Saturday, December 13, 2008

Launcelot "Da Vincy" Chapman

I ran across this while surfing.

Lancelot "Da Vincy" Chapman has been making music in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for quite a while and has to his credit two stints on record at the Mustique Blues Festival.

He has his own recording label and a 45rpm solo effort.

He has never been fortunate in the Island's Calypso Competition, still he has been part of that scene for a number of years and has been the Calypsonians Association Public Relations Officer and also the Associations Sectetary.? He plays Guitar, Mandolin, Piano, and at present he is engaged in pursuit of proficiency with the Saxaphone.

Flying Fish & Coo Coo

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mommie Out The Light

Per a request, listen to Marie Bryant singing "Mommie Out The Light"

Mommie Out The Light

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lord Kitchener [Aldwyn Roberts]

Born April 18, 1922 in Arima, Trinidad. He was the son of a blacksmith, Stephen, and homemaker, Albertha. He attended the Arima Boys' Government School. Lord Kitchener began singing professionally in 1938 and won the Arima Calypso King contest from 1938 to 1941. His first job as a singer was in 1936, when he was hired to serenade the employees of the Water Works. He got his first break in 1937 while he was performing in an old time bamboo calypso tent in Arima.

He left for Port-of-Spain in 1942 and joined the Roving Brigade which operated from the various cinemas in Trinidad. He moved over to the Victory Tent in 1944. He joined the House of Lords Tent in 1945 but returned to the Victory Tent in 1946. By 1947, he had achieved enough success to open his own calypso tent, The Young Brigade.

He left Trinidad in 1947 and, after short stays in Aruba and Jamaica, moved to England in June 1948. He continued his success as a calypsonian for almost 15 years before he returned to Trinidad for Carnival 1963. After a brief return to England in 1965, he remained in Trinidad for the rest of his years. He won one Calypso Crown in 1975 with "Tribute to Spree Simon" and "Fever."

Kitchener began performing calypsos in the Trinidadian town of Arima in the late 1930s. By the 1940s, he was appearing in Port of Spain. In 1946 he helped to organize the Young Brigade tent, which featured a new generation of calypso singers, and was applauded for his calypso "Tie Tongue Mopsy." After the 1947 Carnival season, Kitchener traveled to Aruba, Curacao and Jamaica. In 1948 he left Jamaica on the Empire Windrush, a ship that marked the beginning of large-scale Caribbean migration to Britain. Kitchener remained in England, where he had an active career that included extensive recording for the Parlophone, Melodisc and Lyragon labels. His records were exported in large quantities to the Caribbean, where he remained popular. Some of his records were also popular in West Africa.

"Kitch" became a very important figure to those first 5000 West Indian migrants to the UK. His music spoke of home and a life that they all longed for but in many cases couldn't or wouldn't return to. On June 29, 1950, he immortalised the defining moment for many of the migrants in writing 'Cricket, Lovely Cricket.' This was one of the first widely-known West Indian songs, and epitomised an event that historian and cricket enthusiast C. L. R. James defined as crucial to West Indian post-colonial societies. The song, later recorded by Lord Beginner, is rarely credited to Lord Kitchener although Tony Cozier and many who attended the Test at The Oval can attest that it was a Kitch composition.

Kitchener, who created highly-popular and sweet melodies, is honoured with a statue in Port of Spain. He is buried in the Santa Rosa Cemetery in Arima. A bust of the beloved entertainer is also on display on Hollis Avenue, Arima, not far from the Arima Stadium.
Kitch has composed calypsoes that cover every imaginable human experience, and social and political events. Kitch is a brilliant expressionist. On stage, his gestures, innuendoes, his control of voice and his capability to paint a picture with his voice clear enough for the very last person in the audience to "see," and understand, what Kitch is talking about, has made him one of the great personalities in the highly competitive business of authentic calypso singing. Dr. Hollis Liverpool, Calypsonian Chalkdust, once observed that "one of Kitchener's many strengths is his ability to present clean smut' in a way that even a priest would want to listen."

The best way, but certainly not the only way, to appreciate Kitchener's talents is to visit the Calypso Revue, also known as Kitchener's Tent and watch Kitch and the other calypsonians perform.The Calypso Revue is no ordinary calypso tent. It was opened in 1964 at the Strand Cinema by Leslie ucky-Samaroo, a movie house proprietor. In its first year, the Calypso Revue had a brilliant cast. It produced four Calypso Monarch finalists - Kitch, Nap Hepburn, Bomber, and Blakie. Kitch won the Road March, and Bomber won the crown. The tent also had a good season in 1965. It produced Sniper, who won the Calypso Monarch title with "Portrait of Trinidad." (The tune earned Sniper the honor of having his photograph on a T&T postage stamp). But following a disagreement with Samaroo, Kitch left the Calypso Revue, and signed on with Sparrow's Original Young Brigade, only to break that contract and return to England.

Over the years, the Calypso Revue has been located in several venues in Port of Spain. In 1966, the cast performed at the Caravan, Brother Superior's tent. In 1967, Calypso Revue was reorganized with Kitch as the lead calypsonian, under Lord Melody's management, and was housed at The Legion Hall, just south of what is now known as Lara Promenade on Independence Square. Melody left the tent after the 1968 season, and the management of the tent was taken over by Jazzy Pantin and his assistant Sonny Woodley. They are still in charge today. Except for a strike by Revue calypsonians in 1970, the year of Black Power revolution in T&T;, the Revue has been described as a tent characterized by a family atmosphere. Other venues used by the Revue over the years are The Princes Building on Upper Frederick Street, the NUGFW building, a union hall on Henry Street located across the street from the Spektakular Forum, another Calypso Tent, and currently at what for many years was the venue for Sparrow's Original Young Brigade, the SWWTU Hall, on Wrightson Road. Kitchener's Tent has to be the longest running Calypso Tent (in the world?).

The tent has been credited with grooming several young calypsonians who have since moved to greater heights, such as Composer, Explainer, Iwer George, Merchant, Organizer, Penguin, Relator, Scrunter, Sniper, Stalin, Valentino. At the Revue, musical tutelage is seen as the duty of Lord Kitchener. He has been known to assist young calypsonians in composing their music, writing their lyrics, giving an opinion here, adding a chorus there, teaching them how to render a song, or, if they couldn't write, compose one for them.

Kitch has many admirers in T&T;. But he also has a few detractors. For example, in 1993, a large number of citizens signed petitions urging the government of T&T; to award Kitch the highest civilian award, The Trinity Cross, in recognition of his accomplishments. For some reason, the Awards Committee denied the petitions for The Trinity Cross, and decided to give Kitch a lesser award. After consultation with his advisors and fans, Kitch decided not to accept the lesser award.

On the other hand, on Saturday September 21, 1996, Trinidad & Tobago took some time out to pay tribute to Kitch. "The Musical Magic of Kitch," was an Honour Performance staged by the Patrons of Queen's Hall, St. Ann's, in recognition of the creativity and excellence of the work of Lord Kitchener, the Grandmaster. The production, directed by Rawle Gibbons and Noble Douglas, was an assembly of orchestras which, through a variety of performing styles, explored the complexities of Kitchener's music.

Gillian Ballantulo and June Nathaniel, the musical directors of the production, used various musical forms of Kitchener's compositions. The programme opened with a young, a-capella trio, Black Mayl, singing "Trouble In Arima" and "Love In The Cemetery." Syl Dopson and his Calypso Band followed with a nostalgic medley of songs which included "Nora, Nora, Nora," "Trinidad Time" and "Miss Tourist."

Calypsonian Relator (Willard Harris), earned the first genuine cheers of the night for his classy interpretations of "Battymamselle," "Mysterious Letter," "Take Your Meat Out Mih Rice" and "My Brother, Your Sister." The Marionettes Chorale, under its musical director, Gretta Taylor, followed with their versions of "Carnival '73," "Pan In Harmony," as well as "Symphony In G," in which Terri Roxborough soloed.
The Samaroo Jets Steel Ensemble, a replacement for Amoco Renegades Steel Orchestra, injected the distinctive style of the musicianship of their leader, Jit Samaroo, concededly the most accomplished interpreter of Kitchener's music on the steeldrum, with scintillating versions of "Mango Tree," "Two To Go" and "Bees Melody."

In the second segment, Arranger-Keyboardist Leston Paul held the audience spellbound with his classical interpretation on the synthesizer of "Pan In A Minor." Mungal Patasar and Pantar, featuring Clive Zanda on piano, added a new dimension to the magic of Kitch with their interpretations of "Old Lady Walk A Mile And A Half," "Margie" and "Iron Man."

Kurt Allen brought back memories of "Bad Impression" and "Mama Have, Papa Have." Juliet Eckel added her particular slant with "The Carnival Is Over," and the Police Band, under the direction of Superintendent Roderick Urquhart, did a Prelude and Fantasia of *A KITCHENER FANTASY IN FOUR MOVEMENTS,* using "Don't Come Back Again," "Sugar Bum Bum," "Best Things In Life Are Free" and "No Wuk For Carnival."

Kitch was unable to satisfy his many fans with a performance that night, because he was not feeling well. Nevertheless, when Lord Relator brought the performance to a rousing climax with his "Tribute To Kitch" and Kitchener's "Drink a Rum," Kitch got on the stage with the other performers. He was accompanied by hundreds of bottles and spoons in the hands of patrons, creating what a T&T Guardian newspaper reporter described as "a cacophony of sound in fitting tribute to a man who has mesmerized the world with an array of beautiful melodies that have left other musicians in awe." As Kitch was presented with a certificate of commendation by T&T President Noor Hassanali and his wife Zalayhar, under whose patronage the Fourth Honour Performance was staged, Kitch received a well deserved lengthy, standing, ovation.

Carnival '97 was another banner season for Kitch. Kitchener's tent was very successful. Several calypsonians from his tent qualified for both the semifinals and the finals of the Calypso Monarch Competition. But the reigning Monarch, Cro Cro from Kitchener's tent, was defeated at the final competition by Gypsy, who was attached to Kitchener's tent several years ago. Kitchener's CD for 1997 contains a couple of tunes which were popular during Carnival '97. "Guitar Pan" was performed by the Amoco Renegades Steel Orchestra, under the leadership of Jit Samaroo, to win the Panorama Championship for 1997. "Ash Wednesday Mas" was the tune of choice at several beach gatherings in T&T on Ash Wednesday, and "They Turn Back The Clock" which deals with Daylight Saving Time in the US, continues the ever present man-woman relationship as seen through the eyes of Kitchener.

One must note that in the year of his death, and for the first time in many years, no steelband group has chosen to play a Kitchener tune during Panorama. The major reason being that Kitchener released his tunes too late to be considered. However, all the Panorama tunes bear shades of Kitchener's fingerprints. In addition the majority of the finalists for the 2000 Calypso Monarch competition are attached to Kitchener Calypso Revue. What a fitting tribute!

Lord Invader [Rupert Westmore Grant]

Lord Invader (born 1915 as Rupert Westmore Grant in San Fernando, Trinidad; ; † 15. October 1961 in New York) was a prominent calypsonian with a very distinctive, gravelly voice.

Though Lord Invader (1914-1961) is best remembered as the composer of "Rum and Coca Cola," he was a calypsonian with a wide-ranging career. He began singing in the calypso tents of Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1937. That same year the U.S.-based Bluebird Records selected him for a recording session in Trinidad. In 1939 he recorded one of his best-known calypsos, "Don't Stop the Carnival," which was later reinterpreted by Harry Belafonte. Invader was active in the tents in Trinidad through the 1940s and into the 1950s. After the war, however, he spent a substantial amount of time in New York, pursuing a royalties lawsuit as the author of the lyrics of "Rum and Coca Cola," which was a hit record for the Andrews Sisters. He finally received a settlement in 1955.

During the 1940s, Invader sang in nightclubs in New York and, in 1946, appeared in folklorist Alan Lomax's Calypso at Midnight concert at Town Hall. The previous year he sang "Yankee Dollar in Trinidad" in the movie House Rent Party. Meanwhile, he established a relationship with Moe Asch of Disc/Folkways Records and continued to record with him for many years. In 1956 he traveled to England, where he appeared on the BBC and recorded for British labels, before touring Holland, Belgium and Germany. Eventually, he returned to the U.S. and recorded a couple more albums for Folkways. Invader died in New York at age 47. 
Rupert Grant, from San Fernando in Trinidad, was given his nom-de-calypso by his tailor - "I tell you, Rupert, you should call yourself Lord Invader so when you go up to the city you be invadin’ the capital."  In February 1937, Invader made his first recordings, having successfully penetrated the highly competitive calypso scene in Port-of-Spain at the age of 22. There was already a lively calypso scene in New York, with musicians like Gerald Clark and Gregory Felix backing the likes of Macbeth the Great and the Duke of Iron Among his other activities during this sojourn in the States, Invader recorded for Moses Asch’s Disc label.  Ultimately successful in his lawsuit, although he didn’t see the money for another seven years, Invader returned to Trinidad until 1945, when he went to Britain, in the footsteps of Lord Beginner, Lord Kitchener, and other calypsonians.  He made some appearances in Europe (which inspired My Experience on the Reeperbahn and Auf Wiedersehen) before returning to New York late in 1958, and recording again for Asch.  He died in Queens in 1961.

Born Rupert Westmore Grant in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on December 13, 1914, Grant grew up around San Fernando and began improvising calypsos at a young age. Labeled a "country boy" by his fellow Trinidadians, Grant had great aspirations.The many carnivals and parades in Port-of-Spain gave the city its prominent position in the calypso music world. Calypso music was developed in parades as competing bands strived to gain popular acclaim. Bands obtained lead singers, known as chantwells, to invoke call and response songs and increase audience participation.These chantwells eventually broke away from the bands, forming competing groups of calypso singers.

Bands themselves then lost their prominent role in calypso music and only served to accompany the singers. Lyrics in calypso music are often topical in nature, and singers improvise stanzas to denounce their competitors.
It is this calypso scene that Grant encountered when he reached Port-of-Spain. His grating voice, biting lyrics, and carefree melodies helped Grant build his reputation as one of the best calypso artists in Trinidad. He brought his talents to many calypso competitions (including the first Calypso King competition) and recorded for RCA Bluebird. Enticed by Decca Records, Grant traveled to New York City in 1941 with other calypsonians to make records and promote calypso music. This invasion contributed to the growing popularity of calypso in the United States.
Upon returning to Trinidad the next year, Grant was met with a new scene. Several US military bases had been built as part of the Lend-Lease agreement with Britain. The influx of Americans provided calypsonians with a broader market for their music. On October 15, 1961, Grant died at Brooklyn hospital following a short illness and after undergoing two operations. His lifelong devotion to his craft made him one of the greatest calypso artists of all time.

Calypso:From The Internet

A Brief History of Calypso

Calypso is one of the many musical forms that resulted from the collision of African and European cultures in the New World. It evolved from a concatenation of Kalinda, a Yoruba call-and-response type chant, with French ballad and Spanish string band music. Due to the banning of drums during the era of slavery, Trinidadian music did not maintain the vigorous drumming traditions that survived elsewhere - notably in Brazil and Cuba. Instead, the emphasis was more on the melodic and lyrical side although, needless to say, it still retained a strong rhythmical element.

Calypso grew out of the songs that were sung during carnival. After the abolition of slavery in 1830, Carnival was a boisterous and often violent affair with gangs of stick fighters competing with each other and also with the police. On more than one occasion it degenerated into out-and-out riot and was often banned.

Kalinda was sung as an accompaniment to the stick fighting. Beginning as a jamette, underclass appropriation of the Mardi Gras celebrations of the plantation owners, Carnival gradually became more respectable as more and more middle-class Trinidadians began to take part. By the turn of the century, the original French Creole patois was giving way to English as the language of calypso and the songs were more often in eight line verses rather than the more rudimentary four lines of the so-called road marches. Mastery of English was seen as a sign of sophistication and calypsonians vied with each other to cram as many polysyllabic words into their songs as possible.

The institution of the calypso tent was another factor in the development of calypso as an 'indoor' music to be listened to. The 'Golden Age of Calypso' was undoubtedly in the 1930's and 40's when Lord Executor, Atilla the Hun, The Growling Tiger, Lord Beginner, King Radio and The Roaring Lion, to name only the most prominent, were all in their prime. The subject matter of their songs was usually topical and even when dealing with serious topics such as social injustice they were usually humorous as well. F.D. Roosevelt's state visit to the island, or the particular calypsonian's problems with women might equally well be the subject of a calypso. The bands that accompanied the singers usually consisted of guitar, double bass, violin, trumpet and clarinet and they played in a style somewhat akin to Dixieland jazz - another element to enter the calypso melting pot. Recordings were made and calypso became briefly popular in America, Britain and even West Africa. There was a brief resurgence in the popularity of calypso after the Second World War when the Andrews Sisters had a big hit with Lord Invader's Rum and Coca Cola but this was a safe and sanitised sort of calypso.

The history of calypso does not end here (the entire career of the legendary Mighty Sparrow is still to come for example) but as in just about every other aspect of life the Second World War seems to mark the end of an era. It would be misleading to see this past era as being an age of innocence or even of excellence but the elusive charm of old time calypso, both musically and lyrically, has a distinct character which differentiates it from post-war calypso. Thankfully it has been preserved and remains to delight further generations.-- Peter Ridsdale

The first vocal recording of a calypso was made in 1914 when the Duke of Iron teamed up with Jules Sims. Prior to this, the first recording of calypso music was an instrumental by a band called Lovey's Orchestra in 1912. In the early days of calypso, calypsonians (singers of calypsoes) formed groups and performed at various locations around Trinidad during the months leading up to Carnival. Since these locations were temporary and ceased to exist after Carnival, they were called "tents." Calypsonians took on individual nicknames and the tents were also named. The first calypso tent in Trinidad was the Railway Douglas Tent which opened its doors for business in Port-of-Spain in 1921. Among the other tents that opened in Port-of-Spain during the 1920s was the Redhead Sailor Tent. Some of the popular calypsonians from the 1920s through the 1930s were: Attila the Hun; Lord Beginner; Lord Caresser; Lord Executor; Mighty Growler; Wilmoth Houdini; Lord Invader; Roaring Lion; King Radio; Growling Tiger; Duke of Iron; Macbeth the Great; Mighty Destroyer; Chieftain Douglas; and Gorilla.

In 1935, the first female calypsonian to sing in a tent, Lady Trinidad, made her debut at the Crystal Palace Tent on Nelson Street in Port-of-Spain. Her success paved the way for two more female calypsonians to follow in her footsteps in 1936: Lady Baldwin (Mavis Baldwin); and Lady MacDonald (Doris MacDonald). In 1937, Lady Trinidad made history when she became the first female calypsonian to make a record.

One of the larger and more popular tents in the early 1940s was the Victory Calypso Tent which functioned at 95 Edward Street in Port-of-Spain; however, the most popular tent was The Original Old Brigade which also operated on Edward Street. Another tent in operation was the Maginot Line Calypso Tent which was located at 47 Nelson Street in Port-of-Spain. The name of the World's Fair Calypso Tent was changed in 1943 to the Commando Tent and featured Growling Tiger, Lord Beginner, Lord Caresser, and King Iere. Calypsonians who did not join a tent banded together and performed in cinemas around the country. One such traveling group that functioned in 1942 was the Roving Brigade.

Although Carnival was suspended from 1942 to 1945 during World War II, the calypso tents were kept open. By 1947, the 24-year old Lord Kitchener had gained enough popularity to open a new tent called The Young Brigade which featured young calypsonians such as: Lord Melody; Lord Ziegfield; Mighty Killer; Mighty Spoiler; and Mighty Viking. Kitchener's tent was later changed to The Original Young Brigade. The Old Brigade and The Original Young Brigade were the two most popular tents throughout the remainder of the 1940s. In addition to the early calypsonians, some of the popular singers of the 1940s were: Lord Pretender; Small Island Pride; Sir Galba; Gibraltar; Lord Viper; Lord Kitchener, Mighty Terror, and Lord Wonder.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


A nice essay on soca, with more detail than I ever knew:

•What Is Soca Music

What is soca music?

This material is geared primarily towards folks who are new to this genre of music called soca...

As an artist who has been recording soca songs for the last eight years, and who has won Caribbean wide soca competitions, I shall humbly attempt to present a comprehensive introduction to soca music.

Soca music originated in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago. It is widely accepted to have been created by Lord Shorty (born Garfield Blackman). He noticed that Calypso music was threatened by the more popular reggae music and dying out and attempted to create a new hybrid that was more appealing to the masses. He fused Indian music with calypso music and this resulted in a more energetic hybrid called solka, which later became known as soca. Lord Shorty introduced soca to the world in 1973 with his hit song, Indrani.

Naturally, soca music of the seventies is very different to what exists today. Today, there are two main types, namely Power Soca and Groovy Soca. What is the major difference between the two?

Power soca music is very fast, with tempos of around 160 beats per minute. The music is largely instructional in nature. Soca artists thrive on motivating audiences to respond to their dancing instructions. Power soca music is largely music to jump, wave and "wine" to. ("Wine" is derived from the word "wind" and is a type of dance that consists of hip movements). Crowd reaction is key.

Trinidadian soca artist, Superblue has been credited with starting the "jump and wave" craze. His success with this style of soca was so incredible that since then most soca songs are written with crowd response in mind.

Today, the challenge for power soca songwriters is to write songs that can move audiences but not be a regurgitation of the jump and wave theme. This is not the easiest of tasks because of the very nature of the festival that soca music is centered around. Soca music is largely carnival music. Since carnival is all about jumping and waving, the music that drives it must be able to engender such activity.

Increasingly, artists are succeeding at writing songs which are not necessarily based on "jump and wave" or waving rags and flags. In an attempt to stay clear of monotony, themes like love, peace and togetherness have been very common.

Groovy soca music is arguably, a better means of propelling soca music forward internationally. It is much slower, around 115 beats per minute. This newer kind of soca allows for a wider range of topics to be addressed. Unlike the total frenzy that power soca gives rise to, groovy soca is music to sway and dance slowly to. Artists like Kevin Lyttle and Rupee have demonstrated that this type of music is very palatable to mainstream music markets, with international hits like "Turn Me On" and "Tempted To Touch" respectively.

Another artist who has gain international recognition with groovy/crossover soca is Barbadian based artist, Alison Hinds.

I believe that fast and groovy soca music should continue to co-exist. I readily accept all variations of soca and put none against the other. Music is dynamic. Throughout history no genre has ever stayed the same and hybrids are constantly created.

In addition to power and groovy soca, other types of soca music include ragga soca and chutney soca.

Ragga soca is a fusion of dancehall and soca music. Ragga soca performers include Trinidians, Bunji Garlin and Maximus Dan.

Chutney soca is a blend of East Indian chutney music and soca. Chutney Soca is an up-tempo, rhythmic type of song, accompanied by traditional Indian musical instruments such as the dholak, tassa, the harmonium and the dhantal.

The line between different kinds of soca music is becoming less and less clearly defined. It can sometimes be very difficult and controversial to pin-point what is groovy, power, or ragga soca. There is so much fusion taking place that it is often difficult to tell whether a song is really a soca song. For instance some have argued that Alison Hinds' hit song, "Roll It Gal" is not really a soca song but an R&B song with a West Indian influence. While I do not hold that view, it goes to show that there are no clear distinctions and definitions. Soca music, like other forms of music is an art and cannot be restricted to a specific or exclusive mold.

Soca music is largely competitive.

Every year artists try to outdo each other at carnival competitions such as Soca Monarch and Road March. At a soca monarch competition soca artists perform before large audiences and are ranked by a panel of judges. A road march song is the song which is played the most during a carnival street parade. Each Caribbean island holds its own competitions. Prizes can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for each winner, particlurly in Trinidad and Tobago.

Some of the biggest soca artists in the industry have bowed out of competition. These include big names such as Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and KMC. The commonly held view is that "music is a mission, not a competition".

Personally, I have found such competitions to be a very negative force, causing undesirable friction between artists. As an artist, I have had my own battles. However, winning is so much fun that it can be hard to quit. The fans can be relentless in urging an artist to compete against their own will. The way these competitions are set up, it is easy to go unnoticed if one is not taking part, except if you are already strongly established in the market.

Popular soca performers include Machel Montano, Destra, Alison Hinds, Atlantik, KMC, Shurwayne Winchester, Denise Belfon, Bomani, Bunji Garlin, Iwer George, Bomani, Kevin Lyttle, Tizzy, Maximus Dan, Mr Killa, Mantius, Fireman Hooper, Jamesy P, Tallpree, Claudette Peters, Burning Flames, Nicole David, Ricky T, Qpid and Krosfyah.

Some of soca's biggest worldwide hits include "Turn Me On" by Kevin Lyttle, "Tempted to Touch" by Rupee, "Who Let the Dogs Out" by Baha Men (originally sang by Anslem Douglas), "Sweet Soca Music" by Sugar Daddy, "Nookie" by Jamesy P, "Hot Hot Hot" by Buster Poindexter (originally sang by Arrow), and "Follow the leader" by Soca Boys (originally sang by Nigel and Marvin Lewis).

Brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones have been very typical of soca music. Sometimes, the saxophone forms part of brass sections. While these instruments are still used in live performances, synthesizers and samplers are increasingly replacing them, particularly in studio recordings and at smaller concerts. Soca is very percussion and drum driven and these are often very loud in a soca mix. The bass is also very important. Other instruments used include guitars, and keyboards.

Leading soca-producing Caribbean islands include Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda.

Posted by All Letters Introduction at 10/21/2008 10:25:00 AM by : Mantius Cazaubon

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


A curious phenomenon is when someone takes the content of a calypso and performs it in another style:

As sung by the Duke of Iron

San Fernando (1)

As sung by Johnny Duncan, a US Country singer

San Fernando (2)

As sung by the Roaring Tiger

Money is King (1)

As sung by Bob Gibson, a folksinger in the '60s

Money is King (2)

Another curious phenomenon is when the same song is performed in different Caribbean styles. I'll give an example of that laterwhen we are back in the caribbean.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Zombie Jamboree

"Zombie Jamboree"

In 1953 Lord Intruder, a little-remembered calypsonian from Tobago, performed his "Jumbie Jamberee" at the Old Brigade Calypso Tent in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The song was about jumbies (spirits) dancing "back to back, belly to belly" in a cemetery. Intruder had the words printed in a calypso lyrics booklet but never recorded it.

The Mighty Charmer and King Flash first recorded the song in the 1950s in the United States, where the reference to a Trinidadian graveyard was changed to one in New York. The song became widely known as the "Zombie Jamboree" during the late 1950s through recordings by the Kingston Trio, a top group in the folk music revival. Meanwhile, Harry Belafonte regularly performed the song and recorded it three times during the 1960s and 1970s. Bob Marley and the Wailers issued a reggae version ("Jumbie Jamboree"), with Peter Tosh on lead vocals.

The Charmer (Louis Farakhan)

Lord Jellicoe

Eloise Trio

Harry Belafonte

The Kingston Trio

Peter Tosh

Note: Some singers, if singing in New York, will mention "Woodlawn Cemetary". This is a large pirvate cemetary in the north Bronx, adjacent to Van Courtland Park. This is a public park that has a few cricket pitches popular with West Indians living in New York because they are at the end of a subway line.

When I was a student I spent a couple of summers workng as an apprentice gardner at Woodlawn Cemetary.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Calypso Mama (Maureen Duvalier)

Maureen Duvalier - Bahamian Diva at 80
By NORMAN ROLLE, Weekender Editor

Maureen Duvalier, a multi-talented, multi-faceted entertainer who last month became an octogenarian, is very much in the business and does not plan to retire any time soon. She told The Weekender: "I'm going to perform any time they ask me. I still have my voice, I still can move. I am not thinking about retiring."

She got into entertainment professionally as a vocalist at 17, and like most of her contemporaries who made it in the entertainment business, she started with the world famous Freddie Munnings Orchestra at the Silver Slippers.

Inspired by a Betty Gables musical she saw at the Palace Theatre, later named the Cinema, she and Freeddie introduced 'floor show' to the Silver Slippers.

She recalls: "I sang everything at first but I fell in love with Ella Fitzgerald and her rendition of 'I Put the Peas In The Pot To Cook.' I never really knew who wrote the song but I copied it, we rehearsed it, and I sang it...and Freddie said songs like that were my stuff."

And that's what made Maureen the Bahamian diva, the native, authentic music in her signature screechy delivery. "I worked a stage," she says with a grin. "I danced, I performed. At age 80 I can't do 200 per cent like I used to, but I try very, very hard, because I feel if people come and pay their hard-earned money, they come to feel good, to go away feeling good."

In over 60 years on stage, she has made a lot of people feel good, but in 1992, she thought it was the end for her. "I had a bad cough and I think it was from the cigarettes. I use to smoke two packs a day. The doctor said I had a spot on my lungs. It was the worst thing that could happen to me. But one night while watching Benny Hinn on TV...He said 'God just told me there's someone out there with a spot on her lungs and God is healing it right now.' I said Jesus, it's me...If you heal me I'll serve you for the rest of my life...and I meant that...I went back to the doctor...and no spot could be found. I have never smoked a cigarette from that day."

Maureen is the first cousin of late Haitian president Francoise 'Papa Doc' Duvalier. She was born in Nassau at Burial Ground Corner on East Street. She discloses: "My father's mother was born at Inagua. Two boys and a girl were also born at Inagua...the other four children were born in Haiti. I have an aunt who's 93 and still living in Haiti. I am an only child."

A spinster all her life, Maureen does not have offspring but regards the chidden of her friends the late Rebecca Chipman and John 'Chippy' Chipman as her own.

One of few Bahamians to complete matriculation at Western Senior School at age 11, Maureen attended New York University where she majored in drama from 1952-54. "I did not finish. I had to come home because my mother was ill. I know I would have never lived to see 80 were it not for may mother and grandmother....they formed my life and gave me a beautiful upbringing," she recalls in a subdued voice.

One who loves our culture, Maureen was a pace-setter for women in Juankanoo. "I went on Bay Street as a little girl with my uncle Freddie Bowleg...eveyone thought I was a boy. When I finally unmasked was when women started rushing.
"I went to National Museum in Washington DC. and learned about the origin of Junkanoo...I love my culture and wanted to learn everything about be equipped to explain Junkanoo to the world."

'Ask Me Why I Run' is the hit on the only album she recorded in 1955. And what does she think of today's younger entertainers?

"I think we have the talent. The money is important but you must have pride in whatever you're making your living by...that should be more important because if you're only working for the money, you're only working 25 per cent. If you're working because you love it, that gives you pride, the money comes after."

Good advice from one who's been in the business over three decades.

Don't Touch Me Tomato

Yes, Yes, Yes

Court House Scandal

Gin and Coconut Water

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wilmoth Houdini (Frederick Wilmoth Hendricks)

Wilmoth Houdini (Frederick Wilmoth Hendricks)

Often called the "Calypso King of New York," Houdini (1895-1973) was the first calypsonian to have a successful career in the United States. As a young man in Trinidad, he sang in calypso tents and served as a "chantwell" (lead singer) for a Carnival masquerade band called the "African Millionaires." During this period, he worked as a seaman and in 1928 settled in New York. There he began an extensive recording career that would continue through the 1940s. Among his many calypsos were songs that proclaimed his artistic rivalry with calypsonians back in Trinidad, such as Lord Executor and the Roaring Lion.

Houdini performed in a variety of venues in New York. He sang at the 1939 World's Fair, frequently appeared in nightclubs and often organized Caribbean parties in Harlem. He composed calypsos on a wide range of topics. In 1939 Houdini recorded a song called "He Had It Coming." In 1946 Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan released a duet version of the song, under the title of "Stone Cold Dead in the Market," which became and R&B hit. The song brought Houdini new-found fame, and he organized his own calypso festival in New York in 1947.


Ol' Lady You Mashin' My Toe

West Indian Sugar Crop

Sly Mongoose

Duke of Iron (Cecil Anderson)

Appearing on recordings, radio and in nightclubs, the Duke of Iron was one of the best-known calypso singers in the United States from the late 1930s through the 1950s. In addition to singing, he played flute, clarinet, saxophone and quatro. His family moved from Trinidad to New York in 1923. Eventually, he became a regular performer in New York's club scene, including a 10-month stint at the Village Vanguard in the 1940s. During the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater in Harlem and many leading nightclubs, such as the Village Gate, the Jamaican Room and the Calypso Room. He also starred in the film Calypso Joe (Allied Films, 1957) with Angie Dickinson.

The Duke of Iron recorded singles and albums for a variety of labels. Of his own compositions, he is best remembered for suggestive calypsos, like "Convoy" and "I Left Her Behind For You," though he also wrote songs about the radio commentator Walter Winchell and the New York Mets baseball team. In addition, he regularly returned to Trinidad to keep up with current trends in calypso, and performed and recorded many annual Carnival hits. The Duke of Iron died in 1968 at the age of 62.


Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen

Big Bamboo


I Left Her Behind For You

Out De Fire

Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts)

Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts)

Lord Kitchener (1922-2000) was known as the "Grandmaster" of calypso. By the time of his death, only the Mighty Sparrow and the Roaring Lion had reached a similar level of respect. For over a half century, he was widely admired for his musicianship, compositions, performance ability and overall support for the calypso tradition. On 10 occasions, he won the "Road March" title—the award for the calypsonian whose song is most frequently played on the streets during Trinidad's Carnival.

Kitchener began performing calypsos in the Trinidadian town of Arima in the late 1930s. By the 1940s, he was appearing in Port of Spain. In 1946 he helped to organize the Young Brigade tent, which featured a new generation of calypso singers, and was applauded for his calypso "Tie Tongue Mopsy." After the 1947 Carnival season, Kitchener traveled to Aruba, Curacao and Jamaica. In 1948 he left Jamaica on the Empire Windrush, a ship that marked the beginning of large-scale Caribbean migration to Britain. Kitchener remained in England, where he had an active career that included extensive recording for the Parlophone, Melodisc and Lyragon labels. His records were exported in large quantities to the Caribbean, where he remained popular. Some of his records were also popular in West Africa.

Kitchener returned to Trinidad for the 1963 Carnival and formed the Calypso Revue, which continued as a major tent. Through this tent, he helped many young singers develop their calypso skills. For decades, Kitchener remained a favorite calypsonian among steelbands, due to the catchy melodies and harmonic complexity of his compositions. Among his many well-known calypsos are "Trouble in Arima," and "Muriel and the Bug",

Trouble In Arima

Batty Mamzelle

Muriel and the Bug (Muriel's Treasure)

Woman's Figure

Come Back With My Wife's Nighty!

Atilla the Hun (Raymond Quevedo)

One of the greatest calypsonians of all times, Atilla the Hun (1892-1962) started his musical career as a chantwell (lead singer) for a Carnival masquerade band in Port of Spain, Trinidad. By the 1920s, he was singing in calypso tents and soon became a very popular performer. Along with the Roaring Lion and other calypsonians, he helped to establish the Victory Tent and to introduce such innovations as calypso duets and calypso dramas. (An early drama dealt with the then contentious issue of divorce in Trinidad.) In 1934 Atilla and Lion traveled to New York to record for the American Record Company. While there, they met Rudy Vallee and appeared on his weekly radio broadcast. The historic broadcast reached all the way to Trinidad.

Though Atilla composed calypsos on a wide range of topics, his specialty was politics, particularly the experience of working people in a colonial society. He was admired for both his eloquence and keen observation of detail. Among his many well-known songs are "Graf Zeppelin" (about the German dirigible's visit to Trinidad) and "Treasury Scandal" (on missing funds). While continuing to perform as a calypsonian, Atilla was elected to the Port of Spain City Council in 1946 and later became the Deputy Mayor. In 1950 he was elected to Trinidad's Legislative Council. Atilla also helped to publish booklets of calypso lyrics. After his death, his writings on calypso were compiled in a book titled Atilla's Kaiso: A Short History of Trinidad Calypso (1983).

Together with the Roaring Lion (Rafael de Leon) he was brought calypso to the United States for the first time in 1934.


* Quevedo, Raymond (Atilla the Hun). 1983. Atilla's Kaiso: a short history of Trinidad calypso. University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad. (Includes the words to many old calypsos as well as musical scores for some of Atilla's calypsos.)
* Hill, Donald R. 1993. Calypso: Early Carnival Music in Trinidad. University of Florida. (includes a CD of early calypso music.)

Graf Zeppelin


Treasury Scandal

Fire Brigade

Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco)

Known as the "Calypso King of the World," the Mighty Sparrow (1935- ) burst on the scene in the mid-1950s and has been a dominant force in calypso ever since. He has recorded over 70 albums, won Trinidad's Calypso King (Monarch) title 11 times, won the Carnival road march title 8 times and has received many other honors. With his 1956 hit, "Jean and Dinah," Sparrow proclaimed his dominance: "Yankee gone, Sparrow take over now!"—a reference to the declining presence of U.S. servicemen in Trinidad after World War II. From the mid-1950s into the 1970s, he was a headliner at the Young Brigade tent every Carnival season, until the tent was renamed "Sparrow's Young Brigade." He also regularly toured the Caribbean, as well as England and the U.S.

With frequent trips to the U.S., Sparrow eventually bought a second home near New York. Much of his recording has been done there. He continues to tour throughout the world and remains the best-known calypsonian of all times.

Jean and Dinah celebrated the departure of American soldiers from Trinidad after WW2.

Obeah Wedding speaks of the Trini version of Voodoo.

DuDuYemi.mp3 a celebration of African roots.

Congo Man Another african theme.

Good Morning, Mr. Walker
An honest approach to matrimony.

Barack the Magnificent
A demonstration that Sparrow is still in business.


Calypso and Chutney merged to form Soca. The name may have come from "Soul" and "Calypso" but the music itself is clearly derivative from Chutney.

There were two Calypso singers who were highly regarded in their own style and were also able to drop into Soca at will.

Lord Kitchener often based his soca pieces around Pan as in Pan In Harmony.

The Mighty Sparrow combined flexible vocal lines with interesting ideas, as in
Life In Hell.

These days both classic Calypso and Soca can be considered Calypso. Other, later stylistic variations like Rocksteady, Ska, and Reggae, were primarily asociated with Jamaica. Songs in a more Calypsonian or rural style from Jamaica are called Mento.

Later blog entries will have more specific topics, as: variations on a song, or various sings by a particular singer.


Along with Calypso there was a musical form that used rhymic patterns from the ethnic Indian population with Caribbean harmonies and, sometimes, english lyrics. This mixture was called Chutney.

One that is purely Indian is Doolha.

As sung by the Calypso singer Lord Beginner the song "Fed-A-Ray" sounds like this.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I put some examples of Calypso and related genres on my Blog about St. Vincent and the Grenadines [ see here ]. I'll bring those examples here and continue the discussion in this blog. I'll probably also put examples on some of the old entries to this blog, now that I know how to do that.

Just to illustrate some concepts in Caribbean music, here are three examples of pre-WW2 Trinidadian calypsos:

Lord Invader sings about Matilda.

King Tiger (also known as The Growling Tiger) sings about money.

Atilla the Hun sings about a politician in Nankivell

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound.
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see.

Wikipedia says: "John Newton, the author of the lyrics to Amazing Grace, was born in 1725 in Wapping, England. ...After a brief time in the Royal Navy, Newton began his career in slave trading. The turning point in Newton's spiritual life was a violent storm that occurred one night while at sea. Moments after he left the deck, the crewman who had taken his place was swept overboard."

This was brought to mind because of the funeral of Tim Russert: they used a single bagpiper playing the Appalachian version of Amazing Grace over the picture of the rainbow that appeared at the conclusion of the memorial service. That brought a number of things to mind.

Back in the late '50s, when I was a graduate student at Columbia, their adult education department invited Pete Seeger to give a series of illustrated lectures on American Folk Music. This was a way of giving a series of informal concerts in a format that allowed the audience to feel they were improving themselves, but Pete took it seriously. Most of the audience were my age or older, and were used to the style of Burl Ives and his generation: who used "parlor versions"--singing the lyrics clearly to simplified versions of the folk tunes.

For these lectures Pete took the point of view of his step-brother Mike, and tried to get us to understand how the songs were really performed and why. He brought in a log and an axe and chopped it in two while singing a work song. And he sang Amazing Grace in a slow, unaccompanied version with all the ruffles and flourishes that was characteristic of the Appalachian mountains where the traditional styles of performance still existed. A-a-maz-i-i-ng Grace ... I can still remember how that sounded 50 years later.

A few years later, when I was working at Yale and had my first real vacation, I went to London. There I met Louis Killen, who introduced me to a number of other english singers, and I started to understand how the vocal flourishes that I had heard Pete sing fit into a vital tradition. When I came back I started the New Haven Folk Music Society, and we started holding sessions similar to the British Folk Clubs. We didn't have any money to hire professional performers, so we had to depend on volunteers. Since I was always there I often had to start things going until some more talented performer arrived, which had the benefit that I became inured to performing without the assurance that I would be admired. But I did learn some of the decorations that Lou Killen used in his performances.

When I went back to London in 1965 Lou was somewhere else, so I went around to the folk clubs by myself. In one I was introduced to Bob Dylan, since our hosts were surprised that, as American Folk Singers, we didn't already know one another. In England al the folk singers knew one another. In another club I was asked to sing in what would be an "open mike" session if they had had microphones. I sang Amazing Grace with all the flourishes that I had learned from Pete Seeger and some from Lou Killen. They were amazed. because in England Amazing Grace was just a hymn-book staple that nobody listened to any more.

Later that evening I was approached by a young American couple who were touring Britain earning their upkeep by singing at the clubs. They asked if I minded if they added Amazing Grace to their repertoire, since they had forgotten how it sounded with the Appalachian decorations. I told them to feel free: I was going back after a short stay and was unlikely to do any more performances in England.

I met them again at a Newport Folk Festival a couple of years later. They told me that they had performed that decorated version of Amazing Grace all over England and Scotland and that audiences loved it. A year or so after that, Amazing Grace was played by an Edinburg Pipe Band on a record released in the US, in just the way I had learned it from Pete Seeger.

And it still is a staple of the bagpipe repertoire.

And I suppose it's my fault.

Note: The version that you hear when you click on "Amazing Grace" in the first line is sung by Doc Watson and Jean Ritchie at Gerde's Folk City in the early 1960s. If I listen carefully I can hear someone singing a high harmony out back, and I think it is me. I was certainly there singing that on that night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back Again

For the last couple of years I have been occasionally picking calypso and country music from the internet, and ripping gospel music from old LPs and the few CDs I've been able to afford. Just the other day I discovered the blog at [] and I've been downloading rips from the English records that I couldn't get during the 70s and 80s. Wonderful.

Maybe I'll start writing about music again, in between adding to my general blogs:[]