Saldenah: A Family Legacy featuring Ariel Saldenah
Interview and blog by: Priya Balakumar
Brown Girl Diary sat down with Ariel Saldenah to learn more about her family’s Mas Band.
A brief history:
Ariel's grandfather, Harold “Sally” Saldenah was born and raised in Trinidad. He was one of the country’s original band leaders, starting his band in 1955. He was the first bandleader to ever introduce incorporating metal into the costume making process, which is now commonly used in every carnival around the world.
Sally paved the way for generations of Band Leaders, who would eventually be key players in the Caribbean community in Canada.
Ariel’s father, Louis Saldenah, is a 20 time Band of the Year winner and created Saldenah Carnival in 1977 here in Canada. Following in the footsteps of his father, Louis has brought the family legacy to Canada and is the current reigning Band of the Year. Saldenah has played an influential part in the Caribana festivities here in Toronto for over 40 years.
Sitting down with Ariel Saldenah:
Ariel Saldenah is Louis' daughter and one of the band’s costume designers. Both of her parents were born and raised in Trinidad and later migrated to Canada. She truly represents the Caribbean culture by embracing her mixing pot of ancestry that includes Chinese, Venezuelan, Portuguese, Indian, African, French and Dutch. Ariel’s creativity and passion for innovation earned her huge success with the Section “Ecstasy” last year.
Q: What does it mean to be Saldenah?
A: “Victory. We represent culture. Unity. Family.
I am the first female born; from a Saldenah. Needless to say, I am very honoured to carry such a victorious last name.”
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment?
A: “Designing and producing a sold out “Limited Edition” section in four weeks all by myself. In 2016, I decided last minute to create a section to specifically attract bodies of all shapes and sizes. After the parade, I received the most amazing feedback about the design and sizes all fitting perfectly. Everyone loved their costume!”
Ariel’s mission to create sections over the years that truly incorporate all body types has made her recognized as a leader that empowers her community through inclusivity.
Q: Why is Saldenah important to you?
A: "Saldenah is a band where the foundation is “family." Whether it be intermediate family or people who joined the team over the years, Salednah is one big family!"
“It’s the legacy for me. Our grandfather gave the torch to my father, who will eventually pass it down to my three brothers and I, who will definitely pass it down to our children.”
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: “My mother. She’s such a fashionista. She makes everything look pretty. Blending colours, textures and costume jewelry together is her niche.”
Q: What do you hope for the future of Saldenah?
A: Ariel would like to bring the Saldenah legacy back to its roots in Trinidad. She plans on creating a relaunch with her brothers.
With Caribana being canceled this year due to Covid-19, it feels like summer will not be the same. People from all over the world flock to Toronto to celebrate the festival of culture, people and unity every year. As we continue to support our community members that are the backbone of the Caribana events such as Mas Band leaders/designers, DJ’s and MC’s through other means, we are getting ready to make Caribana 2021 bigger and better than ever!