Selwyn ‘Nip’ Davis one of the earliest band leaders of Caribana and a founding member of the Toronto Mas Band Association (TMBA) passed away last Tuesday after succumbing to congestive heart failure. Nip who has been credited as been a catalyst in the success of Caribana is known for his stunning presentations which led him to win the Band of the Year title six times and the King and Queen of the Band crowns eight times each.
Nip immigrated to Canada in 1969 from Trinidad and Tobago and immediately began preparations for one of the first real organized street parades of Caribana that very year. He continuously participated for the following 40 years, nurturing the formation of mas band organizations, culminating in the TMBA.
His daughter, Sandra, said that he was cheerful and in good spirits until recently, cognizant of the well wishes from his legion of admirers, co-band leaders and general followers of the long standing festival. When asked what else he did besides work and Caribana, she said,
“Always Caribana, and more Caribana, he lived for it, promoted it, and did more than most to bring the festival to where it is today. Bear in mind that he was born into Carnival in Trinidad, and never stopped celebrating that too, having worked with major costume makers and band leaders, the likes of George Bailey and Peter Minshall, who in turn admired his resourcefulness and creativity.”
Before coming to Toronto the Trinidad & Tobago government chose a replica of Davis' second-place costume in the islands' King & Queen competition for its 15-cent stamp. "That was a very proud moment for him," his daughter remarked.
One of Nip’s earliest mas making colleagues, Whitfield Belasco, said, “I was introduced to Nip in 1971, and in the immediate years after, we collaborated, winning Band of the Year in 1985. Nip was a cool guy, very level headed, always there for you, extremely resourceful, lots of design ideas, everybody respected him, and I say unequivocally that he has brought Caribana to what it is today. I don’t think you can replace a guy like Nip.”
The former Chair of the TMBA, Louis Saldenah said, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of the irreplaceable Nip; I have known him since 1970, he was a true gentleman, the best mentor you could have, always lending a helping hand to up and coming band members, because he wanted to see this festival grow, without a doubt he was one the best of the originals of Caribana.”
Nip was employed as a service manager by PepsiCo Canada for 17 years and the Children's Aid Society of Toronto for nearly 12 years. His rich and extensive cultural experience is included in the Multicultural History Society of Ontario's Oral History Collection which is one of the largest in North America. It contains nearly 9,000 hours of interviews from every ethnic group in Canada.
In a press release by the Caribana Arts Group Chair, Henry Gomez said, “Despite the sadness that this occasion brings, we are happy to know that Nip passed on his knowledge. He also helped a younger generation to develop the skills needed to carry on the carnival tradition. We will truly miss him.”
Nip is survived by his wife Colleen of 33 years, his daughters Sandra, Donna, Natasha, Marcia and Tonya, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.