Monday, July 15, 2013

Maple Ridge Caribbean festival 2013: of fried plantains, white people, and dogsnot

The Caribbean fest that happens every year in Maple Ridge's Memorial Peace Park always surprises me. Hundreds of people turn out to the free weekend event - including a goodly number of members of the African diaspora who are not a highly visible presence in our small suburban burg any other time of the year; who knows, some of them may well travel from other districts for the purposes of the fest? I would, and I'm just another fat white guy in a tropical shirt: there's an abundance of tasty Caribbean, Fijian, and African food, and that alone is enough to get me out, since you can't get that stuff in this town otherwise. You do get the occasional "stupid white people moment" (such as the one I observed today, in which a middle-aged white guy asked the Taste of Africa vendors if they sold hot dogs), but if you can get over your embarrassment at such things, it's a small price to pay for having goat roti, Jamaica patties, fried plantains and bottles of Ting come to town. There's a ton of stuff in the market stalls that I don't need - nicknacks, Bob Marley t-shirts, vibrantly coloured fashions largely for women (and the odd men's shirt that will in no way fit me); but it's still enjoyable to walk about and take in the scene. And - as my girl observed - there's a ton of big booty women who come out for the weekend to strut their stuff, presumedly since big-bootiedness is considered an actual asset among some brothers (and a few of us white folks too - it's a feature of the fest that has not been lost on me in years past, though I was conscious this year not to let my eyes stray too far). About the only thing notably, weirdly absent is wafting marijuana smoke - a shame, given the reggae, ska, and steelband music that fills the pot-free air, but most of the people in attendance are pretty straight seeming white folks, including seniors and children and family people, who need their sensibilities catered to (or are long since well-conditioned to doing their smoking in secret). There are plenty of visible uniformed cops prowling about making sure that no ganja gets whipped out anywhere too publicly, and that the vibe is safe and family-friendly; I guess I can't complain too much about that, even if it would be fun if once a year the whole of downtown stunk of weed, and not just the apartment buildings and schoolyards...
As with Adstock (see below), I didn't take in a lot of the music this year - I was preoccupied with getting to see Kris Kristofferson on Saturday - but enjoyed hearing a ska band that afternoon covering the Specials' "Message to You Rudi," wafting on the wind to my apartment a block or so away. Today, I enjoyed Vancouver's Bounty Hunta, doing his thing with a DJ, and I appreciated that B. Kenyan, who spelled him, brought a bit of consciousness-raising to the event, sharing his dismay at the George Zimmerman verdict. (He also told a story of correcting a child's mis-association of Bob Marley with marijuana, and not peace, but I can't begin to do it justice). Truth is, I don't know jack about DJ culture or toasting or any of that - it's actually rather foreign stuff to me; my reggae knowledge basically amounts to spinning The Harder They Come soundtrack a few times a year - but it's still kind of pleasing to see people talking about Babylon and declaiming "Ja Rastafari" from a public bandstand in the midst of this highly straight, white, "what's-on-TV"-culture town. (Lord knows the musicians must find the culture clash as entertaining - and positive - as I do). Toronto reggae singer Steele, today's headliner, made a fun acknowledgement of the area's usual musical sensibilities, asking the crowd a few songs in, "so I hear you all like country music?" Lest you think he was mocking us, he followed this up by performing a surprising, highly entertaining, and totally sincere reggae version of Kenny Rogers' "She Believes In Me," which apparently he's recorded on his new album... 

Delightful as that was, the high point of the fest was a wheezy little pug of amazing, instantaneous friendliness, who, when he saw me waving at him from where I sat, immediately ran over to me - owner in tow - to blow a light spray of dogsnot in my face, then crawled up onto my lap for affection. I love dogs, but I don't get to hang out with them much, so dogsnot or not, it was a treat.

Here are some photos of him, and of the rest of the fest - well worth attending, if you never have. See you in 2014.

B. Kenyan

 Steele with Natural Flavas

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's one of those events which I always want but never get to attend because of work, or in this case, I was out of town this weekend. I was in Jamaica last January and got to experience the vibe first hand...and now I find myself needing a fix. Oh well, hopefully next year. And the booty, oh yeah, I'm a changed man!...youthful friend.