After three strong weeks of waist-winin’ build-up, Caribana ’09 came and went with a bang, wrapping up with this year’s hugely successful Jambana Cultural Festival at Downsview park. Formerly known as the Air Jamaica Day celebration, the nomadic five-year old event transformed the sprawling Downsview field into Jamaica North on the final Caribana Monday, drawing a reported 40,000 participants. Good natured folks of all ages turned to revel in the chest-warming blend of culture, comedy, and some of Canada’s top reggae artists nicing it up on one of the few good days this waste of a summer has proven generous enough to offer us.
Show-stealing guest host Oliver Samuels, the long anointed Caribbean King of Comedy, had bellies busting as he held down MCing duties alongside Marcia Brown and show producer Allan Jones of Jones & Jones Productions, keeping the wheels turning as the event’s diverse group of performs delivered a well-run spectacle for the whole family. Early highlights included the educational African dance stylings of the Charles Town Maroon Drum Ensemble, an impromptu Brazilian feature from local vocalist Luanda Jones, and the nostalgic sketch comedy of Sabu Grant and Terri Salmon. Things moved comfortably along through the mid-afternoon as Toronto dance troupe Baby Boyz – with their Jackson 5 antics – and sweat gospel vibes of Nana McLean added some diversity to the mix before local old-time reggae legend Jay Douglas took to the stage, just in time to lead those cramping up from hours spent in the shadeless field through a melodious seventh-inning stretch of spot-on classic jams.
From there, it was onto the heavyweights, namely Juno nominees Humble, and the animated crowd pleaser Steele, who provided a snippet stream of popular tunes in his setup for the night’s main event, Byron Lee’s world-renowned Dragonaires. With both the Jamaica and Canadian colours flying proudly as far as the eye could see, when it was all said and done, few could argue that Jambana ’09 wasn’t a great to spend the final day of a long summer weekend.