King Cosmos

Kaiso to play key role in Toronto Caribbean Carnival

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Toronto’s carnival – better known to many as Caribana – has a global reputation, so it’s with real anticipation that lovers of mas, pan, calypso and soca are looking forward to this year’s celebration.

Kaiso fans have special reason to be pleased, as this will mark the return of the Calypso Monarch contest – organised by the Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes (OCPA) – for the first time since the pandemic struck.

The official Carnival Launch, at Nathan Phillips Square, sets the ball rolling on Tuesday 11 July. Three days later, the calypso tent opens its doors and on Sunday 16 July there’ll be more calypso and the Junior King & Queen Showcase to look forward to at Scarborough Town Centre (C$10).

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The Junior Carnival Parade can be enjoyed at Malvern Community Centre and Neilson Park, Scarborough on Saturday 22 July. Two days later it’s the turn of soca and chutney artistes to perform at OCPA’s Fete Market at the Latvian Centre.

The climax for calypso and soca music aficionados is Monday 7 August, when OCPA will stage Calypso 365. This is a whole-day show at the Harbourfront Centre, which includes a calypso workshop, where children and adults can learn how to write and perform their own calypso songs.

The Calypso Monarch Finals (tickets C$40, approx £24) take place the same day at the Latvian Centre. Eight finalists will be backed by a nine-piece band directed by Ossie Gurley. Contestants to look out for include Macomere Fifi (Eulith Tara Woods), Roger Gibbs, King Cosmos (Henry Gomez), Panman Pat (Pat McNeilly) and Connector (Joel Davis.

If you’re a Canadian citizen aged 18+ you have until 4 July to enter the competition (email ocpa.calypsoca4@gmail.com; entry fee C$40). It might be worth the effort – each contestant will be paid an appearance fee of C$500, and the cash prizes for 3rd, 2nd and 1st places are C$1,000, C$2,000 and C$3,000 (about £1,780) respectively, in addition to a sponsored People’s Choice Award.

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By UK standards, these are generous rewards for calypsonians. They are possible because of the collaborative and supportive attitude of the Festival Management Committee (FMC), organiser of Toronto Caribbean Carnival. Its chair, Jennifer Michelle Hirlehey, said in a statement: “The FMC sees one of its main roles as promoting and supporting the calypsonians and keeping calypso and soca alive in Canada. Our organization not only provides financial support to OCPA, but also believes in promoting and showing public support for their events.”

The focus shifts to mas on Thursday 3 August as the eagerly awaited King & Queen Showcase lights up Lamport Stadium with the biggest and most spectacular costumes. Ticket prices for this unmissable event are C$45-55 (about £27-33) and for the VIP option C$125 (£75). The following day the same venue hosts Pan Alive, the steelpan contest, organised by the Ontario Steelpan Association. A joyous 3½ hours of steelpan in all its glory will set you back C$40 (£24).

Finally, we come to the main event: Carnival Day, Saturday 5 August. Of course, the best way to experience that is to play mas. Check out the costumes here torontocarnival.ca/participate and when you find one that looks right for you, sign up without delay. Prices are mostly around C$600-1,000 (£360-600). Alternatively, you can take in the spectacle by finding a suitable place along the route. Watch for free along the Lakeshore or pay-to-view in the Exhibition Grounds for C$35 (£21). The fat-walleted can enjoy the full VIP experience for C$150 (around £90), which gets you seating, Caribbean continental breakfast and lunch, free coffee and unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, plus a cash bar. There really is something for everyone!

  • Note: Details correct at time of publication. Prices are for adult entry; reductions are available for advance purchase and concessions. For full details and updates, visit: torontocarnival.ca.
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