Words and Photos by Ola Mazzuca
The sun is setting on a Monday night in Scarborough, Ontario, and all of the parking lots on Midwest Road in the east end Toronto neighborhood—an area abundant with industrial complexes and commercial bakeries—are empty, except for one. Pulsing beats are audible behind Unit 228, home of the Louis Saldenah Mas-K Club. The revered mas camp is home to 15 different Carnival tribes currently working towards the creation of a rainbow of colorful feathers, jewels and headpieces. As the hours pass, people come and go endlessly, bringing supplies, hot glue guns, takeout containers from nearby Drupati’s restaurant, and sixers of Carib. The first day of the week may have just ended, but the night has just begun for a dedicated group of designers and tailors. The impetus for all of the work going on is Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival in Toronto, better known as Caribana. Just as with the carnivals that happen across the Caribbean, Canada’s largest outdoor festival demands commitment to craft and culture.
If there is one member of the mas camp that flies his flag 24/7, it’s DJ and promoter Dr. Jay De Soca Prince. “The party now start” is an understatement for Dr. Jay, for it started a long time ago. He has just parked his car after a busy day promoting Re-Jouvert-Nate, a massive Jouvert event happening July 31 at the massive (and soon-to-be-closed) Toronto venue Kool Haus. Boxes of promo cards die-cut into supersoakers are stacked high in the trunk of his car. Jay’s weekend was packed with events like Army Fete, where mutiple soca DJs from the city drew in crowds donning camo wear, an illegal print in soca-celebrating countries like Trinidad and Barbados.
As a youth raised in a musical family of mixed Trinidadian and Guyanese heritage, surrounded by stacks of imported vinyl, Jay began spinning various styles of music at family functions and school parties. Back then he wasn’t much interested chipping behind a truck on Lakeshore Avenue, but bacchanal eventually called. Today, his name is synonymous with prime selection of soca. “Even aunts and uncles tell me, ‘I can’t believe you’s the same fella’ but it takes time to feel that passion on your own rather than it being force-fed into you,” he says. Sans schooling, yet full of experience, Jay had a stint at radio station Flow 93.5, delivering a weekly dose of what he calls “musical medicine” with his show, Soca Therapy. Today, he’s a proud father of two, traveling the world and prescribing the cultural export to a global following. “I really wear it on my sleeve and I am proud to represent Soca,” he says. “I push it with all my heart.”
During our recent lime with Dr. Jay, we discussed his involvement with Toronto’s big Carnival, and why soca has a vibe unlike any other.