Building community with parang music

By Dave Douglas

“If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” So Last Sunday, Joan Alexander and the Trinidad and Tobago Heritage Group took the advice of the old proverb.

They brought the tradition and culture of the Afro/Hispanic parang music of Trinidad & Tobago under one roof at the Metropolitan Centre in Scarborough.

“This is not a show this is a lime! It’s amazing that I started it in 2000 and it’s still going strong like Johnny Walker. On this journey, I have met so many people and made a lot of friends but tonight I have dedicated the event to Sylvia Rampersad who passed away two weeks ago. She was from my hometown, San Juan, in Trinidad,” said Alexander.

Over 700 supporters attended the 14th Annual Parang Lime and the lineup of artists included parranderos Los Pajaros, Los Amigos and La Petite Musicale. Other acts consisted of Soca Vibes, Dr. Jay, DJ Slim, SKF and Earl la Pierre Jr. and Jerry Jerome.

From serenal, aguinaldo to parang soca, the parranderos serenaded the audience to their heart’s content and had them up on their feet, dancing in front the stage and in every hallway. The evening’s message was all about peace on Earth and goodwill to everybody.

By the time headliner Willard ‘Lord Relator’ Harris came on stage, the crowd was primed and pumped by the superb performance of Los Pajaros, filling the room with their sweet music and high energy.

Accompanying himself on guitar, Relator opened his set with a medley that began with Nap Hepburn’s Listen Mama, the audience instantly joining in a sing-a-long. Further into the set, the vintage calypso troubadour touched on some of his most popular impersonations including Dean Martin and Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, much to the delight of the audience clapping and cheering in appreciation.

At the evening climax, The Caribbean Camera had an opportunity to discuss with Relator what his thoughts were on the event and the growth of parang culture in Toronto.

“It was a good venture by Tantie Joan and sons and other members of her group and I like what I have seen here. If I have to compare what happens in Brooklyn, New York, I think Toronto is in front and in the right direction,” says Relator.

“The Trinidad & Tobago Heritage Group must get a plug, because their hearts are in the right place in trying to promote the culture and stay rooted in what is happening. This is an encouraging sign that I see and the support that I saw Saturday is very encouraging as well. The standard that I see here … Trinidad is not very far in front.”

Nearing the close of the evening, Joan Alexander said she felt good that people came out and had a grand time, even though it was cold. She also disclosed that 25% of the event proceeds go to Trinidad & Tobago Heritage Group, a small bursary goes to Oshawa Caribbean Cultural Group run by Lydia and Sylvester Francis, and the West End Club will also get a donation towards their scholarship fund.

Some of the funds along with the things that people have donated go to the island of Cuba; it’s all part of supporting Spanish heritage.

“First, I want to thank God because without him, there’s really no success. I want to thank everybody, all those that supported me over the years. Some have been coming for the 14 years since we’ve started in 2000 and for that I am very gratefull,” Alexander said.

“And, of course, this could not happen without the help of my children, Kolin (Soca Vibes), Nigel and Albert who is out in Alberta.”


Photos by Peter Tang