played a major role in the event in the early years. There was cooperation from Caribbean governments, as well as from the Caribbean Council Accord through musicians, and costumes.”
After the triumphant success of the 1967 Festival, the Caribbean Centennial Committee resolved to continue its mission of creating a platform to showcase the beauty of Caribbean culture. With a minor change in moniker and some slight structural changes, the Centennial Committee became the Caribbean Committee for Cultural Advancement (CCCA) and plans to stage the 1968 carnival went underway.
On August 2, 1968 Mayor William Dennison and the City of Toronto announced the official celebration of Caribbean Week from August 5-10, 1968 held on Olympic Island, with the parade procession to be held on August 3 through the streets of Toronto.
If the 25-page program is any indicator, Caribana 1968 was quite the grandiose affair.
“The euphoria, the excitement in those days was unreal - it was more than the parade. All kinds of other things were part of the Festival because people had different interests and, in fact, it culminated in an arts festival,” said Dr. Cox.
Similar to the 1967 events there was the marketplace, art exhibitions and the like. However, in 1968 there was a pronounced effort to ensure cultural exchange from several islands instead of dominance of one country’s customs through “island days.” For instance, Guyana Day featured appearances from Guyanese High Commissioner, Sir John Carter, Miss Guyana 1969, and Guyanese steelbands.
1968 marked a second and very successful undertaking for Caribana’s organizers. In February of 1969, the group officially changed its name to the Caribbean Cultural Committee – Caribana. Through the years, though everything from name of Caribana’s managing body, to the management style of the Festival and the actual parade route would change, two things remain constant and true – the love of the masquerade and the desire to see the growth of the event. Government officials and generations came and went but Caribana stayed true. The only way to ensure progress is real, unbiased evaluation.
After years of purported mismanagement, in 2006, the City of Toronto withdrew funds and support from the Caribbean Cultural Committee, Caribana’s former managing entity. With this episode the festival’s survival was in question. Determined not to see the festival fall by the wayside, the City commissioned Festival Management Committee (FMC) to oversee the operations and execution of the affair.
The FMC has markedly risen to the occasion to ensure success. In the first year of its tenure as the managing organization of Caribana, the group managed to produce revenues of $912,000.00, leaving a $9,000.00 profit – the likes of which has rarely been seen in past years either because the festival spent more than it made or because no final financial report was ever produced. This year the Committee boasts sponsorships from Molson, CTV, Roots Canada and a host of others. In addition to the efficient financial administration, despite the fear that Caribana would be shut down in 2006, the FMC captured an audience of 1.2 million people during the parade procession down Lakeshore Boulevard. Given that this year is the fortieth anniversary there is no doubt that the number of this year’s participants will be staggering.
Joan Pierre, veteran event planner and manager for Caribana since 1986, discussed what the FMC has in store for the fortieth anniversary.
“Of course I’m helping with the traditional aspects of the event - an awards evening in August celebrating and honoring the founders and paying tribute to the people who’ve kept it going. But we’re doing a lot of new events in honor of the fortieth anniversary of the Festival. We’re also extending the Festival beyond the weekend with And the Beat Continues - JAZZ 4 days of Jazz in which we are partnering with a jazz organization.”
And the Beat Continues – JAZZ will showcase four fusion styles of Jazz: Caribbean, Latin, African, and Indian Jazz. Other new events surrounding this year’s Festival include: an art exhibit running at the Blue Dot Gallery in the Distillery district with 30 artists involved, a revival of the long-held Caribana Ball, as well as a series of concerts in one of the city’s many parks.
Another huge and often overlooked component of Caribana is the masquerade. The beads, the bikinis, the feathers, the themes – what would it be with out all of this?
This year’s masquerade will feature 16 bands including Saldenah K-Mas, Borokeete Canada, reigning band of the year Carnival Nationz, Toronto Revellers, Mas Toronto, Callaloo, and others.
“It costs a lot to put this thing on. The bandleaders have held this thing together, it’s for the love of their culture. They believe in it, it’s their culture and they’ll always do it no matter what. I’d like to see it get to the point where they could do it and make a profit. Most of them have to rent a warehouse, the volunteers doing the work from the goodness of their hearts and the love of their culture. In the early years bandleaders used to take out second mortgages on their homes to be able to finance their bands. I hope before I close my eyes that I see some huge rewards going to the bandleaders of the city. That would bring me joy because I know the sacrifice. Without them you have no carnival,” said Joan Pierre.
Behind every great thing - event or otherwise- are great people. Caribana is no exception, from the volunteers who create the beautiful costumes, to those who sacrifice their day of revelry to ensure the safety of masqueraders, each person who lends a minute of time donates to the invaluable continuing legacy of cultural diversity in Toronto.
In a Sway Magazine article entitled “Caribana celebrates 40 years in Toronto,” Joe Halstead, current Chief Operating Officer of the FMC, said, “Caribana has developed over 40 years to become the pre-eminent festival in the city and certainly in the North American continent. All of this is really because Caribana is the essence of diversity and community. It is at the heart of what we are in this city – the essence of Toronto.”
Hopefully, Caribana for the next 40 years will be a testament to that.
Up close with CARIBANA legend Rudy Rampersad (10-Time King of the Bands)
Q1.How did you become involved with Caribana?
I made my debut in Trinidad Carnival when I was 5 years old portraying a Prince at the Queen’s Park Savannah kiddies carnival and continued masquerading with Silver Stars and Harold Saldenah bands well into my teens. In the summer of 1967, on my way to Nova Scotia from Trinidad, I realized that there was a Trinidad-style carnival parade in Toronto and decided to make a pit stop and participate in this event. Since then, the inaugural year of Caribana, I have been actively involved in the parade festivities, both as a volunteer and a masquerader.
Q2.What has been the most gratifying experience of being a part of Toronto’s carnival?
When I look back on my history with Caribana, there is a combination of factors that make my whole 40-year experience so gratifying- the thrill of competition; the reward of holding the record for most King of the Band titles (10), but most of all, watching the parade grow from its original route on Yonge Street to its present-day Lakeshore extravaganza.
Q3. What has been the most challenging experience thus far for you?
Taking three years off from active participation due to illness and being able to return to the stage and reclaim the title of King of the Bands. The 2006 King and Queen competition was particularly challenging, as the odds were stacked up against me - my age (62 years young), potential health issues, the size and weight of the costume. Bets were being placed against me as I made my entrance on stage! I am happy that I was able to overcome these obstacles and win the title for the “Trinidad Soca Warriors”
Q4. Where would you like to see Caribana going in coming years?
I would like to see the younger generation become more involved in the production and management of the Toronto Caribana Festival. It is also important that all three levels of government as well as “Corporate Toronto,” provide more funding and sponsorship to the festival. It is a well-established fact that Toronto hosts the largest Caribbean-style parade in North America and since this event attracts tourists from all over the world, I would like to see the Toronto service industry giving back to the community, a percentage of profits earned as a result of festival activities.
I have always been of the opinion that each one of us has an irrational necessity, the one thing that brings us no tangible value but satisfies our emotional and psychological desires. For some, it is outfitting their car with the latest in music, rims and accessories. Other people prefer to spend their money on travel, visiting different countries, and immersing themselves in other’s cultures, but at the end of the day all you have to remember your adventures by are a bunch of photographs still on your digital camera. For me, my irresistible passion, among others, is Carnival. Now, I know many people who do not share my devotion to mas, but there is one thing that irks me about those self righteous people who look down at those of us who do; the fact that they believe Carnival is a big waste of money and lecture me on all the other ways that they think my money should be better spent.
One of the most common rhetoric I have heard is “Why don’t people use their money to visit someplace else besides Trinidad for Carnival?” What these “financial experts” fail to realize is that for many, many people, both expatriate Trinidadians and foreigners alike, coming to Trinidad for Carnival is considered a vacation. It may not be a quiet, restful vacation, but nonetheless Carnival is the single event in Trinidad that attracts thousands of visitors, so there must be something about Carnival that keeps them coming. Count me among those who choose to support a festival that draws thousands of visitors, all coming to enjoy the music, food, parade and fetes, rather than supporting another country’s tourism at that time.
Not everyone who spends money on a costume is trite with finances; in fact many people make allowances to budget for their costume and Carnival expenses monthly establishing a “Carnival fund”. One of my friends has a standing order so that a portion of her salary goes towards savings for carnival monthly. With band launchings in Trinidad starting as early as July, it gives ample time to put your finances in order. The reality of the situation is that we can budget, we can save, we can take loans all for Carnival and nothing is wrong with it as long as we are not stealing, defaulting on payments such as mortgage or going bankrupt on Ash Wednesday. With anything else in life, priorities should be met before spending on “fun” activities.
My purpose is not to convince anyone to try and understand what Carnival means to me and I have no problem with people choosing not to participate or spending their money otherwise but I do take offense when they try to lecture me on my love for Carnival, branding it a ‘waste of money’. I don’t look at people who spend thousands of dollars on video games as being idiots, if they want to spend their waking hours immobile behind a Play Station or Xbox, then that is their prerogative. I do not think it is a waste of money to spend thousands of dollars upgrading computer equipment, which ultimately becomes obsolete. Fact is, I can go around in circles pointing out many mindless pursuits that we as humans spend our money on for no other reason that it gives us pleasure.
To me each of us has the power to spend our money as we see fit, after all we do live in a democracy. And for all those pointing fingers at us mas players, get off your soap box, take a good look at yourself and be honest; unless you are hoarding every dollar you work for there are things in your life that you have “wasted” thousands of dollars on so give me a break if I choose to play my mas! Get a life!
Marcus Eustace is the engineer behind many winning costume pieces participating in both Trinidad and Toronto Carnivals. Son of Mr. Tedder Eustace, a man known for his great contribution to Trinidad Carnival for over 40 years, Marcus is the man behind all the glam and glitter displayed each year at the annual Dimanche Gras and Kings & Queens competition. Over the years we have become very familiar with the ‘Eustace’ name in relation to Trinidad Carnival and Toronto Caribana events. Born Trinidadian, Marcus Eustace, along with his brother Curtis fell in line under their father’s direction building ‘mas’ from a very young age. Mas-making quickly became rooted deep down in his veins and is now part of who he is.
At the age of sixteen, Marcus along with his brother moved to Toronto where they quickly got involved with Saldenah Mas Band through their father’s relationship and involvement with the band. Marcus stood by his father’s side learning all there was to know about mas-making and mas winning. Tedder Eustace has three winning titles to his name from the Dimanche Gras competition in 1975, 1977 and 1985, with the winning costumes entitled ‘Cock Fight’, ‘King Corbeau’, and ‘The Big Fisherman’ respectively.
Marcus Eustace worked hand in hand with his father over the years making dazzling costumes to present for the Saldenah Mas competitions up until 2001 when his father, Tedder Eustace, passed. From then on, Marcus knew it was his responsibility to carry on the Eustace name. Since the death of his hero and loving father, on Dec 31 2001, Marcus has managed to solely design and build 6 Kings to participate in the National Dimanche Gras competition held annually as a part of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival events. Remarkably 5 have won.
In a recent interview done with Marcus Eustace exclusively for WE Mag, Marcus described his role in mas-making as the “designer and constructer of it all”. Marcus’ brother, Curtis Eustace, portrays all his work at the Trinidad competition, while Rudy Rampersad does the portrayals in Toronto at the annual King and Queen competition. When questioned about his feelings towards having the portrayer getting all the credit for the wins, he seemed to not feel any resentment at all. As he says, “Well, nobody ever looks at the person who does the labour… they always look at the masquerader” and through his experience over the years he understands and relates to it comparing similar situations with Peter Samuel’s fame for his wins. He says, “Peter never built them... Aldwin Chowlnon did.” Nonetheless he holds his relationship with his brother dear to him as they work as a team to continue being successful mas-players with great achievements and recurring winning titles.
Not only is Marcus involved in the ‘big mas’ for the Dimanche Gras, but recently he has gotten more involved with the section mas in Trinidad. While he always had a section surrounding the King piece which he proudly referred to as The King’s Men, it wasn’t until 2001 when he brought an official section with Legends Carnival Band. He stayed there for three years before moving over to Carnival Tribe in 2005 when Legends announced their spilt into two bands, now known as Genesis and Legacy. In 2007, Marcus made another switch over to Island People, in light of some opportunities arising. For 2008 Carnival, Marcus will be part of the new band being born called Revolution which will be headed by his devoted brother, Curtis Eustace, and themed “The Imagination of Colour.”
In Toronto, Marcus Eustace also participated with the Loius Saldenah Mas Band bringing sections and numerous Kings and Queens until 2005 where Marcus and Curtis Eustace took on the challenge, joining with some other key players in the entertainment industry in creating their own band, Carnival Nationz. Leaders of the band are Marcus Eustace, Curtis Eustace, Dwayne Pitt (more commonly known as D’ Bandit), and Bryce Aguiton (a member of the Island Boyz team). This amalgamation brings to the table a victorious costume constructor and builder, an unbeatable costume portrayer, a flourishing DJ and an acclaimed promoter, respectively. All in all, it shouts success!
While meeting with Marcus and asked about his experience branching off to their own band in Toronto, he could not be any prouder of his achievements thus far. “Well”, he said, “the first year we won, and a lot of people were not expecting a band that’s going down the route last, after 6pm in the evening, to win [the Band Of The Year title]. We defeated all the odds and came first!” After a brief pause, he proudly added, “and the second year… when I looked over what we had [compared to] the rest of bands, it was an easy win.”
With such triumph in his voice I could not help but to probe for his thoughts on this upcoming year’s competition, and he wasted no time in divulging his confidence with what he foresees for this year’s events; “this year… I don’t see any band to give us competition when it comes to costumes.” He pressed back firmly into the seat of the chair and in the most nonchalant manner he completed his statement saying, “ I have seen all the other costumes, and I don’t see any competition… The closest thing I see to giving us any threat would be Dexter’s costumes… and he is considered a B band. So that wont be classified to compete in the same group, but I do see him winning [the title] for B band easily. After Dex and me there’s a big gap.”
Dexter Seusahai is another leading Toronto Mas Band builder that has been in the runnings for many years. This year marks Dexter inaugural year for his new band branching off from Callaloo Mas and taking with him, fellow section leader, Godfrey Wickham, to form Tribal Knights.
Marcus was hesitant to comment on his feelings for the King and Queen competition, as it is difficult since he has no idea on what the other Bands are going to bring to the event being held at Lamport Stadium, on August 2nd 2007. But he is confident in what he is ‘bringing’, he says that while it may not be his best piece ever, it sits high up in the ratings. For the Female Individual and the Queen, these too, he sees as easy winners. For his King piece this year Rudy will be portraying Ring Master, and Marcus says, “there’s a lot of different stuff in it, but it is nothing like anything anyone has ever seen at the competition in Toronto.” He is anxious to see how Toronto responds to his imagination.
Marcus’ ultimate goal at this point is yet to be unravelled and he sees the light in the next annual Dimanche Gras event. Marcus Eustace currently sits in a tie position with Peter Samuel, both for having 8 King victories to their names. His goal has been to surpass that record and next year, Carnival 2008, he expects to achieve his goal and make his dream a reality. “’Twas a lot of hard work to get there,” he sighed!
For his Circus theme this year, ‘The Big Top’ will be comprised of 11 sections entitled: Acrobats, Cotton Candy, Snake Charmer, Fire Dancer, Jugglers, Lion Tamer, Sexy Clowns, Wild Indians, Siberian Tiger, Gypsy, and Aerialists. He cunningly advised me that whatever may appear to be forgotten in the section mas, don’t be fooled as it was kept a secret for the Big costumes which will be unveiled at the King and Queen competition.
Marcus Eustace shared a great deal with me about his passion for what he does, the love of his father and his appreciation for all of his accomplishments thus far; mas-making sits at the core of his heart. He holds his father in high regard, nominating him as his one and only role model. Some other mas makers’ work, which he admires, are Wayne Barkley, Geraldo Vieira, and Peter Minshall, all legendary mas-men of Trinidad Carnival.
Nonetheless, Marcus knows how much he has contributed to making Toronto’s Caribana what it is today. And in his words he says, “anyone who is involved in Caribana will tell you that it is Marcus Eustace who has been solely responsible for changing the face of Caribana. I have brought up the quality to almost the Trinidad level, and costumes that win here can easily go down to Trinidad and be a contender… And that’s a great achievement for a Toronto Band Leader.” Marcus is proud of the level of work that he brings to the competition each year as he continually tries to be different. He puts his heart into it, ensuring that the costumes continue to hypnotize the crowd.
Marcus Eustace’s involvement with Carnival does not stop at Trinidad and Toronto. This successful mas-maker also participates in other Carnivals such as Boston, Tallahassee, Detroit, Baltimore, Miami, New York, and even England where he makes appearances with his winning pieces. This year at the Cricket World Cup Finals held in Jamaica, Marcus’ Dimanche Gras winning King of the Bands piece entitled, D’ Wrath of Tutankumhan, which also won Best Costume Design, was featured at the World Cup event. Marcus says it is “winning” that sets him apart from the rest!
When asked to comment on his different experiences with Trinidad mas and Toronto mas, he found it a bit difficult. “The level of mas up here in Toronto, compared to the level in Trinidad is getting very close,” he says. While Toronto still sits slightly lower than Trinidad Carnival, he attributes that to the funding available for mas up here. The quality of Caribana mas has improved three-fold, but the funding has not, and he feels that this will continue to keep the level hovering just below the quality being seen in Trinidad. Marcus hopes that in time, he will be able to see this change, to allow for a more thriving Caribana display with each year. Seeing it on par with Trinidad mas will be great, and if one day Toronto Caribana can eventually surpass Trinidad quality, this would be a breath of fresh air to Marcus. He feels it should be that way as Toronto Caribana sits at one of the most prosperous festivals all across North America.
Besides winning every year, he continues to be motivated by the enjoyment had by the masqueraders and spectators alike. It gives him great pleasure to know that people are happy with what he offers. Marcus concluded wishing good luck to all the other participating band leaders, and encourages them to keep on doing such a great job in promoting Caribana!
Achievements Over the years:
1992 – The Architect 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
1993 – The Nebula 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
1996 – The Ghost of Carnival 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
1997 – no Caribana event
1998 – The Predactor 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
1999 – The Millennium Bug 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
2000 – The Phantom 1st - portrayed by Dexter Seusahai (Saldenah Mas Band)
2001 – The Spirit of Carnival 1st - portrayed by Dexter Seusahai (Saldenah Mas Band)
2003 – The Skelotor 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
2004 – The Cobra 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Saldenah Mas Band)
2005 – King Kong 2nd. - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Carnival Nationz)
2006 – Soca Warrior 1st - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Carnival Nationz)
2007 – Ring Master - portrayed by Rudy Rampersad (Carnival Nationz)
1996 – The Great White Spirit 2nd - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
1997 – The Matador 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
1998 – Dis is we Carnival 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
1999 – Pazuzu: Protector of the Dark Crystals 2nd - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
2000 – D’ Rough Rider 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Barbarossa)
2001 – Survivor 2nd - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Legends)
2002 – Jab Molassie 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Legends)
2003 – Sky is Your Limit 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Legends)
2004 – Drums of Freedom 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Legends)
2005 – War Chant, D’ Rise of Tatanka 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Carnival Tribe)
2006 – Out of d’Depths 4th - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Carnival Tribe)
2007 – D’ Wrath of Tutankumhan 1st - portrayed by Curtis Eustace (Island People)
also won: best costume design in Trinidad.
FETE AFTER FETE! - Your CARIBANA 2K7 Weekend Guide
In the words of the 2007 TnT Soca Monarch champ (Iwer George), 'Fete After Fete' best describes the overflow of events taking place throughout the CARIBANA 2K7 week. To help filter through the masses of fetes and give you just the CARIBANA vitals, ‘WE’ have compiled a list of the stellar events of this season.Thursday August 2nd, 2007
CARIBANA KINGS & QUEENS EXTRAVANGANZA
@ Lamport Stadium - 1155 King Street West, Toronto
Thursday August 2nd, 2007
I.S. Promo BOAT JAM '07
@ Captain John's - 1 Queens Quay E
Info: 905-840-2450 www.IslandStyleMusic.com
Friday August 3rd, 2007
THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF PAN ALIVE!
@ Lamport Stadium - 1155 King Street West, Toronto
Friday August 3rd, 2007
Soul Kitchen: The Caribana Edition
@ Blurr Nightclub - 214 Adelaide St W.
Info: 416.378.3278 www.amnesia.ca
Friday August 3rd, 2007
The 12th Annual KOS J'OUVERT FETE
@ Palazzo Nightclub & Patio - 99 Peelar Road (Hwy 7 & Jane St.)
Adm: $30 / $40
Friday August 3rd, 2007
GLOW Toronto 07 - YOU MUST WEAR WHITE
@ Kool Haus - 132 Queens Quay E
Info: 905-840-2450 www.IslandStyleMusic.com
Saturday August 4th, 2007
@ Exhibition Grounds & Lakeshore Blvd
Saturday August 4th, 2007
CARNIVAL IN YUH BACKYARD 4.0 - Savannah Xplosion!
@ Wild Water Kingdom - 7855 Finch Ave. West, Toronto, Canada
Adm: $40 Adv.
Info: 416.831.1236 416.522.9066 647.219.2645 www.TriniSouthBoyz.com
Saturday August 4th, 2007
MACHEL MONTANO HD - Celebrating 25 years in the business
@ Lamport Stadium - 1151 King Street W
Admission: $40 reg. adv $100 VIP
Info: 416.676.6504 416.985.8488 416.565.4079 www.CaribanaFestival.com
ALL AGES EVENT
Saturday August 4th, 2007
THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS: THE RETURN OF THE OFFICIAL DEF JAM PARTY
@ PALAZZO NIGHTCLUB - 99 Peelar Rd
Limited $25 Advanced Tickets
Saturday August 4th, 2007
10th Xclusv Carnival Class Affair
@ Atlantis Pavilion – 955 Lakeshore Blvd W.
Sunday August 5th, 2007
FIRE FETE 6 - The 25th Celebration Of a Lifetime"
@ The DOCKS - 11 POLSON ST (Downtown, Toronto)
Feat. Machel Montano HD & more Adm: $50
Info: 647-436-9111 416-833-5374 416.738.5526 416.886.8900
Sunday August 5th, 2007
The Massive International SOCA RAVE 2K7
@ PALAZZO NIGHTCLUB - 99 Peelar Rd
Adm: $40 Advance
Info: 416.854.1306 416.999.3.999 www.socarave.com
Sunday August 5th, 2007
THE BIG PEOPLE OUTDOOR FETE
@ CARIBBEAN COVE in WILD WATER KINGDOM (7855 Finch Avenue West)
Adm: $30 advance
TICKETS: $30 IN OUTLETS NOW!
Info: 905.428.3639 www.wildwaterkingdom.com
Sunday August 5th, 2007"IMAGINE MUSIC FESTIVAL"
At: Molson Amphitheatre - Ontario Place6pm-11pm
Adm: $31.80 / $47.70 / $58.30 / $68.90
Sunday August 5th, 2007
The 7th Annual Hot 97/BET Celebrity Party
@ The Guvernment Entertainment Complex - 132 Queens Quay E
Sunday August 5th, 2007
@ Blvd Room - 81 Peter St
Info: 416.378.3278 www.amnesia.ca
Monday August 6th, 2007
AFTER CARIBANA ALL-INCLUSIVE BBQ
@ Marion & Garth Magloire’s House
Feat. Roy Cape, Afropan & More
Info: 416-412-7159 www.TorontoRevellers.com
Monday August 6th, 2007
FIRE FETE 6 – Part 2 (The Cool Down Fete)
@ The DOCKS - 11 POLSON ST (Downtown, Toronto)
Feat. Machel Montano HD & more
Info: 647-436-9111 416-833-5374
With Soca Summer in full swing, the city of Toronto has been experiencing some sweet fetes this season. With the hugely successful K.O.S. WHITEOUT fete that recently took place, along with other signature events such as SOCA OR DIE, THE BUZZ, BIG PEOPLE MIDNIGHT BOAT RIDE, LUCKY 7, SOCA UNPLUGGED, FOAM FETE, and WEAKNESS FOR SWEETNESS among others, I am feeling grateful for all the support that our city shows the local Soca scene. While we love a great performance based show, we can also come out and party for hours on end - K.O.S. WHITEOUT on July 21st went from 10pm till 6:30 am - with just the 3 DJ’s from the Kingdom of Soca to entertain you. This support is welcomed, but are we still yearning for more?
A while back there was talk that Soca music would finally get “mainstream” recognition. Remember the rumour that there was going to be a category in the Annual Grammy Awards? But that never materialized. Does that mean that the music we love is not worth as much as we think?
Do you remember the song by General Grant back in the 90’s that said, “We gonna take Soca music straight to the billboard charts”? Is that necessary to make you respect the music even more?
What about the talk years ago that Machel Montano was going to do a crossover album aimed at the North American masses? Kevin Lyttle, Rupee, KMC as well as Alison Hinds have all attempted this breakthrough with “Turn Me On”, “Tempted To Touch”, “Soul On Fire” and “Roll It Gal” respectively; and while they have all garnered much admiration from a wider audience, some people would say they have done damage and lost credibility from the hardcore Soca fans.
What is behind the ambition for mainstream recognition? Is it derived from a desire to see our music embraced by those outside it in order to show people the beauty of our culture? Do we simply wish a larger audience for the artists we love? Are we craving this validation from North America or would we simply accept it if it came to us?
The vast majority of Soca artists in the Caribbean brings out music seasonally for their Carnival season and then tours the world going from Carnival to Carnival, for the remainder of the year. Do you define this as a ‘success’ or do we need more?
On the flip side, there are those who prefer to keep Soca to themselves. They complain that the music is getting “too commercial”. They don’t want it to become diluted. They don’t welcome the change in the art form. They would prefer if Soca stayed the exact same way it was “back-in-the-day”. What do you think though?
Do you feel that Soca music needs mainstream recognition in order to “tell dem we reach”?
Now that is THE QUESTION.
Dr Jay de Soca Prince welcomes your feedback on this topic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Results will be published in the next issue of “WE”
(Photo by Mariamma Kambon)
The summer has barely begun, but right across the city the Toronto Festival season is in full swing.
This year marked the launch of the inaugural 10-day Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity. The opening ceremony at the Royal Ontario Museum on June 2, included the unveiling of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, dedicated to the 56-year old Jamaican-born billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist who in 2003 donated $30 million dollars to the Museum. The new wing of the museum showcases seven collection galleries on four floors, two exhibition spaces, new retail and dining facilities as well as a new main entrance.
The final weekend of Luminato ran in mid-June and featured performances with Carnival themes from Latin America, the Caribbean, Rio, Asia, New Orleans and Canada. Carnivalissima, a component of Luminato, featured dance, art, music, and international cuisine and took place at Harbourfront Centre.
International calypso sensation, Machel Montano, closed out the festival as part of the Afro-Caribbean day festivities with an incredible one and a half hour free showcase. Trinidadian-born Montano, sang tracks from his new album titled Machel Montano HD and returns to Toronto for a performance during the upcoming Caribana weekend.
The annual Barbados on the Water Festival at Harbourfront Centre, which took place in mid-June, heated up the waterfront. The festival featured many different events including rum tasting, comedy and dance performances and showcased several artists who performed earlier this year at the Barbados Jazz festival. These artists included Barbados' own vocalist Marisa Lindsay, Steelpan Artist, David "Ziggy" Walcott, Arturo Tappin and Toronto-based Juno-Award winning producer, songwriter, and pianist, Eddie Bullen. Reggae soca sensation, Biggie Irie, and soca artist Rupee and Nu Jenarashun also performed.
Afrofest, was held at Queen's Park in mid-July and explored two days of African music and events showcasing the diverse African communities and culture in Toronto with an African marketplace.
The 40th anniversary of Caribana is in full gear, and this year the annual jump-up is extended from three weeks to five. Caribana, labelled as North America's largest street festival, combines the arts, culture and food of the Caribbean. The official launch was held at Nathan Phillips Square on July 10th and attended by Mayor David Miller, members of the Caribana festival committee and local politicians. The five weeks will include performances in various locations of the city incorporating steel pan to calypso to even a jazz component after the August 4th parade. A new addition to Caribana this year is the Imagine Music Festival, taking place on August 5th featuring Reggae Dancehall Artist Sean Paul, Calypso Artist Destra and R&B Soul Singer, Ne-Yo.
The 6th Annual Irie Music Festival takes place from August 3 to August 6 with events spread out between Ontario Place, Nathan Phillips Square and Queen's Park. Opening night at Ontario Place will feature the rich sounds of Reggae Artists Freddie MacGregor, Richie Stephens and Comfort. Saturday night’s free showcase brings three rising Canadian Artists together--Humble, Errol Blackwood and Jah Beng. On Sunday, Nathan Phillips Square explodes with Gospel, courtesy of Rohan "Cowboy" Grant, award-winning singer Jimmy Lee Howard, Freedom to Worship, and acapella group REECH.
Later in the day on Sunday, the Irie Queens showcase takes over Queen's Park, featuring Divine Brown, Donna Makeda and Lizzy Mahashe.
The weekend continues with a "Taste of the Tropics," where local vendors will offer sample sizes of American, African, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Southern foods.
Also on from August 3rd to 6th is the Island Soul Festival at Harbourfront with a performance on the history of Jamaican and Caribbean Dance featuring Baby Boys. Performers will include Calypso Dreams Vintage with Black Stalin, Lord Superior, Singing Sandra, Valentino and Jamaican singer Barrington Levy.
The last weekend in July gets busy with Global Hip Hop: The 4 elements takes place at the Harbourfront Centre and features a mix of soul, jazz, R&B, electronica, rock and funk.
Masala! Mehndi! Masti!, North America's largest South Asian festival, is in it's seventh year and will be held at the Queen Elizabeth building on the CNE grounds. It combines contemporary and traditional South Asian culture with local and international artists.
In late September of this year, the Caribbean Tourism Organization will be launching its first ever Caribbean Week in Toronto. The celebration, which will run from September 26 to 30 at various locations, will open up with a Caribbean Fair at Yonge-Dundas Square on Wednesday, September 26 and include a media marketplace, lifestyle cooking classes and conclude with the First Annual Governments of the Caribbean Gala and Awards Presentations at the very prestigious Liberty Grand building at Exhibition Place.
For more information on Caribbean Week, you can visit: http://www.caribbeanweek.ca
For a full listing of all the Toronto festivals, visit: http://www.toronto.com
(Photo by Richard Daniel)
Hip-hop artist J.B is achieving musical milestones both artistically and commercially.
His first solo album, “The Environment,” will be released in November; it will include
his lead off single, “Fire in Ya Eyes,” featuring U.S. rap star, The Game. The single is currently playing on radios all over the world, J.B says, and the video debuts this month. The album will be released by J.B’s own company, G.C.P Recording Corp. It will be distributed throughout the U.S., making G.C.P the first independent recording company in Canada to achieve major U.S. distribution, according to J.B.
The Toronto rapper, who often opens for major artists across Canada, has toured with The Game and Juelz Santana, both multi-platinum artists. The rising star, J.B, writes about life situations that he either witnessed or experienced as a black youth of West Indian descent growing up in the Flemingdon Park area of Toronto. “The album is about life and the struggle we go through,” he says “Anyone of black West Indian heritage living in a project or a bad neighborhood, anywhere in the world, can relate to the lyrics.”
The eldest of five brothers and two sisters, J.B, 29 yrs, started rapping when he was just eight years old. His musical influences came from the young men living in Flemingdon Park who started the Canadian hip-hop scene in Toronto. He mentions rappers such as S. Blank and KB from Beats Control, among others. “These are the guys who built Toronto’s hip-hop scene,” J.B says. “I used to watch them because they came from the same area as me.”
Before he founded the company in 1999, G.C.P was a local crew of all the young guys in the area. “We turned it into a record company so that we could focus more on music,” J.B says. His first song, “Ghetto Flow,” hit the air waves when he was just 16 years. At 18, he organized the production of the first album to come out of Flemingdon Park, a compilation featuring 29 local artists. He also released the first EP for reggae singer Blessed, on the G.C.P label. Blessed is now one of Toronto’s leading reggae singers.
In 2005, J.B. released his single “Ey Yo,” it was the top Canadian song on urban radio for 12 weeks. In 2006, he co-founded Keep it Moven Entertainment. He also released his follow-up single, “Whatcha Need” along with the video. Not satisfied with promoting his own career, J.B is also helping young rappers get into the business. “I have 15 or 20 young artists just waiting for any little opportunity that would help to make their lives better,” he says. Sadly, he has seen friends pursuing similar goals lose their lives to gun violence. He names: Oloutobi Johnson, aka Toba Chong; Tate Best, aka Sketch Devious; and his cousin, Chantelle Dunn. “They now inspire me to do more for the rest of the youth,” he says. “I just want to say to them, ‘rest in peace’.”
J.B works closely with Toronto-born NBA star Jamal Magloire, who also grew up in the area, helping the young people in the community. The Canadian hip-hop scene is already having an impact, J.B says. “A lot of singles coming out of the U.S. from people like Fantasia and other big R& B stars are being produced by Canadians,” he says. “So being here and growing with them is a benefit for us.”
In Canada, the business community has not fully realized the true potential that Caribbean immigrants have as professional managers.
While large U.S. corporations increasingly tap into the burgeoning talent pool of African Americans for senior management roles, the more timid Canadian companies are behind in this regard and in many cases miss out on the opportunity to have more modern strategists who deliver an aggressive growth oriented strategic advantage.
However, one company which is seeing the light is Yogen Fruz Canada Inc. This internationally renowned corporation which operates in 30 countries was founded in Canada and maintains its global headquarters in Markham, Ontario.
Yogen Fruz is a classic case of a successful mature business which has been around for 21 years and could use a bit of rejuvenation. Yogen Fruz reached out to Toronto based and Jamaican born marketing executive, Dave Craig. In his senior role with the company, Mr. Craig is responsible for Business Development worldwide.
Dave Craig’s legacy will be working with the senior team to develop and execute a complete re-imaging of Yogen Fruz. As you can imagine, overhauling such an established brand with more than 1,000 stores is no easy task. The end result should be impressive and will make its world debut this year as Yogen Fruz enters the United States market with an initial foray into California and Florida.
Mr. Craig is helping to refresh and re-image the Yogen Fruz brand including the following initiatives.
* Market Intelligence garnered through consumer research
* Brand audit gained from focus group interviews
* New Logo Design
* Improved Retail Store Design
* Fresh Menu Board Design
* All New Advertising and Communications Creative
Re-imaging a major company, while simultaneously entering the world’s most competitive marketplace is exactly the type of bold challenge that black business leaders embrace and champion.
When Tessanne Chin pelts out her deep and soulful lyrics, every listener is moved by her beautiful voice. She is an emerging solo phenomenon out of Jamaica doing her music, her way.
Tessanne was born to Richard and Christine Chin in October 1984. She says, the decision to pursue music was inevitable. “They have been nothing but supportive and I love them and cherish them for that,” said Chin. Her parents, both musicians were members of a band called The Carnations, where her mother defied convention as one of the first female trumpeters on the island. Her parents support for the musical careers of their children extended to building a studio in the family house for their daughters to record.
The entire family is musical. She is the younger sister and best friend of fellow vocalist Tami Chynn. “It has been an amazing experience for both of us. We're each other’s biggest fans and we love the fact that we are in this together. It's a huge blessing to be able to talk to someone who knows first hand about the ups and downs of the business, but to have that someone be your sis? What more could you ask for?” said Tessanne. The sisters are climbing the ladder of success simultaneously with different styles. Tami’s playful pop-dancehall career has connected her for collaborations with stars like Sean Paul, Lady Saw and Beenie Man. Tessanne’s more mature sound occupies a niche that might be classified as a return to roots rock reggae.
She developed a love for rock music while her family was living in the UK for four years. That led to a two year stint as the lead vocalist for Jamaican rock band Mile High. Next, Tessanne would tour internationally singing backup for Sir Jimmy Cliff.
Three years later, and her own impact is becoming global. The single Hideaway is still climbing charts internationally, while it occupies the number one position in Toronto on both the Reggaemania and Toronto-Lime.com reggae charts.
Chin, however, is not married to the reggae genre. As a solo artist, her sound has evolved. “In many ways. I think I got the freedom to express my love not just for rock and reggae but also for classical and soul, all the things that have influenced me in my journey thus far. I got to create, along with my awesome producers Rudy Valentino and Paul Kastick, a new genre unto itself with good music being our goal,” said Chin.
Being different is in Tessanne’s bloodline, but she says she doesn’t pay any special attention to her multiethnic background. “I'm mixed with a bunch of things but my Chinese heritage shows up more,” said Chin laughing, “ I'm proud to be all that I am and as far as it affecting the way the world sees me I hope it wouldn't or doesn't. It's about the Music and music has no face, no colour, no age, no discrimination. So, I'd like to think of it as a place where all can be equal.”
While the road to stardom has just begun, Tessanne is pleased with how far she’s come. “Waking up in the morning and doing what I love, that alone is success for me. The whole journey I'm on is a success,” said Chin.
For the less philosophical, her success can be measured objectively as well. Tessanne just completed her first solo appearance at Jamaica’s premier music festival, Reggae Sumfest. After that, she says, she will be shooting a video for her new single Black Books, setting more shows in Jamaica and abroad and getting creative in the studio.
For more information on Tessanne Chin visit www.myspace.com/tessannechin
Jamaica's "Big Bad Singer" Da'Ville, has been relishing in his success all while keeping it real and down to earth. The response to his rise on the Jamaican music scene has been tremendous. He says, "people have been really supportive of the whole vibe right now, ya know. In terms of every dance you go, every party you go, you have to hear a Da'Ville tune. If you turn on the television or watching the music channels or go up on Tempo (www.gottempo.com) you're gonna see two or three videos." And the exposure doesn't end there. Taking their cue from the people who are interested in terms of what is going on with Da'Ville's career, all of Jamaica's mainstream newspapers have made room for this songwriter, composer and producer amid their pages.
As a new artist based in Jamaica the lure of living abroad full time has not captivated this
singer as yet and he just doesn't think he would be able to bring the same vibe and energy to his music if his base was abroad.
"Jamaica is home. No matter which part the world you go. If you have house in NY,
house in Canada or house in Europe, Jamaica a home. You haffi have a base here so. Here so a de root. A here so every ting stem from. Exactly here you need fi have your base. You need fi know which part your roots dey man and de roots is in Jamaica, nowhere else."
If Jamaica is the root, then Japan was like the water that helped with its growth. “Japan was like the beginning for me. At the time, in 2005, I had a single that was doing pretty well, called "In Heaven". It was tearing up the charts and mashing up Japan and I didn't even know that. I was over here in Jamaica doing my ting same way and I got a call from a promoter over dey who wanted me come do two club shows. I wanted to have the experience. Before I had an album from any other company, Avex Entertainment Group in Japan gave me an opportunity to make my first album "In Heaven". After I got more established, I was invited to perform in Japan last year at the Mighty Crown anniversary show in front of 35000 people. I did a three-album deal with Avex. I did two albums for them already - "In Heaven" (2005) and "Can't Get Over You"(2006) - even before this new album “On My Mind."
2006 was a stellar year for Da'Ville with his smash hit singles "Can't Get over You”, the soulful “On My Mind”, and “This Time I Promise” topping the charts. “I really just wanted to get my break from standing on my own two feet and not through a collaboration. I was fortunate to have been able to break out on my own with a solo effort.”
Riding the wave of this success was eased along by a profile in the New York Times and being honoured as Singer of the Year by the renowned sound crew Stone Love. A personal touch had a hand to play in it as well. Da'Ville evolved in terms of his musical and personal growth and tapped into the spirits past and present of Bob Marley, Freddie Macgregor, Dennis Brown, Maxi Priest, and Beres Hammond for some inspiration. “I came to realize that the world I'm living in is not a picture painted one. Before I always tried to do a song from my imaginary aspect and now I'm doing my songs from a personal experience point. So I was able to be real in terms of what I said and the emotions coming out of me into the songs. The people on a whole heard it and connected to it because of that. It's so easy for me to tap into that energy dey.”
Hilton “Ghetto Flex” Dalzell has humbly offered his commanding vocals to audiences for years. The dreadlocked soca front man began singing publicly at age five. His is the rich bassy voice behind soca standards like Golo, Wine and Bend Over, and Soca Daddy. But now is the time for change. In an exclusive interview with, Ghetto Flex for WE Entertainment magazine, he announces his departure from Imij and plans for the future.
KR: When did you leave Imij and Co.?
GF: I already left de band. That happened [in April]. I left officially. I haven’t gone public with it yet. I was looking for the right time and the right medium which I think this is. Still it’s not public knowledge as such.
KR: Did you take anyone with you?
GF: No, I don’t think that would be a good thing. First and foremost, I never wanted to disturb de flow of de band. So, I left on my own. Leaving with somebody would be a very bad thing and I’m not about trying to harm de flow of it. Because the members of the band are my friends, you know what I mean?
KR: Why did you decide to leave?
GF: Well, a couple of personal reasons. Part of it was family reasons, family business. I had to go away for a while and take care of some business. You see being in a band is a lot of commitment where time is concerned. There are things that I want to start that I’m embarking on that need a little more time. So, I had to make my exit to start some other ventures.
KR: What are some of those ventures?
GF: I’m in the middle of planning the next year where the career is concerned. I am working on my album. I have more time to do that and also I’m embarking on [party] promotion a little bit. I just did my first little promotion [in May] which was really good. We go under the name Celebrity Events.
I’m known for doing collaborations with artistes here, which is something that wasn’t very popular in soca. And I am looking to stretch out to de international. I actually started working with a couple of international artists. I think soca has become very adaptable. Well music on a whole has become very adaptable. Everything is mixing, so I think it’s the perfect time to try and get it out. I’m doing some projects with international artists. I have some Canadian artists under my wing and plus some American artists.
I’m presently working with Studio 53 [recording reggae]. I’ve already started. That has always been a love for me. Being partly responsible for ragga soca, I feel responsible to be there ensuring that they move to the next step in developing our own reggae artists, which I think is a good thing. People may say that it’s not our culture, but I think reggae music is Caribbean culture. Trinidad does listen to a lot of dancehall and reggae, so it would be even better if we could listen to our own. So, I’m gonna to a couple of those too.
KR: I have heard rumours that you are starting your own band. Can you confirm that?
GF: Eventually that is what I’m heading to, but that wouldn’t be immediate because that takes some time and planning. That’s the reason I took the time. People might think that I just left the band to form muh own band. It’s not a matter of that. First, I have to develop myself as an artist again, as an individual artist and then, that would be the ending result then. That is what it will lead to.
KR: In regards to your personal performance, how would you say the 2007 season has been?
GF: It was fair. The band does a lot of the events in Trinidad. I think being in a band you don’t get time to develop personally. Remember you’re doing a lot of covers, and always on de road, which is not a bad thing financial-wise. But looking at personal growth, there wasn’t much time for that as such.
KR: Which of your musical contributions would you say best exemplifies your niche in soca?
GF: There’s no particular best song as such. I think it’s the overall personality, if I say that myself! Not wanting to be conceited or anything…de whole package. I would say I appeal to a broad audience from kids to mothers. I don’t want to say pop-oriented where soca is concerned, but I was responsible for the evolution of ragga soca.
KR: In your opinion, what is the greatest accomplishment of your career thus far?
GF: I think the main accomplishment is staying in de soca arena without having a major major hit every year. People look at de overall package, de performances, de songs. I did a lot of collaborations. I created a new kinda sound; Wine and Bend Over, Rock Your Body. These are songs that I was doing almost nine, ten years ago. And people still see interest in it, which I think is important because it shows longevity. The music lasts. I concentrate on making music that lasts. Not just a hit for this year. Daiz my main advantage. I can’t say anything until it’s done. Sorry.
(photo by Ken Maguire)
Island diva Tanzania “Tizzy” Sebastian had better hold on tight, because her star is rising fast.
This vivacious Antiguan cocktail mix had music and movement swirling through her veins long before she took to the stage, and her fans are reaping the benefits.
The echoes of 2006’s “Expose” are still throbbing worldwide, and they’re pushing Tizzy towards what she says will be her ultimate performance this year at the 2007 Antigua Carnival Party Monarch Finals being held August 4th.
“So far, people have been pleased with the music that we’ve brought out, and of course the performances that we’ve put down, and it’s only going to get better from here,” she said. “Come Party Monarch, it’s going to be crazy, because there’s been a lot of crazy things going on so far, and we’re only looking forward to the best,” she added.
‘Crazy’ might describe the see-sawing of reigning Party Monarch Claudette “CP” Peters, who shocked fans when she announced that she would not be defending her title. Two days later, she recanted, saying 2007 would be her final year. Controversy swelled last year after CP didn’t sing her entire song, and was instead carried down from the stage into a frenzied audience. Tizzy’s fans screamed, “robbery”.
Nonetheless, the El-A-Kru lead singer, Tizzy, says there’s no rivalry, and that she’s aiming to do more than just produce Carnival hits.
“I feel that I have a product to put out there, a product to market, and I’m gonna do the best I can to do that,” she said. “Last year, after Antigua Carnival, Expose wasn’t really finished. It led on to Trinidad Carnival, we’ve put it on Tempo, and I’ve been getting calls from all over the world to come and perform. We just came back from St Lucia’s ‘Colour Me Red,’ and it was fantastic. All the DJ had to say was “X” and you could hear the crowd start singing o, o, o, o, oooo (the song’s hook).”
The thirst for stardom has many fuels, but Tizzy insists it’s love of country that drives her performances. Her band’s name, El A Kru, stands for “Little Antigua Crew,” and Tizzy is hoping to catapult this year’s offerings into the stratosphere, right beside to her last hit.
“People are loving all the songs on the album, and it really shows how much they appreciate the hard work that we’ve put into the music to get it out there. When we make music, we try and show people our feelings about the music, about Carnival, about the industry - about life. All of this is incorporated into the lyrics, and this is how we come up with the substance of the songs, and the music for the songs, and when the people latch on to it, it really shows us that they appreciate the hard work we put into it,” she says.
Many say it’s already crowded at the Soca top, but this artist is steering a parallel course, instead of masterminding a collision.
“I can’t be anybody else but Tizzy. I’ve heard so many things… how I can’t do this or that, but from the first performance I did at Party Monarch in 2004, I took it to a level people had not seen in Antigua for a while. In 2006, I took it to another level. 2007 is going to be even hotter… even greater. So whenever I come out… whenever ‘Tizzy’ comes out, it’s a standard, it’s quality, it’s style, it’s class. There is no other Tizzy around; nobody can say I am like this person or the next. I am Tizzy, I can only be Tizzy: T-I-Z-Z-Y!”
Everybody crawls before they can walk, but one soca baby is taking leaps ahead of the competition. Zoelah Boyde is the sassy voice behind Go Down Low, an instant ladies anthem shooting straight up the charts in Toronto.
Her steady climb to success was accelerated by winning the Best New Song competition at the official St. Vincent carnival launch held back in May. “At the new song competition, the crowd went crazy before she even went on stage,” said manager Alex ‘Kubiyashi’ Barnwell. Zoelah successfully crushed the opposition and she has not looked back since.
“I feel it’s a blessing,” said Zoelah retracing her steps in the music industry. The 22-year-old hails from Campden Park, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a suburb of the capital that is also home to former Soca Monarch and OECS Soca Monarch Bomani. She was just 17 when she began touring as a frontline vocalist with Signal. After contributing her crystal vocals to the mix for nearly two years, Zoelah set out on her own to release In and Out for Vincy Mas 2003.
Next she would move to Tortola where she continued to sing. Zoelah returned home with a bang in 2006. Kicking Dust earned her a place in the Soca Monarch Finals. Dressed in white, and dancing up storm, no one could deny this was a talent to watch.
Boyde’s second carnival release, Fly Away, perks the ears immediately due to a chorus melody borrowed from Kelly Clarkson’s Since You’ve Been Gone. The tune was given a new burst of energy thanks to a rhythmic road mix by Hot 97’s DJ Scratch Master. “I listened to the track by Alex when it was being produced and was immediately hit with the great potential I knew it would have,” said Scratch Master, “the instructions caught me. I found them to be unique. One day while home I was saying to Alex ‘this song needs a road element’. The vibe hit me and I did it in three hours. The rest is history.” Over the 2007 carnival season, the revved up version became more popular than the original.
Zoelah enjoyed maximum exposure at Vincy Mas, performing at highly sought after carnival tickets like Glow and H20 Soca. She entertained huge crowds as a warm-up act for Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano HD and Destra Garcia. Her voice was heard nationwide over the airwaves singing Together Now and Bandanas in collaboration with Skinny Fabulous.
Finally, she would get her true moment in the spotlight with her return to the Soca Monarch stage. “Zoelah gave me goose bumps!” said Steven Veira, a judge for the Carnival Development Corporation. That night’s rendition of Fly Away earned the diva a third place finish.
“I want to keep soca music cultural. When I hear a riddim, I start thinking about lyrics and melodies and real Caribbean party vibes,” said Zoelah. That was her writing process for Go Down Low. Add top soca arranger/producer, Kubiyashi of Non-Fiction Recordings to the callaloo and you’ve got yourself a hit. The rest of the recipe fell into place thanks to guitarist Zan George, whose rock inspired accents give the song its gritty edge.
“That girl has talent and I believe in her. She needs a push in the right direction and I really think she can do big things. She's very humble and unassuming,” said Vanesta Murphy, a journalist with St. Vincent’s Searchlight newspaper.
That push is coming from some major Canadian DJs whose fans can’t get enough of Zoelah. “If you see girls holding onto the railing in front of them on the boat yesterday and going down. Oh Lawd!” said Jester of Xcaliber International, co-host of the World Wide Wake Up Show on 89.5 FM. Fellow host DJ Chief says, “She almost sounds like a young Destra!” Go Down Low has steadied at the number one position on their Top 6 @ 6 chart for three weeks, ahead of international acts such as Akon, Kanye West, Daville and Mavado, Freeway and Jay-Z, and Ne-Yo and Mary J. Blige.
“The song is everywhere. It’s in Canada. It’s in England. So after [carnival] I hope to be very busy travelling outside of St. Vincent,” said Zoelah. At home, her successful season earned her major endorsement deals with Digicel and Courts, but the work abroad is just beginning. She makes her first Canadian appearance at KOS J’Ouvert in August.
For more information on Zoelah visit www.myspace.com/zoelah
True carnival enthusiasts know that they can travel year round and find the familiar sounds of the steel pan, a group of costumed revellers, and the music, food and spirit they know and love. They can head to Trinidad in the winter, Jamaica or Atlanta in the spring, maybe Montreal or St. Lucia for the early summer months – however, August might present a conflict of interest when Toronto Caribana and the Barbados Crop Over festivities conclude over the same weekend, before the first Monday in August.
If there is one time of year when Caribbean-Canadians, residents of Toronto and neighbours in Michigan, Quebec, or New York know that they don’t have to travel far to catch the carnival spirit, it’s towards the end of the summer when the fun, the music, the tourists, entertainment and excitement come to the streets of Toronto. Caribana weekend is a yearly vacation-at-home for many Toronto residents. However, down in Bridgetown, Barbados, there is revelling of similar proportions going on at their National Stadium, while hundreds of thousands also parade down Lakeshore Boulevard.
Crop Over is just one of the many highlights of a trip to Barbados. From it’s launch this years on May 18, straight through to the Grand Kadooment parade on Monday, August 6, Crop Over provides a variety of festivities ranging from cavalcades and symposiums, to pan performances, Junior Calypso events, concluding with Foreday Mornin’ at Independence Square and the Cohobblopot on Crop Over Sunday.
Crop Over, which began centuries ago as a celebration to mark the end of the sugar cane cutting season, was revived in 1974 to attract tourists to the island during a traditionally slow season. For those who cannot make it to Barbados during Crop Over season, there are plenty of other attractions and benefits to travelling there year-round.
Described as “naturally charming and sophisticated, alive with possibilities, as boundless as the turquoise sea, endless as the sandy shore,” tourists will find many pleasant attractions while staying in Barbados.
In the capital, Bridgetown, in particular, shopping on Broad Street will provide tourists with a wide range of gifts, crafts, and clothing. Smaller shops can also be found on Swan Street, Rolbuck Street, or Tudor Street. Pelican Village, developed in 1999, provides handicrafts and other goods for purchase, located just outside of Bridgetown. Visually stunning, Bridgetown also offers great photo ops including the Parliament Building, and National Heroes Square, along with the natural landscapes.
While Bridgetown and the south coast provide fun and festivities, you can achieve a calmer vacation on the west coast, an equally relaxing time on the east coast, or choose to appreciate a more rugged beauty of the island by staying on the north coast. While all directions will provide you with unbroken white sand beaches, please keep in mind that nudism is illegal in Barbados, due to the island’s conservative British traditions – there are no nude beaches (ala Hedonism in Jamaica). Barbados is, however, host to Crane Beach, on the south coast, which has been noted as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world by ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’.
Any travel itinerary wouldn’t be complete without some entertainment to accompany the shopping and frolicking on the beach. For those looking to drink and get on bad on the dance floor, many tourists head to The Boatyard, which is open 365 days a year and provides non-stop excitement with a variety of games, restaurants, bars, and other attractions like waterslides, an ocean trampoline and rope swing. The beachside Sharkey’s Bar, located at The Boatyard, is considered to be one of the liveliest spots on the island.
The home of Rihanna, Rupee, Krosfyah and Edwin Yearwood provides musical entertainment in soca and reggae at its finest, and the friendly Bajan people have proven to be great hosts. Most nightclubs are located in the St. Lawrence Gap, and also on Bay Street. A great one to check out is Harbour Lights, a beachfront open-air venue.
There is plenty fun to be had in Barbados, even for those who are not willing to sacrifice their yearly Caribana rituals to attend the Crop Over. The carnival is just one aspect of their rich heritage, and a small part of the overall appeal to this eastern Caribbean paradise.
Since this is WE’s premiere issue it’s only right to write the first column about new beginnings.
On a walk down the street - or for the adventurous ones among us, on a speed dating excursion - we open doors to what could possibly be the rest of our lives. But after boy-meets-girl, the question is what next?
For many of us the next step is the stage when you don’t know if it will in fact be a relationship. This is followed by the getting-to-know-you phase, when the frequency of bouts of extreme awkwardness are matched only by the feeling that perhaps you have stumbled upon happiness everlasting…Which brings us to our first rules of engagement.
1. Know & Love Thyself
One of the most important things in life is knowledge of self: things you like, need, expect, and will accept; recognizing your strengths and weaknesses; self-awareness and your interactions with others, making sure that you are the best that you can possibly be- emotionally and physically. In order for someone to expect someone to treat you with respect you should first treat yourself with the utmost care and respect.
2. Say What You Mean & Mean What You Say
Crucial for any relationship, whether it is with an acquaintance or a romantic partner, is communication. It is extremely important to communicate who you are and what expectations and limits you may have, while also being mindful of your partner and his or her expectations. There is no point in pursuing a relationship with someone whom you have nothing in common with. Figuring out if that is the case can sometimes prove difficult but I think that all it takes is open ears and eyes.
Active listening is a really important element of communication that ought to take place in the beginning stages of your relationship. I have heard too many people – myself included- willfully ignore warning signs from a potential partner. “He said he was going to take me to dinner at 8 p.m., he ended up just coming by at 3 a.m. The same thing happened twice last week. What should I do?” RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Honestly speaking, I understand that things come up but when a person seems to have a habit of not keeping his/her word – the best thing to do is let that person go their way while you go your own.
When you are listening to your mate…listen to them. Do not color what is said with your own perceptions - be open to what your mate is trying to share with you. Now in communicating your feelings be as clear as possible. If you mean yes, don’t say maybe. It is impossible for anyone who isn’t a part of The Psychic Friends Network to read your mind to find out exactly what you want.
3. Let Bygones Be Bygones
“Bag lady…you gon’ miss yo bus…” Check the baggage at the door. Everyone is different. What happened in your last relationship is what happened in your last relationship. This person has not done anything to hurt you, and for all intensive purposes the clean slate rule applies. Gentlemen, she is not your ex-girlfriend and she may not do what that person did to hurt you. Ladies, the same is true. Do what you need to do to ensure your emotional safety, but bear in mind that you are going to have to let your guard down if you’re really trying to get somewhere.
4. Modesty Is the Best PolicyIt’s great to have expectations but at some point there needs to be compromise. I am not advising that anyone should completely throw their “dream mate list” out the window but no one is perfect. Be flexible.
Your skin is one of the first things people notice when they look at you, especially your face. But are you happy with the condition that yours is in right now? Do you really know how to take care of your skin? Have you ever looked at someone and thought, "Wow, I'd like to have a clean, clear and healthy complexion like that!" Well, with a proper daily routine and the right products, your skin can look amazing and appear years younger.
Whether you are a man, woman or teenager, in fact, as long as you have skin, you should be using skin care.
There are many environmental factors that can cause damage to the skin and increase the signs of aging, especially without proper skin protection. Specifically, heat, air conditioning, smoke, pollution and the sun are all contributing factors. And, as you get older, it is important to develop good skin care habits to preserve the skin's elasticity, density and texture.
If you've been using a petroleum jelly such as Vaseline, water, soap or not applying anything on your face all, it's time for a wake up call. None of these constitute a skin care regimen.
Petroleum jelly has been used on the skin for ages, and many people continue to use it as a face moisturizer, likely because they've adopted the practices of their parents. However, petroleum jelly contains mineral oil, a clear liquid oil that is produced through the distillation of gasoline through crude oil. Mineral oil clogs the pores as it lays on the skin and prevents the skin from being able to eliminate toxins, which is a necessity in maintaining a fresh, healthy appearance.
Studies show that it's important to drink water daily in order to hydrate the skin and to flush the toxins out the system. Eight to ten glasses per day is usually recommended. However, just applying water on your face daily does absolutely nothing for you. It does not remove oil, dirt or bacteria on its own. In fact, water can be hard on the skin, which is why the only time water should be applied on the face, is when it's lukewarm and being used as a rinse with a facial cleanser.
Soap is a definite no-no on the skin. Unless it's prescribed by a dermatologist for a specific reason, soap has no real value for facial use. Soaps tend to be made with animal fats, vegetable fats and oils, leaving a film on your skin which can take on average 21-28 or more rinses before it all comes off. It is very drying to the skin and pulls out your skin's natural oils. And, if you attempt to smile after using soap, you can usually feel tightness in the skin.
If you are currently not applying anything to your face at all and you like what you see in the mirror, then you are probably one of the lucky ones who have been blessed with good genes, for now. However, over time, as you get older, chances are you will develop lines, wrinkles, dark circles under the eyes, discolouration and saggy skin. As you age, you begin to lose collagen which is fibrous protein in the skin that keeps the skin looking firm and resilient, but can be replaced by using products that contain Vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes collagen production and strengthens blood capillaries. That means fewer broken capillaries are visible on your face.
Generations before us may have gotten away with these long-time practices, only because quality products hadn't been developed as yet. But now, in the twentieth century and with advances in modern science and technology, many beauty lines are offering a variety of products complete with clinical tests to back their findings. Cleansers, toners and moisturizers are critical in good skin care. Not only does your skin come into contact with environmental factors, but it also accumulates dead cells daily which need to be removed in order for your face to have a nice glow and not appear dry and dull.
In order to do that, you need to find products that work for you. There are tons of products on the market today. In fact, the beauty industry is a very lucrative industry boasting billions of dollars in revenue annually. However, when searching for a good skin care line, you need to look at the delivery system and what differentiates it from everything else on the market.
We’ll explore Part 2, Selecting Skin Care Products for Your Skin Type in the next issue.
Carol Allen is a Skin Care Consultant and Make-Up Artist for Aloette Cosmetics
You can book a personal consultation by calling (416) 410 7556 or by email to email@example.com
BASIC: An individual must post his arms on the ground, palms flat. Their abs should be engaged and leveled, parallel to the ground. The knees should be shoulder width and placed above the knee caps to avoid any injuries.
Intermediate: By simply lifting the bottom up in the air and tucking your knee to the chin will force a contraction using gravity as the resistance. Because you are on the stability ball and given the shape of it, you are required to fire off all those smaller stabilizer muscles.
Advance: To increase the intensity of this exercise, you fully extend your body by placing the top of your ankles on the ball causing your body to carry the weight of a longer leaver, placing more demand on your arms and your core strength.
BASIC: You lie down on your back with your feet shoulder width apart firmly on the ground. Place your hands behind your head to support your neck through out the exercises. Exhale as you crunch and inhale as you relax.
Intermediate: To start you lie down on your back with one leg crossed. The opposite arm is placed behind your head and the remaining arm is place out to the side to create a stable foundation for the crunch exercise.
Advance: Simply crunching on the ground contracts your rectus abdominal and your oblique. By raising the legs in its crossed position, you now engage your transverse abs as well.
BASIC: This exercise is similar to the ball tuck, only you are firmly on the ground. This exercise is great for absolute beginners to the advanced athletes. Lying down on your stomach hands bent by your side and feet shoulder width apart. You will keep your knees on the ground and using your arms push yourself off the ground and engaging your abs to hold the contraction. Continue to hold the position for 30-60 seconds, remember what you do to one side you do to the other.
Company-Dangerous "Le" Fit
Phone# 416 473-8062
Certified Personal trainer, ACE Certified Trainer, CAN-FIT-PRO Aerobics Instructor, Latin Cardio Instructor, Muscle Conditioning Instructor, Latin Dance Instructor (Salsa, Meringue and Batacha) and Wing Chung Master.
Hands down, the very best oxtails I have ever tasted came from my mother’s kitchen.
Oxtail is the bony gelatinous meat part that is from the tail of a cow and not the tail of an Ox as most believe. It is quite popular in the Caribbean and is a traditional dish in the American South and China.
If the oxtails is coming from the hands of an inexperienced chef, pray that you wont be served a tasteless batch of bones that has been drenched in browning and finished off in a pressure cooker.
While the dish has certainly become popular in our local Caribbean restaurants, the dishes are obviously hurried and for those of us who are in the know, know that oxtails is not a hurry come up dish to prepare.
Because of the long prep time, it was a weekend dish in my child hood home. The long prep time started on Friday nights when my Mom would season the meat allowing the season to “soak” until Sunday morning when she got up, threw a Jimmy Swaggart record on the turntable and began the long process of cooking the meat.
The smell of the meat would nudge me out of my Sunday morning slumber and I would lie in bed listening to the clanging of the metal spoon scraping against the side of the dutch pot as my Mom turned the searing meat which sealed in the flavor of the dry seasoning.
I don’t remember her using browning to stain the meat or a pressure cooker to hurry the meat along. Instead, once the meat had reached its natural brown, she would add boiling water to the batch and allow it to boil the meat until it dried out to the point where the sizzling searing sound would ring through the kitchen. More water was boiled (she never used cold water or warm tap water) and the process was repeated for several hours until eventually the meat started to fall off the bones.
At this point, after tasting the gravy, she would adjust the dry seasoning and add in onion, garlic, scallion and spinner dumplings. My step father and I would wait in anticipation for the addition of the butter beans and string beans which signaled to us that the stew was ready.
We would then be invited to the table, our stomachs roaring loudly, almost in chorus, in anticipation of the meal. Stinginess with food is a sin in my family and as a result, our plates were heaped with oxtails and rice drenched in oxtail gravy. This was a meal eaten in silence and the only sounds that could be heard from the table along with the clinging of the silverware against the plate was the ravenous wolfing down of the oxtails followed by the sucking sounds as we tried to get every last drop of the meat and gravy from off of the bones.
I feel the need to express my dissatisfaction with movies that have come out recently. Some of these movies that I've seen in the past year have been so disappointing, that I was left wanting a refund halfway through the film. Movies these days, in my opinion, seem to be unrealistic, lack emotion and creativity. It makes me wonder: are good movies a dying breed? It is for this reason, that I've given up on any hope for good movies. Almost.
I reluctantly decided to give movies a second chance when I took up a friend's offer to see "Reign Over Me", starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle.
I am not partial to any particular genre. In fact, I loath action, comedy at times can be borderline corny, and there are only so many "chick flicks" that I can stomach. However, after seeing Adam Sandler in Anger Management and The Waterboy, I came to appreciate his sense of humour.
I was warned, however, that Sandler's acting in "Reign Over Me" was atypical of "The Waterboy"'s usual wackiness.
I'll admit that I was a bit turned off, and I'll tell you why: after seeing Chris Rock in the film "I think I love my wife", and Will Farrrel in the very painful-to-watch "Melinda and Melinda, I was not about to waste money on yet another comedic actor's futile attempt to take on a serious role.
However, after spending $13.50 on my ticket and a whopping eight dollars on a meal, I decided to give "The Waterboy" a chance. "The Waterboy" had one hundred and twenty four minutes to show me what he was made of.
Surprisingly, he pulled it off. Although I was aware of Cheadle's fine acting, it was Sandler who really surprised me.
"Reign Over Me" is the story of two recently reunited college roommates, Charlie Fineman (played by Sandler), and Allan Johnson (played by Cheadle). Both graduates of dentistry school, Allan is a successful dentist, with a beautiful wife and beautiful children, while Charlie has given up on life entirely after his wife and three daughters were killed in the 9/11 attacks. Charlie has emotionally blocked himself off from the world and throughout the film, wears headphones to tune out everything that goes on around him. He keeps himself busy by listening to old music, playing video games, and constantly remodelling his kitchen.
These three activities that Charlie seems to immerse himself in all have a meaning behind it. While Allan's problems seems to pale in comparison to Charlie's, Allan seems to be dissatisfied with his life, despite to seemingly have it all.
It is not my intent to give you a play-by-play account of what happens in the movie. You will have to see it for yourself. However, I do encourage you all to see this fantastic film.
"Reign Over Me" is an incredibly moving film. It has just the right amount of comedy and drama to keep you on the edge of your seat. It will make you laugh, and I guarantee that it will make you cry, as the audience is able to empathize with Sandler's character as he struggles to come to terms with all that has been taken from him... something that he has desperately tried not to acknowledge. In something that is very rare today, the audience is able to view strong friendships between males.
I tend to agree with a critic from The New York Times, who wrote: "Cheadle is good, as always, but Sandler's portrayal of a guy on the perennial brink of a psychotic breakdown is amazing. The scene where he finally attempts to reveal the events of 9/11 is as fine a piece of naked emotional acting as you're likely to see this year"
If you've been longing for just a really good movie, filled with sincerity, emotion and creativity, like I have, then I encourage you all to watch this fantastic film when it is released on DVD on July 24th.
To answer my initial question of whether good movies are a dying breed, my answer to that is no. Good movies are very much alive. There's a hidden gem where you least expect it.