Selwyn “Nip” Davis’ quiet and astute leadership, his passion for Caribbean culture and his love for people, especially youth and the foster children for whom he and his family cared, were highlighted during a celebration of his life last Saturday in Ajax.
The mas’ band leader died earlier this month after a prolonged illness.
Former Festival Management Committee (FMC) chair and chief executive officer Joe Halstead, Caribana Arts Group (CAG) chair Henry “Cosmos” Gomez and bandleaders Louis Saldenah and Whitfield Belasco were among mourners paying their last respect to Davis who migrated to Toronto from Trinidad & Tobago in the summer of 1969.
“I met Nip about a day or two after he came here and we made costumes together and put bands on the road,” said Belasco who has participated in every Caribana celebration since 1967, the year Caribana was launched as the Caribbean community’s gift to Canada’s centennial year festivities. “One of the things that made him stand out in costume decorating was his ability to match costume colours. He was also always there to assist bandleaders.”
Belasco and Davis’ Flight Into Fantasy won the Band of the Year title in 1985. In 1974, Davis and Earnest Castello’s Festival of Fans tied for first place with the late Kenn Shah’s Nocturnal Emissions while Davis’ Shaka’s Dream Africa won the title in 1976.
Two years ago, Davis – whose mas’ band “Somewhere in the Orient” won the first prize in the 500-member six-band Class “B” section – was recognized for his cultural accomplishments at the second annual Caribana gala at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex.
“Nip was a positive influence and his contribution to Caribana was enormous,” said calypsonian Dick Lochan. “He was a gentleman and someone who could always be counted on to lend a helping hand.”
Former bandleader and Caribana parade chair Russell Charter and Davis were childhood friends who played soccer as youths.
Davis was an inside forward with Dynamos which played in the Port-of-Spain second division league while Charter participated in the Northern League.
“We practiced together sometimes,” recalled Charter. “Nip was very quick and he was a superb dribbler of the ball. I was also with him when he started to make costumes with George Bailey. Nip was easy to get along with and he had a lot of patience. When I came here in the early 70s, he was already here and we reconnected. Nip was always approachable and whatever he did, he did with class. He would be missed but never forgotten.”
Pannist Earl LaPierre Jr. rendered two musical tributes – ‘What A Friend We Have in Jesus’ and ‘Ribbon in the Sky’ – while soloist Keisha Sharpe performed ‘It Is Well With My Soul’ and ‘He Raises Me Up’.
Davis is survived by his wife of 33 years, Colleen, children Sandra, Donna, Natasha, Marcia and Tonya, sisters Tannis Hackett and Biancia Clements, brother Francis Adams, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.