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.