CARIBANA INDO CARIBBEAN WORLD NEWSPAPER FLASHBACK CARIBANA 1975-1976
FLASHBACK CARIBANA 1975-1976
INDO CARIBBEAN WORLD NEWSPAPER
Exclusive interview with Multicultural Food producer, Peter Goudas
My name is Guy Chopping and I was born in India.
I was told that a band named the Jewels of the Indies were to be performing at Caribana. I had never heard the name Caribana before nor had any person I asked from my part of the world.
I happened to be lucky enough to be in the office of Mr. Goudas (Σπύρος Πήτερ Γούδας) and asked him the question. "What is this parade they call Caribana?"
During the next twenty minutes I was offered a trip back in time, and on the way to his film library he told me that this was not just a parade but the most magnificent display of multicultural talent and effort in North America, second only to the carnival of Trinidad.
This festival only happens in Toronto once a year.
The film told me how Caribana started in Trinidad an island of 1.5 million people and because of the multicultural growth in Canada was brought to Toronto as a gift from the people of the Caribbean to Canada in its centennial year 1967.
Ken Shaw Caribana Interview
During the filming I heard a number of names mentioned such as the Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, Lord Melody, Calypso Rose, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Toots and the Maytals, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, The Tradewinds, King Fighter, The Merrymen, Earnest Costello, Rosco & The Rebellions, Free Soil, Aubrey Mann, Carl Setorand, King Ricardo (The Limbo King) and of course, JEWELS OF THE INDIES.
I recognized these names as some of the top people in the business because I was the authority on music from the Caribbean at the 813 club, and sometimes DJs came from all over to listen to the show when I was on, to see the excitement and enjoyment of the crowds in the club, and they were always on the floor, dancing.
I remember one incident at the club that still gives me a chuckle to this day.
One night, Willie, the manager of the 813 club, asked Rosco, the leader of Rosco and the Rebellion, the top Caribbean band in Canada at that time, to play at the club. Rosco told him the charge was $1,000 for the night.
Willie told him he thought that was too much but Rosco held firm. Willie then said I'll make you a deal.
Your band will go first and you play anything you like, for as long as you like, and after you the house DJ Mr. Whoo will go on.
When he is finished with his set, I will ask the crowd who they wanted to play again.
If they said Rosco, then you will go on and I'll pay you what you asked for.
However, if they chose Mr. Whoo, Then you do not get anything.
Roscoe agreed, and shook hands on the deal with Willie.
That night, Rosco took his band on stage and proceed to play some of the best music you ever heard from a band, and they were very energetic and entertaining in their performance.
They totally lived up to their reputation of the best Caribbean band in Canada and kept the crowd jumping.
Mr. Whoo then came on and he played his music, talked to the crowd, and also had them dancing like there was no tomorrow.
At the end of the session, Big Willie came upon the stage, and asked the crowd who they wanted to play the rest of the night.
(Actually, I picked a very strategic moment for Willie to make this announcement.
I had just finished playing "Mule Train" and was in the middle of the Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses when I stopped the music and asked Willie to make the announcement.
If you know this song, you will know that once you start dancing it, there is no way you would go back to the table before it is finished, and I knew that the crowd would want me to play the rest of the song).
The crowd started chanting "Whoo, Whoo, Whoo" and clearly showed their preference for Mr. Whoo.
(Maybe Arsenio Hall was there that night, because his audiences started to make the same noise in his TV show).
Poor Rosco was disappointed and declared that maybe he should go commit suicide since he lost out to a DJ, especially to a white boy playing Caribbean music!
Thankfully, he did not follow through with that thought, and Willie, whose heart is as big as his massive frame, still paid Rosco, and we are all still friends after all these years.
Mr. Goudas told me a story after the film finished: "I was working in my office one day when a call came in asking for me and I replied, 'yes I am Mr. Goudas'.
The caller identified himself as Jesse Mac Donald and he asked me to listen to a song over the phone, sung by some children accompanied by a steel band. I sounded like this:
'GOUDAS RICE IS VERY NICE,
GOUDAS RICE IT VERY NICE,
IS GOOD FOR PELEAU OR CHINESE FRIED RICE,
SO TAKE MY ADVICE AND BUY GOUDAS RICE'.
Jesse asked if I liked the jingle and I told him it was wonderful.
He then asked if I would like to hear it in person and possibly put some money to back the production.
When I entered the basement of the house were I was to meet him, I saw 6 or 7 children aged from 3 to 12 yeas old standing with their father and all wearing small steel drums around their necks. They started to play my jingle and I was so excited to hear the calypso rhythm I knew I had hit the jackpot.
I made the arrangements to take the children to the recording studio, and after a few practice sessions, the song was done to perfection.
I have since produced 20000 records with the Raymond family under the title 'Goudas on the label means good food on the table'.
I used to play the record at least twice a night at the 813 club which I owned at that time and performed as the disc jockey under the name of Mr. Whoo.
At almost the same time, a gentleman by the name of Kenn Shah approached me to take part in the Caribana parade by sponsoring certain bands.
He convinced me that this would be a wonderful idea for Peter Spyros Goudas.
I agreed, provided they played my jingle along the parade route from Varsity Stadium to the waterfront.
I thought that this would be an innovative breakthrough in advertising Goudas. I also wished to be part of the most colorful celebration in Toronto, as Caribana approached almost ten years in existence.
I was also involved in financing costumes and supplying many different varieties of food at the camp. This was a very involved process.
To design a costume, involved taking a number of measurements and material, checking if it is too high or too low, trying to coordinate it with the theme of the band and the King and Queen costumes, and selecting the best and most appropriate music for the band.
This process was done over a period of almost 6 months, and since it ran way into the nights, all the people had to be fed and entertained along the way.
It was a lot of fun, and by the time we were through, everyone was well acquainted with the offering of products that Goudas had because they had tasted them all and gave valuable comments and feedback to make sure that the products were what they were accustomed to, and were of top quality.
I found this to be a fun experience and very rewarding because the knowledge that I got about their tastes and culture was priceless.
This also allowed me to meet many people including Esther O'Neil who had a Caribbean program on Multicultural Television; Pat McNeil who was a reporter with the Contrast, the most famous Caribbean newspaper in Canada at that time, and also Mr. Winston Ali the President of Caribana.
On the night before the parade, I went to the stadium to see how things were progressing and whatever help I could give.
This was around 1 to 2 o'clock in the morning, and there was about 1000 people around, from musicians to costume designers, working hard to make sure that everything would be ready for the big day.
I noticed that I was the only white person there, and although the members of my group knew me, most of the others thought I was some tourist who was lost in Toronto, or some Greek runner who was racing in the Boston marathon, but got lost and ended up in the Varsity stadium instead.
Soon however, they got to know who I was, and then one big fellow came up to me and said "I understand you are the famous Mr. Goudas who has this rice that I keep hearing about.
Well, I have some heavy steel pans to manage, and I can't do it unless I get some Goudas rice for early breakfast.
The idea occurred to me to send some people to my 813 club and have them prepare lots of rice peleau for everybody, and I had it delivered to Varsity stadium with lots of Snappy pop.
This was a big breakfast celebration and the people were very appreciative.
They called me things like "cool", "brother", "rasta man" and similar names.
They all had a full belly to start the day, and the look on their faces was worth its weight in gold to me. No amount of money could buy the kind of advertising that Goudas foods got that day. I was a very happy man.
The Caribana parade was absolutely breathtaking, the weather being perfect. Goudas Foods was not only a big part of the parade but with the handing out of small packets of rice, many people were able to take home souvenirs on that wonderful day.
They also left with the jingle Goudas rice is very nice.
Goudas rice is very nice,
it is good for peleau or Chinese fried rice
so take my advice and buy Goudas rice"
on their lips.
I used a Super 8 camera to film most of the parade also took the film to the 813 club where I had my own broadcast and film facilities for editing.
I spent hours and hours, night after night, on this editing trying to compress hours of tape into a few minutes.
It was quite a task to synchronize the sounds with the pictures, making sure that the steel band sounds matched the steel band in the film, and the individual instruments and music were in perfect harmony with the pictures.
I then had Jesse MacDonald, who has one of the most powerful voices in the world to do a voice over.
The quality of the Super 8 film was not the best, and this was not a production done by a professional studio or TV station, but I wanted to capture the environment leading up to the parade as well, so people can appreciate the tremendous effort that goes into producing these magnificent costumes and bands that are part of the parade, from a close up perspective, not from some remote tower along the parade route.
When I thought I had managed to capture the essence of the parade, I called all the people who participated in some of the various bands to the club to see it.
They were unanimous in their agreement that it was the best film they had seen portraying the Caribana parade.
It allowed the people to see that this parade was not made up of a bunch of idiots dressed up in costumes and jumping up and down all over the place, but the work of some very skilled and talented people, bring to Canada a culture that has prevailed for many, many years.
I understood this, and I wanted to show the world what was involved in this celebration.
As I watched the 1975 film I thought of how the 1976 parade would be even better, and dreamed of it being the biggest multicultural event Toronto had ever seen.
I hired Kenn Shah as my project manager. He and Willy Williams (Big Willy), along with myself, worked together to make the most colorful and magnificent costumes possible.
We worked every evening for almost half a year along with the costume designer, and finally my dream was achieved.
Small packets of rice numbering 50,000 had been prepared as special souvenirs of the day. Needless to say none of us including the band leaders and dancers had slept for weeks.
We however had unlimited energy and drive to show the spectators from New York, Detroit, Montreal, Trinidad and many other parts of the Caribbean, as well as the Canadians and other nationalities who were living in Toronto (which as everyone knows, is the most diversified, multicultural city in the world), this colorful event.
At 2 a.m. the day of the parade, we moved all of our trucks, instruments, costumes, souvenirs and people into position for the greatest event the Canadian people and the multicultural generation had ever seen.
I was trying to marry the cultures and the food.
In the past 12 months I had been introduced to rice and peas (peleau), cho cho, bodie, dasheen bush, lady's fingers, karilla and many more.
This gave me the opportunity to understand who eats this and who eats that.
This came at a time when I was just entering the multicultural food market and had been trying to sell the idea of this type of food to the supermarket chains.
They eventually adopted the idea of having a multicultural or international section displaying my food products.
Here we all are in Varsity Stadium at 2 a.m. rehearsing, testing instruments and sound systems, making small practice dance moves and all laughing and smiling in preparation for the big event.
Some people even came to see me with the idea that this should be called "GOUDAS DAY" At 6 a.m. the first drops of rain lightly spotted the parade route.
Everyone thought that this was a cloud which would pass, but the rain continued as a light shower.
The parade started to move at 10 a.m. and most people had already strategically positioned themselves along University Avenue to get the best possible view of this spectacular display of costumes, colour, music and dancing.
As the parade was almost half along the route the sky opened giving torrents of water to invade the festivities. The spectators ran for shelter from the relentless downpour.
Some ran back to their hotels and cars, some to the dry subway tunnels.
Some of the dancers and helpers of my group finally had to run for cover.
The musicians tried every possible way to protect and cover their instruments.
The beautiful costumes which had taken 6 months to prepare melted into coloured puddles at the dancers' feet.
As I sat on the grass near the monument viewing the wrath of nature, I thought of the expenditure of time, effort and money.
I have experienced many rainstorms in my life, but never have I really paid much attention, as these storms have only wet my hair and clothes.
This storm wet my eyes and broke my heart.
Mr. Goudas paused, took a deep breath and finished by saying that the Caribana parade is a wonderful thing that happens to Toronto every year and is one of the most beautiful gifts that the Caribbean has given to Canada.
If you wish to see the 1975 Caribana film, click here. Download, sit back and have a coffee (or better yet a Snappy pop or ginger beer), and enjoy. It took Mr. Goudas hundreds of hours to put it together, so please wait a few minutes while it downloads. If you do not see it very clearly, please check the settings on your computer.
The original film is 2 hours but this condensed version is 7min. 05sec.
In the beginning you can see the preparation of the costume design.
Next, is the scene in Varsity Stadium as the band and performers get prepared for the parade, making last minute adjustments to their costumes, tuning their instruments etc.
There was a beautiful silk banner that was made specifically to dress up the truck for the parade with beautiful designs, frills and dressings to make it as attractive as possible, with the company logo.
But just before the parade was to begin, we realized that someone loved this banner more than us and stole it. We had to hastily purchase a roll of blue material and spray it with a can of white spray to try and make it look acceptable.
We figure someone was able to make about 500 attractive blue silk shirts from the banner, and after all these years, Mr. Goudas is still upset about this loss and he is looking to see if he can catch the person who did this thing.
At the beginning of the parade, there is a giant of a man with a shirt that reads "Goudas Rice". That man is Willie Williams, manager of the 813 club and Peter's personal friend and bodyguard.
At varsity stadium before the opening march of the parade, a gentleman turned to the camera, tipped his hat off and gave a hello gesture to the cameraman. That was Corrado Accaputo, Television Studio Owner and personal friend of Mr. Goudas.
The parade was passes through University Ave., an avenue full of famous landmarks such as: provincial government buildings, hospitals like Mount Sinai and Sick Children's as well as the US embassy among others.
Then continues to pass near City hall were Mr. Goudas slept on park benches when he arrived to Canada in 1967 without money, friends or language.