Thursday, 5 December 2013

YYZ to MIA Fa Carnival!

South Florida is often recognized for its beautiful weather, sites, and people. However, when you add Caribbean Carnival energy to the mix, the atmosphere really intensifies! Several weeks have gone by since my visit to Miami, and I still catch my mind drifting back to moments from the trip. Sometimes I think I am walking along South Beach inhaling and exhaling the ocean breeze, but then I realize it is really just the Toronto smog. Other times I feel like I am palancing down the road in front of Miami’s Sun Life Stadium along with thousands of other masqueraders. The joke is, I am actually being shoved around in a crowd of people waiting for the Queen streetcar – Ha.. So now that I am home and all settled in, I would like to reminisce about my time during Miami Broward Carnival 2013.

First things first, I have to shout out the huge Toronto massive that was live in action during the Miami Carnival festivities. I distinctly remember DJs chanting “anybody from Toronto??” and the whole place turned upside down! I felt so proud. I even lost count of all the One Love T.O. t-shirts that I had spotted on the road. 

It had also helped that many of the bands that Toronto has such as Toronto Revellers and Tribal Carnival had sections participating in the parade. The last time I was in Miami for Carnival, I played mas with Toronto’s Carnival Nationz who usually launches brand new costumes in October. Sadly, they did not release a band for Miami this year. 

My friends and I opted to jump up with One Island Carnival who portrayed their theme “Carnival: The Greatest Show on Earth”. With the exception of a minor costume construction issue, my overall experience with them was great. They had provided efficient service during both costume pick up and on the road. I also played with One Island for Miami Jouvert (Shout out to Wyndll!). The name of my Carnival section was “Miami; I wore a lovely aqua blue and gold costume that shimmered beautifully in the sun. My section leaders were representatives from Ramajay Mas, who had won “Band of the Year” at New York’s 2013 Labour Day Parade.  One Island also had live performances from Kevin Lyttle and Kes the Band – both added bonuses. Below I have a few photos of the different sections.

 One Island's "Trinidad" section

One Island's "Notting Hill" section below

 One Island's "Santa Cruz" section below, JA ALL DAY!

 No behaviour! LOL

Kees! <3

Watch di wine!

Lawd was outside hot though! I guess I should be thankful that it did not rain but I cannot help but laugh at all my face gems that sweat off within ten minutes of me getting to the venue. Yes, Miami Carnival was held at a venue this year. The organizing committee has been trying-out different routes over the years to see what would work best. This year, masqueraders paraded around the Sun Life stadium then were given the opportunity to cross the stage at the end of their route. The stage crossing is so hype in Miami! Because many bands do not cross till after sundown, they have huge stages lights set up - I honestly felt like I was about to perform in real stage production. When you arrive to the panel of judges, there stands a platform level that is raised above ground for masqueraders to present their costumes. I seen all sorts of madness on that stage! From HEAD TOP (see photo above), to choreographed routines, to some serious "floor work" - HA! Congratulations to 1 GYE NY AME” for winning this year’s “Band of the Year” title at Miami Broward Carnival 2013. 

That's Carolyn Gomez in the middle, a fitness/business woman from NY & Trinidad "Carnival Goddess"...loved seeing her and her friend on the road! Looking forward to see what she wears in Trinidad 2014.



My Favourite Miami Carnival Moment:

Hands Down – Miami JOUVERT!

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I bought a ticket for Miami Jouvert so thankfully the weather, vibe, food, and music were amazing. Jouvert here is in a parade form, so you could either buy a general ticket to enter the park or you could buy an event ticket to play with a band. Playing with a band gives you direct access to the paint, powder, mud, and with some bands chocolate! Plus food and drinks (including alcohol) are provided with the event ticket. I think I will be petitioning to get an event like this in Toronto – look out for that. In the mean time watch me reppin JA!


My Favourite Miami Carnival Section:
Sirens by Mascot International

Best Party:
There were so many events so it is hard to say. These three events had a lot of after – buzz: Scorch Part I AND Part II, Shine: All White Beach Party and The Frenzy Boat Ride.


 Skinny Fabulous, Dbandit! Whaddup! eh! Ah Machel dat a bubble inna di background?!

 My Favourite Miami Carnival Performers:
It’s a tie! I didn’t go to any big fetes so that artists came to me it seemed.
A pool party that I attended featured a surprise appearance from Mr. Machel Montano – Awesome! Then as I have already mentioned, Kes the Band performed all their hits on the road with my band.

Top Miami Carnival Song Choice:
BUM BUM” by Timaya. This song is actually a Nigerian track that was released in 2012 but took the soca scene by storm in Miami this year. The azonto crew was in full effect on the road! My number one song choice isMONSTER WINE” by Lil Rick & Kerwin DuBois; and my trip was complete when I crossed the stage to this song!

So friends, if you need to fix your Toronto Carnival Tabanca, Miami 2014 may be a good fit for you so save the date! 

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Twitter: @SimplyShakera
Instagram:  @SimplyShakera
YouTube: Simply Shakera

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

November 19, 2013: "Down in the New Orleans"

New Orleans
City Of New Orleans – The Big Easy – NOLA - Nawlins

Person: Creative Resilient Vibrant Cultural Spiritual
Tanya Harris - Louis Armstrong – Ellen DeGeneres

Place: Historic Festive
The French Quarter - Café Du Monde - Bourbon Street - St. Bernard - The Swamp

Thing: Unique Expressive
Cajun -Beignets -The Saints - Fleur De Lis - Mardi Gras - Creole - Jazz - Seafood

Cafe Du Monde CoffeeMe and New Orlean Saint Cameron Jordan

Aboard A Swamp Tour - Met A Friend

Photos: Cafe Du Monde Coffee, New Orlean Saint Cameron Jordan,  Aboard A Swamp Tour

Mardi Gras Beads
 “Nawlin’s” culture reminds me so much of my Caribbean heritage. The people are filled with so much joy, energy, and pizzazz. The food is full of spice, flavour, and love. The music makes you wanna get down at any given moment and of course, carnival is celebrated annually through the Mardi Gras parade. Therefore it is no surprise why I fell in love with the City of New Orleans after my visit in June 2011. The nature of my trip was to give a helping hand to communities most affected by Hurricane Katrina. Despite the events that took place in 2005, the spirit and energy of the Nawlin people continue to shine. It was wonderful to feel the vibrancy of this city first hand.

Everyone in New Orleans wanted to feed me though! You could tell Nawlin folks took pride in their tasty southern dishes. At one point I had a paint brush in my left hand and a spicy shrimp in my right hand – ha! If you ever come to my house, be sure to look through my “Nola Food Diary” which is a compilation of unique dishes I ate on my trip. Food images include as Mac & Cheese pizza, a lobster-shrimp burger, and REAL shrimp jambalaya. 

One of my favourite memories in NOLA HAD to be the night my friend’s and I strolled Frenchmen Street and stumbled upon a Jazz venue called the "Balcony Music Club". Long story short we started a dance off between event – goers and the band!

It went a little something like this:

On that note, I think it would be fitting to invite you all to my upcoming public performance. I will be a featured dancer in the High Society Cabaret’s presentation of “Down In The New Orleans”

High Society Cabaret ~ The Art of Vintage Tease is cabaret show staged in downtown Toronto venues, created by Anna Jaeger and presented by DivaGirl Entertainment and Chic-a-boom Room. High Society Cabaret is inspired by classic vintage burlesque, and incorporates the tease with cabaret style dance. This month, the ladies and I will take you back to the bye-gone era of smoke-filled jazz bars, flashy showgirls, gamblers, riverboats, and the sleepy, sticky heat of New Orleans circa 1930. 

Visit the HSC Facebook & Twitter Pages!

Meet my cast mate Kristen:

Describe your dance style in one word? … She gave 3 – Ha!
“Playful - jazzy” burlesque. 

What do you love most about New Orleans flavour?
I love everything about New Orleans and have grown up listening to jazz music, playing trumpet and travelling across North America in a jazz combo. The best thing we ever did was play at a jazz bar in New Orleans. It was amazing the way the whole town can come together and celebrated! - Such an unreal experience.

What can folks expect from our show November 22nd?
I think the show is really going to bring the audience to a different era especially with such an intimate venue. Everyone will definitely feel like they're at a hot street New Orleans street party!

Meet my cast mate Samantha:

Describe your dance style in one word? 

What do you love most about New Orleans flavour?
The care free and exuberant lifestyle that is everywhere down south!

What can folks expect from our show November 22nd?
 A show full of surprises and excitement that will make you think you've travelled back to Old Time New Orleans!

Then there's ME:

Describe your dance style in one word? 

What do you love most about New Orleans flavour?
The rich culture that exudes in the food, music, and people... therefore, too many things to love!

What can folks expect from our show November 22nd?
 You will be available to view the work of some hard - working & talented females! Each dancer has their own unique style which also adds to the dimension of the show. Furthermore, many of you haven't seen me dance in this style or dance at all for that matter! HA! Well I have two words for you: ADVANCE TICKETS.

Huge shout out to Choreographer and my fellow Cast Mate Kate Knox

Kitten Cast Mates Dana Thody and Jessica Medeiros...

and director Anna Jaeger who will be making a very special appearance that you don’t want to miss… I should mention that Anna is 7 months pregnant… You betta werk !

Event Details:
at Parlour Loung
(270 Adelaide St. W, corner of John St.)

Doors: 6:00pm
Show: 9:00pm
Tickets: $20.00 in advance … don’t be that person that buys at the door – Support Early! ;)

You can purchase tickets online HERE
or visit me in person... 


(Additional cost for a 3 course dinner. for details)

To conclude, check out the High Society Video Teaser:

Stay Connected With Me Via:

Twitter: @SimplyShakera
Instagram:  @SimplyShakera
YouTube: Simply Shakera