Thursday, August 30, 2007

WE Entertainment - Multi-Cultural Festivals in Full Swing in T.O.

by Carol A. Allen

(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:
For a full listing of all the Toronto festivals, visit:

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