Thursday, August 21, 2008

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.

References

* 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


Dynamite


Treasury Scandal


Fire Brigade

5 comments:

Pelle said...

Hi,

Nice blog you're running. I hope you keep posting. I've become very interested in calypso, especially the golden age. Now, there's a few of Atilla's songs that I've stumbled across of which I can't find any recording data. Do you happen to know when "Dynamite", "Coffee, Coffee", "Professor Carver" and "Dorothy" was recorded?

Best regards,
P Holmgren

S.Quevedo said...

I wish there were pictures for my daughter, who is his great grand daughter, and maybe a little more history eg. i think he was from cuba?

Riri said...

Hi I'm also his great grand daughter, I was looking for more information on his family history, any information would be helpful, most appreciated. S.Quevado, if you're interested, maybe we could get in contact and meet some more family.

Riri said...

Thanks much

Patrick Hamilton said...

hey i really wish there was a recording of dynamite that i could get, i cant find it anywhere! let me know