BY: KRISTINA RAMCHARRAN
The Yowronto music festival in Toronto was a fusion of Caribbean and Canadian cultures. Held during the Canada Day long weekend, the two-day festival lineup consisted of international and local artists alike, who performed music from genres that varied from pop to reggae to soca.
Each day of the festival lasted a full twelve hours running from 11 am to 11 pm. The event which spanned the Canada Day long weekend attracted thousands in attendance for the culture filled festival.
Notable headliners of the festival’s day one show were Bajan soca superstar Alison Hinds, known for hits like “Roll it Gyal”, Reggae vocalist Romaine Virgo and rapper Cham, formerly known as Baby Cham.
Many in attendance sported red and white in celebration of Canada’s 150 years of independence. Besides the Canada flags, the Caribbean crowd waved their own flags and bandanas to represent the islands and countries they hailed from.
Day one of the festival had a reggae and soca theme, where many of the artists performed party music in a lively fashion. The second day of the festival was labeled as a gospel theme, with gospel-reggae performers providing soulful performances on a cool Sunday.
Both days of the festival showcased an array or local talent
The festival featured a variety of different vendors present with food vendors serving up fresh jerk chicken, corn soup, and more Caribbean cuisine. Also present were clothing vendors, and sponsor vendors like Red Stripe and Hennessey, which provided a tent where festival goers could purchase alcoholic beverages.
Day two of the festival featured performances from gospel and reggae powerhouses Lieutenant Stitchie and Tessanne Chin. Lieutenant Stitchie is known for his gospel-reggae hybrid sound, while Chin is highly known for winning the first season of the American reality TV show The Voice.
The two-day festival’s first year was a success, drawing over two thousand people over the course of the weekend. The event was a family friendly affair with an age-diverse crowd, as well as culturally diverse, attracting people from various islands and countries in the Caribbean and around the world.
Each day, the festival began with a showcase of local talent and legends, with performances from artists like Ammoye Evans and Michie Mee known as Canada’s queen of hip-hop. Michie Mee was surely in the Canada Day spirit and she broke out a large Canada flag, as well as a Jamaican flag halfway during her performance. Michie Mee also gave back to the community by handing out CDs of her latest music to the crowd.
Midway during the festival’s day one show, the organizers of the event were invited on stage to speak about their mission with the festival and to thank all of the festival goers for attending and promising to bring the festival back next year.
Day one’s event continued as it featured performances from Captain Love and dancehall’s favorite funny man Professor Nuts. He had the crowd laughing hysterically as he told hilarious stories through songs and freestyles.
Up next, all the women in the crowd went crazy for the one and only Romaine Virgo, as he crooned some of his own original songs as well as covering ballads such as Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”.
As the festival grew later into the night, the crowd grew as well. Bajan queen of soca Alison Hinds brought on the hype and energy as she had everyone moving and grooving to her hit songs like “Faluma” and “Togetherness”.
The final performance of day one was from none other than Cham, also known as Baby Cham. He also brought high energy to the crowd as he performed his hits “Ghetto Story” and “Whine”.
Day two started off with chilly weather but that didn’t deter the crowd from coming out and staying until the end to see headliners Lieutenant Stitchie and Tessanne Chin. Stitchie performed hits like “Natty Dread” and gospel inspired songs like “Bible Story”.
Tessanne Chin’s powerhouse voice was enough to shut down the festival with a big bang as she performed original songs, pop covers, and reggae classics. Her rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” as seen on reality TV show The Voice had everyone in the festival spirit as they turned the flashlights on their smartphones on to create a sea of lights.
The organizers also advertised an upcoming festival happening at the same Woodbine Fantasy Fairgrounds in August, featuring performances from dancehall powerhouses Alkaline, Mavado and Jahmiel.
On day two of the festival, the vice president of the mall was present at the event, as it was the first event of its kind to be hosted at the mall’s outdoor parking lot turned venue. The community of Rexdale and other surrounding communities showed great support for the festival’s first year, as the attendees exclaimed that they would attend if the festival was brought back for another year.