A few thousand Calgarians wore colorful costumes, played traditional music and danced for hours in the streets of downtown Saturday morning to celebrate Caribbean culture.
Carifest 2022 featured multiple cultural groups from Jamaica to Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil and beyond as they marched from Olympic Plaza to Shaw Millennium Park.
Considered the biggest festival in the city, organizer Sabrina Naz Comanescu says she is overwhelmed with community support after two years of events being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It means to the world that we were able to get back on the road with all the bands, all the party people and all the good vibes,” she said.
“It absolutely typifies an era of multiculturalism, but more importantly an eye for Caribbean culture.”
The event was particularly significant for members of the Jamaican Canadian Association of Alberta, as they recently celebrated the country’s 60th anniversary of independence from Britain on August 6.
“How not to have a smile on your face? It’s the freedom of 60 years of independence and it’s priceless,” said Ashford Baker of the Calgary Jamaican Community.
“I’m going to tell you something my friend, when the music hits you, you don’t feel any pain. I think that’s what we needed to overcome this and come together again to share this as one.
Many different cultural organizations took part in the event, the vast majority dancing to the sweet sounds of Soca music which is a mix of calypso, soul, West African, Indian and Latin influences.
However, perhaps the most exciting dance was called the “Jab Jab”.
The Grenada-based dance is a celebration of the emancipation of slaves.
Namika Reuben could be seen covered in black paint alongside others with scary masks to signify the significant historical event.
“It started with the slave masters, they used to take molasses and paint their bodies to mark the slave,” he said.
“So after emancipation, the freed slaves took it a step further and turned it into a celebration of emancipation. In today’s world, we use it more often to really express our true freedom.
Many vendors also took part in the event which will run until 8 p.m. Saturday at Shaw Millennium Park.
The evening will feature performances by international Soca artist, Patrice Roberts, as well as Steele and Toronto’s Hardcore Reggae Band.