August hosts so many carnivals each year and Toronto Carnival, formerly known as Caribana, is one of the popular carnivals occurring in the summer. While I personally did not attend, masqueraders submitted their feedback.
*Caribana 2019 pictures are not pictures of the masqueraders and the stories enclosed*
Band: Dream Carnival
This was my first year playing at Caribana & I decide to play with a new band (Dream Carnival) or should I say Dream NIGHTMARE! The week of carnival and our band kept pushing back pick up dates and times. Upon arriving to the mas camp people were outside yelling & cussing saying they’ve been waiting over 6 hours and nothing! …. finally made it inside and chil it was a mess costumes on the floor in corners, feather backpacks being “made”. Long story short less than 15% of the band did not have their feathers including me but the band made sure to take our final payments. Where’s the justice for such bad customer service? And what’s funny is the band continues to post the SAME few people on its IG page that got their whole costume. I’ve learned my lesson no new bands every again…..
Carnival Kingdom thrown by SOS Fetes was an AMAZING show that featured Machel and Sean Paul the vibes were on 100!!!! And totally made up for the shit of a day I had on the road with “Dream Nightmare”
Overall Caribana was vibes I would give it a 6/10 because of the horrible experience I had with the band I choose. Just make sure you pick a more credible band and don’t get played like my friends & I did.
Band: Saldenah Carnival
I played with Saldenah for the second year in a row. I’m the person that asks a million questions about any and everything, especially when it comes to spending my hard-earned money, so having a section leader that was responsive to all of my emails made me feel good. Costume pick-up was quick and easy. My section leader inspected my costume one last time before giving it to me and even accommodated a few last minute additions/changes. As far as the actual band goes, I have no complaints. There was plenty of food and water on the road. The music was great and I was surrounded by people that just wanted to have a good time.
Now, the parade itself is another story…
This year they extended the route and it went down Lakeshore, with a weird u-turn at a certain point to come back up the way we came. Once we got to the u-turn is when everything started falling apart. There were no barricades or security to keep the stormers at bay. The stormers were EVREYWHERE! There was one point where all of the stormers essentially pushed my entire section away from the truck and had us on the sidelines looking goofy. The marshalls were doing their best to remove anyone that didn’t belong, but it was really just too many of them to keep up. We had to keep stopping to have stormers removed which just delayed us crossing the stage. As band #2 it made no sense to me that we didn’t even get close to the stage until 5:30pm when we started around 9:00am.
While I loved the extended route, my hope is that next year they can figure out a better way to keep the stormers off the road. We pay too much money to play mas for people to just jump in and take over.
Band: Saldenah Carnival
Out of the whole process, this was the biggest hiccup they had. Registration was suppose to start on a Wednesday night – 6 PM (a week and a half after band launch). The site crashed all night! My friends and I (5 of us) were checking all night. They did post instagram story updates saying they were working on the issue but you know how that goes. Thankfully we have been in contact with the section leader of the section we were choosing so around 5 am the next day, she DM’d the direct registration link to one of my friends and we were able to register. I don’t think the site was fully fixed until the day after that. Our section (Mi Amore) sold out within a week!Costume Pick Up:Caribana was on Saturday 8/3 so our section leader posted the dates for pick up about 2 weeks beforehand. People who lived there were able to pick up the weekend before and the out of town people were to pick up on Thursday & Friday the week of. Picking up our costumes was a breeze. This was my second time playing with this section leader so I already knew what to expect. Melinda (our section leader) has her own location separate from Saldenah mas camp. For all 5 of us, it took 15 mins max! We made sure to get there early (around 11:30 am). She explained each piece to us and came out to pack our trunk with the backpacks. (SERVICE!) She ended up calling us about an hour later saying she forgot to give 2 of us strings for our backpacks but we ended up cutting some of the others so that was fine. Got back to the hotel that night and we looked our costumes – beautiful! very detailed. Had 1 gem fall and 2 small chains fall off but we had glue so I made sure i fixed it that night.
We had to be there for 8 am! Of course we were late but I wasn’t that worried because I know it wasn’t starting on time. We got to the band around 10:30 am and they literally were just leaving! (We were the very last section #16) The band had 4 music trucks and 3 food/drinks truck. As soon as we got there, vibes were lit. DJ was playing all the favorites. The route was changed this year so the beginning was a little more cramped than usual. This was my first time having a backpack so I easily got frustrated when people bumped into my feathers from left & right lol. It was about 80 degrees so it was hot af. My friend got sick (she was drinking henny straight so the marshall helped out and put her on the truck. Gave her water and a banana and let her cool down. Within a half hour, she was good. At one point, 2 of us lost the rest of the group so while we were trying to find them, my drunk behind went to one of the food trucks. Food was bomb! Had rice and peas, chicken, cole slaw and some sort of macaroni salad. I forgot to get a fork so I ate that food with my bare hands lol. Getting food was not a hassle at all. I ended up getting another plate from a different food truck to share with my friends and that plate was good as well (chicken, corn on the cob and rice). They eventually ran out of food but they never ran out of water. I probably had 4-5 bottles of COLD water! They had juice boxes and coconut water as well. Now with the route being changed, there was a point where the trucks made a U-turn – I hated that. Cause when the other bands were on the other side, all of our music was just combining together and it sounded a mess. Thankfully that was brief. However, this longer route made it soooo easy for stormers to be ready by the time we got to the middle part of lakeshore blvd. Now I’m still a carnival newbie (3rd time playing mas, 2nd time at Caribana) but now I REALLY see the frustration with stormers. I swear at one point, it just looked like a big ass block party and you barely saw masqueraders. They kept running into my feathers and had the nerve to give me attitude! I think I sobered up at the point so I got annoyed and tired. Trucks were moving fast until we got closer to the stage. It was a hot mess at that point. 2 fights almost went down. Hype man on the mic is telling stormers to stay on one side and to get out of our way. We didn’t cross the stage until 5:30 PM and we were the second band. I tried to have energy crossing the stage but I was completely over it – feet were killing me (first time wearing boots lol). By then, the DJs were playing the same songs over and over and over again. We crossed the stage to Famalay (OVER IT!).
Songs mostly played:
So Long (Nadia Baston was on one of our trucks – she performed a little bit)
Trouble In the Morning
Love De Road
Played a little bit of Lucian & Bajan Soca (mostly older songs). I heard Call My Mother once which got me hype af lol. I still had a great time overall. The ending was just bleh because it took so long to cross the stage and stormers. We won band of the year. I’d probably always play with Saldenah when I go to Caribana.
Band: Saldenah Carnival
Overall Rating: 7/10
First I wanted to recommend the MUST ATTEND fetes and parties: SOCA OR DIE, COZY, JAB JAB JOUVERT, and SUNSHOWER FETE.
Without these events my rating would have been a smooth 5.
Now onto The Parade.
I am from Toronto however this was my very first time playing Mas. My friend from New York also played with me. We chose to play with Saldenah in the Up From The Depths Section. Costume pickup was very smooth (Monday before the parade). However there was very little instruction on how to put together the (sort of complicated lol) costume.
When it came time to try on the wire bra it was A MESS. Pieces were falling off, and the bra would not stay in place. Luckily I was able to pick up some double sided tape to hold things together but it was definitely a stressful time.
We were supposed to get to the parade by 8am however with the malfunctions we ended up getting to the parade at 10:30am. When we got there we surprisingly found our section as well as the water and food trucks that would be with us on the road. At first it was very lively and fun. The DJ kept us active especially switching things up with “Top Striker “(telling us to run backwards lol).
Now for the music… I truly believe I heard “Party Bad” about 10000 times. I was very disappointed in the lack of new Soca or even more of a variety of Soca songs. Since it was my first time playing Mas I made sure to be up to date with all new Soca however my little 100 song playlist had more options than what was on the Road.
After the third hour, the DJ started to tell us to get ready to cross the stage after we made a U-turn. However, as soon as we made that U-Turn is when my friend and I gave up. STORMERS on top of STORMERS. The truck could barely move without continuous stopping. We ended up struggling to locate our section after the turn and after another hour realized we were nowhere close to crossing the stage and decided to leave.
Other band members decided to leave as well and I am pretty sure Saldenah didn’t actually cross the stage until around 5:30pm.
Conclusion: Since it was my first time playing Mas I was very anxious about how things would turn out. Especially after reading horror stories of people not getting costumes, delayed pickups etc. So I am glad nothing went wrong in that way. I would play with Saldenah again probably just in a different section. The unlimited food and drinks was a great treat and even with the malfunctions I did love my costume. However Caribana really has to do more about dealing with Stormers. I know they were trying to incorporate a “wine down” station where both stormers and masqueraders could hang out but I never saw it, even when I was leaving. Rope, barricades, security, something has to change!
Band: Carnival Nationz
My friends wanted to play with Saldenah and I wanted to play with Carnival Nationz. Some of the costumes C.N had, were nicer (in my opinion). Also, I don’t typically like the music Saldenah plays on the road, which plays a huge factor for me; they tend to recycle the same few songs for the entire day.(I’ve played with Saldenah twice before).
I went to Carnival Nationz mas camp A WEEK after they had their band launch and put a deposit down on a midline costume for the section “Wotless”. Everything went smoothly, I was there less than 15 minutes.
Now it gets interesting….
Fastfoward to pick up day.
My pick up day was TWO DAYS PRIOR to Caribana from 4-9. I got to the mas camp around 6pm. As soon as I got there, a few girls ahead of me said they’ve been in line for 20mins and they were really behind schedule. Instantly I was annoyed. I also ended up speaking with a few other girls, they told me they got to the camp at 4:30pm and I saw them leave at 7:30pm. 8pm rolls around, still in line. I get to the front of the line around 9pm. I give them a copy of my receipt and money. The lady then says “I can’t find your name in our system, when did you register” I simply told her that all of my information is on my receipt; date of registration, name, number etc. She then called Bryce over. One of the section leaders ( horrible section leader by the way) and he then tells me I’m not registered for a costume because I’m not in their system. I was confused, annoyed and stressed out. Long story short, they lost my form and that’s why my costume was not made. I didn’t even receive an apology and NONE of the staff seemed to care at all. All they said was “ just wait to the side” An hour and a half went by I sat down and waited..I didn’t receive any updates regarding my costume situation and I was getting frustrated and demanded my money back. They gave it back and I left, which was at 11pm.
Side Note: C. N had other issues as well. People kept coming back to the mas camp, complaining about their headpieces or bodysuits not being ready. As I was in line, I was told by someone that they were STILL making costumes in the back, that’s why they were “behind”.
I ended up getting a last minute costume from another band thankfully. But this experience was horrible and I would never recommend C. N to anyone!
Band: Dream Carnival
My sister and I played w/dream carnival…need I say more. A over 5 hour wait for pick up, rude and argumentative staff (two separate fights broke out at the mas camp), all parts of my costume were too small despite reaching out before with my measurements because they outsourced their production to a Chinese company, i never got the midline headpiece i paid for…the list goes on. I’m waiting on a full refund from PayPal now.
Fete wise there was vibes @ carnival passion and Friday night mas. The road was vibes for the time that it wasn’t full up w/stormers.
Band: Saldenah Carnival
Caribana.. Where to start.
So I did 5 fetes and the road so I’ll try to touch on everything.
I’ll begin with Soca or Die on the Thursday which was located at Cabana Pool Bar. Personally for me this was the best fete of the weekend. When they gave the title “Soca or Die” they weren’t kidding. It was purely Soca (Which was amazing) All the DJs were top notch and was touching every island when it came to the music. Dr.Jay did an amazing job at this fete. The vibes were amazing and everyone came to enjoy themselves and get on wotless.
Soca Or Die: 9/10 (Only reason why I wouldn’t give it 10/10 is because it wasn’t all inclusive)
Friday I went to Daylit (Cabana) and Rejouvernate. I’ll begin with Daylit. Another very fun and highly energetic day party. I can say that Daylit was a mixture of dancehall/soca & Hip hop. More of an Americanized fete which I expected. The DJ’s did well on balancing it out so I give props to them. There’s not much to say about this other than I enjoyed myself.
Now for Rejouvernate. Kes was the headline of this which I was looking forward to and he performed very well. The location was ridiculously far (Pretty sure it was because of last years complaints) so travel was a tad bit expensive but nothing too crazy if you’re with a group. If you love a good Jouvert (like myself) then you would have really enjoyed this. There were mostly Guyanese and Trinis at this fete but everyone was there for a good time.
Now the road…
I decided to play mas with Saldenah again and play in Dr.Jays section Tabanca (For the second year in a row). I’m going to speak for myself and myself only here. So this year they decided to do a scan wristband which I thought would be a great idea to keep stormers out (I was wrong) but I’ll get to that later.
The costumes were amazing! They were done very well from the quality to the colour. Out of all the costumes I seen I would rank Tabanca’s in the top 3 hands down no questions asked.
I heard a lot of people say that their trucks really recycled through songs but this truck didn’t do that at all. Yes, some songs were repeated but no where close to as many times as I was expecting so the DJ’s did very well.
Now the length of the road. Again, I seen many people complain about the length but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was it felt like everything was done on the spot with limit preparation. At one point trucks were clashing with music so you couldn’t hear which song was playing, there was a random U-Turn which had EVERYONE confused. And the judging should have been closer to the beginning and not at the very end.
Now the stormers.. Jesus. This is what killed most of the vibes on the road. This isn’t my first time at Caribana and yes I know it’s known for their stormers but this year was the worse I’ve ever seen. At one point all the Masqueraders just stopped and backed away from their trucks because there were so many stormers and the worse part was they were so disrespectful. I could go on for days about that but I think you get the idea. Also the road not being alcohol inclusive lost some points for me after seeing how every other carnival has it. Also, luckily our band was second because I heard the last band only crossed the stage at 9pm when we crossed at
All in all for me I’d give the road 7.5/10 and just because the stormers ruined everything.
Onto Carnival Kingdom. Now with everything going on my group decided to go to this event pretty late because in all honesty we just wanted to see Machel Montano. And he DID NOT DISAPPOINT. It was located at the same place were Rejouvernate was and if you tried to go last year you know that it got cancelled minutes before the doors opened. So this was highly anticipated. The show was amazing, and I can easily say one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. Energy was great.
Carnival Kingdom 8.5/10
Last but not least, Sunday Blocko. Sunday Blocko was very similar to Daylit. Very Americanized but very fun. Music I would say was mostly hip hop & rap with a splash of dancehall/soca. There were live performances from Mario and Bobby Valentino which was pretty cool and you can tell everyone was there to finish off their weekend because it was wild. I personally should have ended my weekend on more of a dancehall/soca vibe but blocko wasn’t too bad.
All in all, I would give my Caribana experience a 7.5/10. It was a vibe and I had a great time! But I also understand why people didn’t.
Would I play mas again.. I’m not sure yet because of the stormers and lack of security for us who spent our hard earned money.
I could have went more into detail with a lot of this but I didn’t want to make this too long.
Hope this gives you somewhat an idea of how Caribana was !
Horrible… all the DJs play the same music they don’t play real Soca they play main stream top three songs I heard the five days – Shen Yeng, Toast and Johanna
I didn’t play mas but I did attend two of the fetes for Caribana week. The first fete was Dr Jay’s appreciation fete named “Luau”. After seeing pictures of how packed SOD ended up being on Thursday? I was especially thankful he had this fete on the Wednesday. I paid $10 to enter and had loads of room to dance with my friends, while people paid 7x-10x that for Thursday. Made the right choice, the music was great and the vibes were very nice and chill.
Friday Night Mas is the best party during Caribana by a long-shot. Yes, people complain that the whole liquor inclusive thing is beer and coolers only, but that was totally fine. The drink trucks moved fast and they also had tents on the side. You didn’t wait longer than maybe a minute for your drinks. The music was really good, so good, that between trucks the ONLY song that got pulled up numerous times was Nasty Up. Perfect. There was also performances by King Bubba and Shal. This should become a Caribana staple after it’s second time being held.
Feel free to leave your own reviews in the comments below or send them to me so that we can post them anonymously
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Yours In Mas,