On Sept. 23, at the Rose Theatre, the Caribbean Music and Entertainment (CME) awards return to Brampton for their sixth year. As usual, it will be a showcase of the very best in reggae, soca/calypso, zouk, Latin music, chutney, theatre, steel pan and comedy in Canada.
Many award shows are thought of as politely stoic or even boring events. The CME awards strive to be different. With an impressive list of performers from Canada and the Caribbean performing in as many different genres as there are awards themselves, an entertaining evening of music and dancing is sure to be had.
The show has become a much anticipated event event on the annual cultural calendar of Brampton and the GTA, attracting hundreds of patrons to the city each year.
The awards were established in April 2011 by Penny Providence and her late husband Raymond McKnight, who had just been diagnosed with cancer. McKnight, a longtime professional musician in Toronto, was facing the knowledge that he wouldn’t be around for much longer and wanted to offer his fellow musicians a chance to be recognized before they were in the same place as him.
“My husband didn’t feel comfortable when he started receiving recognition because he got sick,” explains co-founder Providence. “He wanted to musicians to be honoured for their hard work and not their fate.”
Providence and McKnight thought of their daughter Chantal McKnight, herself a young musician, and wanted to do something for the future of musicians like her. The mission of the awards became nurturing Caribbean artists and culture through music and entertainment while educating the community and honouring the artists in the process.
“I’m now getting submissions from all over Canada,” says Providence. “It’s sure catching on.”
The CME awards are open to all entertainers of Caribbean and South American descent from across Canada regardless of age, race, sex, religion, disability or nationality. There are many categories in genres like reggae, soca/calypso, zouk, gospel, chutney, Latino, R&B. The awards also go beyond just music and into other areas of entertainment too. Dancers, comedians, actors and even poets all have a chance to be honoured.
Artists and fans are encouraged to submit nominations throughout the year. Those submissions are reviewed by juries for each category to determine winners.
Past winners of CME awards include Nana McLean, Exco Levi, Fido Blanco, Alx Veliz, Michie Mee, Destiny Band, Len Hammond, Kerwin Dubois, Pan Fantasy Steel Pan Group, Chantel Collado, KI Persad and more.
An important part of the awards each year is the presenting of the Raymond McKnight Memorial Award, to honour the late co-founder of the CME awards. It’s presented to artists who show perseverance and focus on the growth of their chosen craft. Each year, two post secondary bursaries are also given out to students pursuing a career in any field in the arts.
On awards night, the doors to the theatre open at 5 p.m. for the red-carpet reception and experience. All guests get a chance to walk the carpet and feel that recognition ahead of the show. Following the carpet, VIP ticket holders can move to the studio theatre at the Rose for a reception featuring artists, politicians and dignitaries.
“They’ll get some great finger food and a special cocktail made from Jamaican rum especially for the CMEs,” Providence says with a laugh.
The show itself gets started at 7 p.m. The performances will be feature music from at least nine different genres of music and will be a showcase for many Canadian artists of Caribbean descent. While there are many awards, the show is never more than a few minutes away from the next live performance.
This year’s special headliner is Marcia Griffiths, often called “The Reigning Queen of Reggae.” Her career has many highlights, including working as a member of the legendary I-Threes, Bob Marley’s backup singers. She brings her iconic sound with her and will be closing out the jam-packed evening.
The Caribbean Music and Entertainment awards are on Sept. 20 at the Rose Theatre. Tickets, regular and VIP, are available here.