Irie, Caribana, Island Soul free festivals

International headline artists hit Toronto for Irie, Island Soul, Caribana
Last weekend in July a hot one for must see music concerts
By Kris Scheuer

The summer may be a cool one, but there are three sizzling fetes culminating on the Aug. 1 long weekend. First of all they are free, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they aren’t hight quality outdoor parties. These are all ages, feel-good concerts.
First, up is Irie Music Festival a free Reggae and Calypso, Soca fest in Toronto that I have attended since it began eight years ago. It is a very positive vibe and includes headliners that are internationally known. And did I mention it’s Free, people. You won’t regret checking it out (and I in no way make a cent by promoting these events).
I just went to Irie’s website and there’s a great line up for July 31-Aug 3 at Queen’s Park. There’s Byron Lee’s Dragonaires playing Aug 1 (scheduled start at 8 pm) in tribute to their leader who passed on. I have a few CDs from this group and have seen them live a number of times. Very fun and sure to make you dance.
Also highly recommended is Gramps Morgan from the famous group Morgan Heritage, which I have also seen live twice and have almost all their CDs. The music is very danceable but also extremely socially conscious reggae music. You won’t regret going to see them on Aug 2, he is scheduled to preform at 8:30 pm.
And last but certainly not least is Fab 5.
They are a Jamaican reggae group that’s been rocking since 1970. But don’t be fooled, they can do everything from old school reggae to music that’s currently on the radio with supreme ease. I saw them for the very first time last summer and have been hoping they would come back again and they are scheduled to hit the stage at 6 pm on Aug 3. I have a CD of theirs where they groove on 32 different songs in one continuous live jam and it pumps me up every time. Highly recommended.
The same busy weekend is the Island Soul festival down at Harbourfront. Trinidadian calypsonian The Mighty Sparrow is playing July 31 scheduled for 9:30 pm. Aug 1 at 8 pm is Ska group The Arsenals then at 9:30 pm is Reggae sensation Leroy Sibbles, who’s been rocking for over 40 years. On Aug. 2 at 9:30 pm, Reggae singer Tony Rebel for a taste of his music click here.
There is a covered stage and bench style seating and standing room for a few hundred. It gets really packed down there so you will want to get there early but don’t expect any of the artists to necessarily go on stage on time, but other acts will warm up the stage. Again no cost for these outdoor concerts.Of course, if that’s not enough there’s also the 42nd annual Caribana Parade on Sat Aug 1 down on the Lakeshore. I first attended this event 20 years ago as a young 18 year old when it went up University Ave. In fact, except for a few reggae artists I grew up listening to such as Bob Marley, that first Caribana for me in 1988 was my real introduction to the music from the Caribbean and was especially my first taste of Calypso and Soca, which includes both fun, party tunes and socially conscious songs.
Whether or not this particular music interest you, as much as it does me, my main point is summer festivals really make the city come alive. Enjoy.

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