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Caribbean Carnival 2012: Pass The Torch Program Mentors Kids Through Calypso Music

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CARIBANA 2012
Maykah Lochan-Aristide, left, Mahsada Lochan-Aristide, centre, and Trinity Alcindor of Pass the Torch, a calypso and soca music group, perform their original songs at Caribana, now known as Caribbean Carnival. | torontoobserver.ca

The Caribbean Carnival, formerly known as Caribana, is a three-week explosion of Caribbean music, dancing, arts, cuisine and culture that takes place every summer in Toronto. This year, on its 45th anniversary, the event's parade (happening on Saturday, August 4) will surely showcase sensational musical panoramas and thousands of glittery costumes that will shimmer brighter than the sun and show off a fair bit of skin in the process.

But there's more to this event than just fashion and fun. The festival unquestionably pays tribute to Canada's caribbean community, and it's a vivid expression of Toronto's multicultural society. It, and other events like it, build solidarity within the communities they serve, and preserve the rich cultural heritage that underlies them.

One of the ways they encourage youth to get involved with the festival is through community-based programs like the one directed by Dick Lochan.

Pass the Torch encourages kids to create music to be played at the Caribbean Carnival. The initiative, based in the Malvern area of Toronto, provides mentorship to young people through songwriting, recording and performing calypso.

"Children come mostly from Scarborough, but they're all of diverse backgrounds, cultures and races," Lochan tells The Huffington Post Canada. "We do all genres of music, we do gospel, we could do rap... We put it to the calypso beat."

The program is now in its eighth season and runs from May through September. Not only do participants develop their musicality, but Lochan says the program also promotes an appreciation of, and respect for, differing cultural values and practices.

"The kids and their song ideas come straight from the communities they are from," he says. "We had one boy who wanted to sing about not doing drugs; we had another who wanted to sing about Jesus in her life... These are Canadian kids with a whole array of different messages. Whatever they come with, we work with and produce."

Lochan says when the students showcase their work at Caribbean Carnival, there's a sense of pride in the music they've created. The program has produced six music CDs and has had songs nominated for awards, and often performs at the Island Soul festival on Toronto's harbourfront during Caribbean Carnival.

For more information on how to get a child involved in Pass The Torch, please contact Dick Lochan at 416-284-4021 or John 'Jayson" Perez at 416-289-3366.

Also on HuffPost: Glimpses of glitz from Caribbean Carnivals past:

The Best Costumes From Caribbean Carnival
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