BY: KRISTINA RAMCHARRAN
The annual Barbados on the Water festival in Toronto took the city by storm, with Bajan fashion, music, food and much more. The two-day event ran from Friday to Sunday, giving the weekend festival goers a great treat to take part in cultural festivities by the lake.
The event which runs every year at the Harbourfront Center in Toronto is co-produced by Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. This year’s event dominated the last weekend in May, as events occurred all throughout the day and into the night on the 26th till the 28th.
Many in attendance included Bajan natives, as well as curious Torontonians looking to be immersed in the Bajan culture, or even those interested in traveling to the tourist friendly island.
With the smell of island food in the air, there were Bajan food vendors all around the festival selling signature dishes like flying fish and delicious macaroni pie. And to accompany those dishes there were many popular Caribbean drinks available. Those included fresh mauby and sorrel, which people could also buy to take home.
The vendors market was a colorful array of displays, with vendors selling clothing, including traditional outfits, jewelry, natural hair and body products, and accessories. The marketplace took over a sprawling area outdoors, where DJ Niterider was spinning all of the best Bajan and Caribbean music to keep up with the lively atmosphere.
The Harbourfront theater featured the Bridgetown Barbados Fashion weekend, which included two fashion shows, giving attendees a chance to see the latest in Bajan cultural fashion. The fashion show ran for all three days of the festival.
This year’s event featured a great lineup of performers at the concert stage. Performers ranged from those up and coming such as R&B singers Nikita and the Ryan Lewis Project to popular Bajan musicians. Of those musicians, there were notable Soca heavyweights like Edwin Yearwood, Peter Ram, Lil Rick, and Rupee.
Superstars Lil Rick and Rupee closed off the first two nights of the festival with high energy performances that drew hundreds of people to the concert stage as the event concluded each night.
International Soca Artist Rupee was the most anticipated headliner at the festival and was sure to meet and greet all of his fans at the end of his performance on Friday. After his performance, Toronto Caribbean was able to have an exclusive interview with the superstar and find out what he has planned for the rest of 2017.
“My next appearance might possibly be for Caribana,” said Rupee, ensuring anyone who missed his Barbados on the Water performances, that he will be back in August.
On top of coming back to Toronto for the city’s annual carnival, he is also taking Soca music to new heights around the world. “[My] Travelling schedule has been crazy, I was just recently in Abu Dhabi, Doha in Qatar. Took Soca music to Doha for the first time, an absolutely amazing experience.”
He also noted he will be traveling to perform in Columbia and Belize for the first in time in the upcoming weeks.
“I just came out of an extremely successful Trinidad carnival,” added Rupee on his latest carnival experience. “[It’s the] first time I was there after maybe seven years, felt as though I never left.”
On his new music, Rupee is also bringing Soca into the mainstream by signing his latest song to a big record label, ensuring for great exposure. “We released a song called ‘Tipsy’ that has just completely blown up. It was recently signed to Ultra Music/ Sony Music.”
He also hinted at releasing more music later in the year, “Cropover is around the corner in Barbados and we’re looking to release maybe one or two songs for that.”
“I can safely say that Rupee wouldn’t be who he is today, without Toronto, without their support. They’re such an integral part, of who I am, my foundation. I mean I’ve been coming here for over more than seventeen years, almost two decades,” he said when asked to share a message with his fans in Toronto.
“The love it just continues to grow stronger, it’s never withered.”
Rupee’s performances at the festival wowed the fans and got everyone on their feet as he sang some of his most popular songs like “What Happens in the Party” and “I Am a Bajan”, which also summed up the spirit of the island country of Barbados.
Other events that took place during the weekend besides the concerts, provided a family friendly setting which included face painting for children, story time sessions with famous authors, and even making Cropover masks in an arts and crafts session.
The free cultural event attracted thousands over the course of the weekend, as festival attendees were able to enjoy all of the festival’s great offerings such as the Barbados Rum Experience, the Bajan way for enjoying patio drinks in Toronto.
Festival attendee Shawn Mohabir noted as a previous traveler to Barbados, the festival made him fall in love with the country all over again. “The people there are nice, the place is beautiful, the food is amazing and the scenery is to die for. In general, it’s a beautiful country,” he said.
For anyone who missed this year’s festivities, don’t be alarmed. The festival is slated to return to Toronto in the late spring-early summer of next year.