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What does Cariwest mean to me - Nandi Charles

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Nandi Charles - Face of Cariwest 2019

As we celebrate 35 years in 2019, we are super proud and honored to have Nandi Charles as the Face of Cariwest 2019. We had a chance to ask her a few questions on what this experience means to her and well I will let her tell you all about in her own words.

Question: What is your first memory of Cariwest?


My Cariwest Story in de earlies.

Decorating the Islanders truck before the parade…

The Thursday night before the parade the excitement would hit full blast soon as I pull up in Galaxy Auto body yard and see the truck out there waiting!

Masqueraders, supporters, and family; would start strolling in after work one by one; ready to go until the night time and mosquito start chasing - to paint and nail up wood to prevent any speaker; winer; man, woman, or child; from flinging off de truck during the parade!

Friday night I cyah sleep ‘cause da is de time to cut up and tie up T’shirt to make sure it look like ah Mas!

Friday night was also the time to make a buljol for Saturday morning bake and saltfish breakfast. Parade sustenance!

On Saturday morning; right back at the yard bright and early! – is time to decorate; streamer; and banner up the truck. And once sound check start and Soca playing at de right blast level; truck riders reach; first bottle crack open - all o we READY READY!

Question: How does your Caribbean roots impact your Carnival experience?


I grew up in the land of Carnival; and in a family that was involved in many things Carnival. So it remains larger than life and magical for me still– my dad was a forming member in a Jouvert band and as children we couldn’t wait to get a discarded headpiece or shield from their latest creation so we could play Viking warriors one year or Zulu fighters the next!

For a time my family even lived in Woodbrook; right in the thoroughfare along the parade route...and if yuh didn’t see them before; every cousin, friend, tanty or nen nen from home and abroad, would drop in to rest; eat; and store costume.

That nice and warm feeling of reunion hits me hard and beautifully every Cariwest! To see coworkers; neighbours; friends of old and new; lining along Jasper Ave!

Question: What inspired you to also sing and who are a couple of calypsonians you admired growing up?


My Family is a family of roots and culture and growing up we all would tune in to TTT for Calypso Monarch!

I as a child thought one day when I get big I want to sing back up. Just like Calypsonian All Rounder’s daughters! -they looked so glamorous to me; the matching bright satin outfits, with coordinated dancing, and harmonizing fuh so!

I admired Calypsonians. Their expert deftness with the Queen’s English and how they could craft a song and hit dem hard in de politics, hit dem hard in de consciousness, and hit dem hard with some jokiness!

So, if I must choose only two they would have to be Singing Francine and The Might Shadow!

Question: How important is it to you emotionally and culturally that Cariwest is still going strong?


Many people can tell you they know Cariwest is close when Nandi starts making her rounds -spreading the word; selling t-shirts; helping them find a band…

Until I became involved in all things Cariwest I was a spectator of carnival. I watched everybody play Mas and eager to be a part -so to relocate to Edmonton and see the love and civic pride that led my Elders to open up their hearts fully and share the joy of our Caribbean culture; faithfully; year after year since the eighties that it is so much now an essential part of our short summer festival fabric -I had to join dis ting!

This parade born and grow here and makes me feel so proud of my city and its Caribbean roots.

Question: This year you are going to be all over Edmonton as the face for Cariwest 2019. What does that mean to you?


I feel so privileged to be an ambassador, if I can use such a big word; of our festival! Born and bred right here in Edmonton! It is Our Champion festival and I hope my grinning face translates how joyous a time it is! Because when I’m frolicking down Jasper Ave showing off my colours and glitter; I’m smiling and all the people and children lining Jasper; dey does be smiling too! And dancing!

Question: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in Playing Mas for the first time, but is not sure how and/or feeling shy about putting on a costume?


At your own pace – I started my Cariwest story in T-shirt band and then graduated to costume over clothes. “Dat much clothes Nandi!” As people would say - before I felt comfortable enough to let a little skin show.

That’s the beautiful thing about our Parade; you come as you are; every and anybody can join in the fray just as long as you like being surrounded by happy music and happy people! There is a Mas for everyone!

Would you like to join Nandi on the road this August? CLICK HERE to learn more about how you too can join the celebration and Play Mas

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