Calypso is a unique part of the rich multicultural soundscape that is Canada’s World music scene. It is an oral music tradition that has special meaning to the Caribbean people in Canada because it is a form of poetry of the people. Calypso is a powerful source of music and word play coupled together to tell us about ourselves as a people - where we came from and where we are going. Calypso is the heartbeat of life in the Caribbean and its sounds, rhythms and cadences evoke our past and our sense of hope for the future. Calypso heritage is a vital link between us and the African griot - the keeper of our community’s history who knows and tells our story, spreads the news, and deals with topics that are relevant to our lives; while retaining in essence its African cultural roots, this unique art form which we have brought to our new land, has been adapted to circumstances in this new environment and has a rightful place in the diverse world of music in Canada.
The Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes (OCPA) was founded in 1981 by community-oriented individuals who saw the need for an umbrella group to guide the growth and development of the Calypso art form in Toronto and Canada. The founding members recognized the power of Calypso to educate and entertain, to help people learn about their history, their present, their country and the world.
In order to bring us together as a community and to celebrate our unique form of culture in Canada, the group was incorporated in 1992 with the mandate:
- To promote the Calypso art form
- To produce and present lectures, concerts, classes and seminars in Calypso Music and related activities
- To promote fellowship among its members and to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas and information between members of the Calypso community
- To arrange competitions and exhibitions, establish grant prizes, awards and distinctions, and other complementary events and activities
OCPA has subsequently produced an annual programme of concerts, workshops, competitions and special events since its inception. OCPA’s major events for the year are the five-week Calypso Tents Music Series (June – July) and the Calypso Monarch Competition.
The Calypso Tents Music Series (CTMS) presents an early summer programme of newly-composed and arranged Canadian calypso and soca music. The CTMS series is currently produced in collaboration with Kaiso Forum and TLK – two independent, calypso music promoters. The “Tents” offer Canadian Calypso composers, singers, musicians and arrangers a vital platform to promote their new compositions and to gain public recognition.
Calypso compositions write about things from a unique perspective, addressing an interesting topic in an appealing way. Good Calypsoes have a captivating beginning, build on the story, make noteworthy and intelligent points, and have catchy phrases. Many calypsoes have double entendres, humour and always have rhythm that makes you want to move your body parts (sometimes just by bobbing your head or tapping your feet) to the beat. The annual outpouring of Calypso music featured in the “Tents” music series is OCPA’s most important developmental activity, providing employment and training in the performing arts to a diverse community Calypso singers, musicians, composers and arrangers in the Greater Toronto Area.
OCPA’s Calypso Monarch Competition takes place in July after the music series and culminates with the “Kaiso 365” concert presentation, where nine finalists perform original songs before a panel of judges and enthusiastic audiences. The songs in the “Kaiso 365” give full expression of social and political happenings and deal with many contemporary topics - the ills of society, current and world events, people and personalities. The competition serves to establish standards for the art form, to promote excellence and to maintain public interest and support of this unique musical tradition in Canada.
OCPA’s general membership consists of creative and performing artists, as well as individuals who are interested in the history and development of the art form. The organization’s programme is supported by a community of avid volunteers and supporters who help stage events, serve on committees, and contribute to the health of the organization.
OCPA has nurtured and produced performers comparable to those anywhere in the world: Jayson (1991 JUNO award winner), Beginner; Victorio, Lady Pearl, Guney, Macomere Fifi, Panman Pat, Structure, Dennis James, Connector, Crooner, Susan G, Naki, Rajiman, and many more. OCPA can count among its ranks, several winners of the Miami International Calypso Monarch competition, Ottawa Calypso Monarch competition and the New York Calypso Monarch competition.
OCPA’s administration is supervised by a 10-member volunteer board of directors chosen from membership open to the public. The board of directors is made up of artists, arts administrators, individuals from corporate management and social service sector management, educators, and retired persons - all who share a passion for calypso and a belief in its power to entertain and to educate.
OCPA is one of the three main artistic stakeholders of the Caribana Festival - the largest festival of its kind in North America. The festival is OCPA’s opportunity to collaborate with other Carnival arts organizations and to showcase our culture to the wider community It is enjoyment of Caribbean food, calypso music, steelband music, costumes, calypso, steelband and mas' competitions and fun for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. The music series and Calypso Monarch Competition add significant original music content to the festival’s programme of Mas’(querade), Steelpan and Calypso.
OCPA’s annual programme is funded by a subsidy from the Festival Management Committee of the Caribana Festival, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, by various corporate sponsors and businesses, and by monies it raises through ticket sales to its events, sales of products, membership fees and fundraising drives.
OCPA office is located in downtown Toronto at the Centre for Social Innovation, 120 – 215 Spadina Avenue.