As if the celebrations commemorating 50 years of independence for both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago weren’t enough, this weekend offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Caribbean culture, and much of it is free.
The event many people associate with Caribbean culture is the Scotiabank Caribbean Festival (a.k.a. Caribana).
The fest has been in full swing since the middle of July, but its most iconic event — the Grand Parade — makes its mark on the city Saturday, finding steel-pan bands and masqueraders making the three-and-a-half-kilometre march along Lakeshore Boulevard.
But don’t let the parade overshadow the weekend’s other events, including Thursday’s King and Queen competition, where designers show off their colourful costumes, and Friday’s Pan Live steel-pan competition. Both are ticketed events.
Not to be outdone, Harbourfront plays host to Island Soul. Running Friday through Monday, the fest marries the cultures of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, with folk performers, a world café and international market as well as a tribute to Calypso legend Lord Kitchener.
But Saturday’s headlining performer is worth the price of admission alone (if there was one).
Duane Stephenson is both a solo star in his own right and also the current frontman of the Wailers (yes, those Wailers).
Finally, despite postponing its planned Urban Music Fest at Yonge and Dundas Square until November, there’s still plenty to see and hear at this year’s Irie Music Fest over at Nathan Phillips Square, Friday through Sunday.
Make sure to check out local acts Ammoye and Odel along with out-of-town headliners such as soca diva Fay-Ann Lyons, Jamaican reggae star Richie Spice and legendary reggae crew Third World, who found massive success with their cover of the O’Jays’ Now that We Found Love in 1978.
Check him out
There are plenty of Caribbean musicians in town this weekend, but it’s a safe bet that few will rival the legendary status of Derrick Crooks. The singer began his career in the early 60s with ska group the Pioneers before founding the Slickers and scoring a worldwide hit with Johnny Too Bad, which was featured in the iconic film The
Harder they Come. Despite continuing to record until the end of the decade, the Slickers have been largely forgotten, even in Jamaica. Crooks will be in town this Sunday for Harbourfront’s free Tribute to the Slickers concert, part of the Island Soul festivities.
King and Queen
The King and Queen show has traditionally kicked off the Toronto Caribbean Carnival weekend every year.
• On Thursday, the leaders of Caribana Mas bands will put on their showcase costumes and perform for the Parade judges at Lamport Stadium. Male and female competitors are judged on the details of their costumes.