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!

No comments: