- Soca 2018! -

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Multi talented Carnival Face

Ravishing Raesha Sirois is not only a masquerader, pannist and this years Face of the Festival, but, believe it or not, a 48 year-old mother of three. I know, I was surprised too. I recently asked Raesha about her involvement in, and opinions about all things Carnival.

Anthony Berot photo

~Karabana~ When did you first play mas and why?
R.S.:  I first played mas several years ago. It was 1992 and I was a book-keeper for a DJ company. The company had a float in the parade known as Caribana back then and we all wore hideous spandex unitards. Very 90's. Chubb Rock and Maestro Fresh Wes rocked the truck.

~K~ How was that first experience for you?
R.S.: That experience was not true Carnival for me. I had been to Trinidad for Carnival and though I have never played mas there, I knew that soca was the music for me. I knew that pretty mas was for me. I knew that I loved to see the traditional costumes: Blue Devils, Dame Lorraine, fancy Indians, Midnight Robbers, Moko Jumbies, Pierrot Grenade, Jab Jabs, etc. That float I was on in 1992 was just a job and it was not meaningful.

~K~  What was last years’ experience like for you?
R.S.: Last years’ experience was not very nice at first. I was in a band that had far too many revelers for the allotted space, many were drunk and tripping all over my costume (which had a cape full of peacock feathers) and I had the unpleasant eruption of masqueraders losing their minds when The Cherub (aka ex-mayor Rob Ford) crashed my section. He rubbed his damp shoulder on me. I swear my costume was full of booze and sweat and hepatitis. Things got exponentially better when I left the mas band and backtracked to meet my steelpan band. I played with Silhouettes since 1994 and love to beat my 9-bass in costume. We had no problem with non-masqueraders "storming" because they do not tend to bother with steel pan. The hooligans seem to want DJ trucks.
Security in the mas band is a joke. Those marshals do not know what they are doing. Look at Trinidad and see how it is done!! These people do not mess!!! One year, a marshal kept trying to get me drunk. Waste of energy. Marshals here are nowhere near as efficient as the ones in Trinidad. Down there, they take the job seriously. They keep the masqueraders in their sections and protect them from non-masqueraders. Here in Toronto, the marshals are ineffective, in my experience.     
Can you imagine going to Christmas parade, jumping on a float and wining on Santa Claus? You'd get arrested! Yet it happens year after year at Toronto Carnival. Insane. Torontonians are generally polite. Until Carnival.
~K~ If you've played mas elsewhere, how did it compare to Toronto Carnival?
R.S.: I have never played mas anywhere else but Toronto. I would love to play in Trinidad but I would need to sell a kidney to finance the costume. I need my kidneys. I do appreciate the fact that I can get on public transit IN COSTUME and travel alone to the parade in Toronto.
That is not advised in Trinidad.
I appreciate that I can jump up ALONE in Toronto Carnival. That is not advised in Trinidad.
I appreciate that I can travel by transit in costume ALONE home at night after the Toronto Carnival. That is not advised in Trinidad.

~K~ How did you get involved in modeling costumes?
R.S.: I started modelling costumes this year. I figured that I was not getting any younger and keeping the cellulite off was only going to get tougher so I contacted several mas bands and asked if they needed models. I had the pleasure of modelling for Tribal Nights, D'Regulars and Durham Mas. I am (going to be) on the parade route wearing a Tribal Nights Animation costume and I am in love with it.

~K~ What do you do to look so incredibly fabulous?
R.S.: My family genes are good. Thank God for that. But I do work out pretty hard with weights, yoga and cardio about 5x a week. I also watch what I eat and have no shame about contacting professionals for help. I currently have the aid of Wholistic Bodybuilding and Wellness in Woodbridge, along with seeing an esthetician for cold laser facials, a massage therapist, naturopath and osteopath. I spend copious amounts of time and money on looking and feeling good. I think it is worth every cent.

~K~  What would you tell ladies thinking of playing mas, but not sure if they can pull it off or have the confidence to wear a costume?
R.S.: For anyone thinking of playing mas but you are concerned about your shape: you need to go to Trinidad and see their Carnival. The North American Ideal woman seems to be Barbie. Too bad for that. In Trinidad, men love women of all shapes and sizes. Sexiness comes in how you carry yourself. Women there realize it. I just wish that self-confidence would make it's way up here. Get on a costume and go do your thing. Love yourself. People compliment my figure but I have issues with it myself!! And I feel silly admitting it!! I think I look like G.I Joe with boobs!! Just do it! Trinidadian women have it down. They rock the costume no matter what. Last year, I didn't even get much action in Trinidad. Men avoided me to to wine on the larger ladies. IT WAS THAT DAMNED "ROLLY POLLY" SONG!!! They were taking all the men!!!!
 ~K~ What are you hoping for on the road this year?
R.S.: This year I hope to see more guys in costume in the parade. Come on, Fellas!! The ratio of men to women is 1:8. Not only would it make things more interesting for us females, but you are guaranteed a fabulous time. This year, I would love to see security for masqueraders like they have in Trinidad. Get people properly in their sections using the human rope. Have bouncers remove stormers from the band like they do in nightclubs. This year, I would love to see pan integrated into the parade instead of pushed to the back like an afterthought.

 Karl Bharmania photo
~K~ Why should young people with a Caribbean background play mas and not jump the fence?
R.S.: Young people with Caribbean heritage should get to know more about their culture. Let's talk Trinidad because that is the country of my birth. Trinidadian Carnival has a rich history. Learn about slaves being allowed to party for a couple days before Lent and what they did with those days.
Learn about the traditional characters I mentioned above. Although Carnival is not religious, the roots are associated with the Catholic faith. All of this is so fascinating. Put aside $20/ a month. That is $5/ week. At the end of the year, you have enough for a costume. For guys, it is even less. Get your friends together to all play mas. It is so addictive. I have a patient of mine who goes down to Trinidad annually with her buddies to play mas there. They have no Caribbean background yet there they are, having the time of their lives as a group --- year after year. I admire that so much. Why can't Torontonians do that here? Try it. Just try it. You and your pals will be hooked. It really is that much fun.
Caribbean Carnivals are very unique in that participation is voluntary AND ENCOURAGED! Just buy a mas costume, register in a band and...voila, you are now part of the parade. It is so easy to correctly be a part of the action.

~K~ What does Carnival mean to you?
R.S.: Ahhh, what does Carnival mean to me? This last question is the one to bring tears to my eyes. I get truly emotional discussing this as it is very dear to my heart. Steelpan is one of my passions. I love it so much. The main reason for me to go to Trinidad for Carnival is Panorama Finals. If I missed that, the trip was worthless to me. Carnival here means the Pan Alive Steelpan competition July 31st at Lamport Stadium first and foremost. Carnival here means beating pan on the route. Carnival in Toronto means the soca music and the pan and the dancing and the freedom to wine on somebody and have a time and then go home to your partner and no harm done. Carnival in Toronto means stopping to take photos in costume with visitors from around the globe, showing them that we know how to party. That we are gracious and polite and friendly. It is beautiful, free, sexy, passionate. I am addicted.

I should mention that I currently play 9-bass with Pan Fantasy. Listen here
Me in 2013 performing at Pan Alive: Click here
Kara, mas is great. Mas is awesome. But Pan? PAN IS BESSSSSSSSS!!!!!


Kryssy said...

I love her! She is one of the people that I've been fortunate to bond with and she is such a sweet, multi-faceted woman and is as funny as she is beautiful! Great choice to be the Face of the Festival. ANDDDDDD..... I'm so excited to be playing mas with her in TC this year!

Kryssy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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