Victoires de la musique 2017: Far from home by Calypso Rose, “Album du monde” of the year

Originally published by Le Figaro on 10/02/2017

Calypso Rose, with Far from home, was crowned this evening “Album du monde” of the year at the 32nd Victoires de la musique at the Zénith in Paris, in front of Acid Arab’s Musique de France , and Né So by Rokia Traoré .

This is the first victory of the “Queen Calypso”, 76 years, who declared herself “Queen of France” for tonight recovering her reward.

Carnival, Calypso and Steel Pan:

A Bibliographic Guide to Popular Music of the
English-speaking Caribbean and its Diaspora

By John Gray

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A companion to the author’s earlier volume Jamaican Popular Music, this landmark new work helps fill a major gap in the reference literature. For the first time ever it offers students and researchers an in-depth guide to the large body of materials available on masquerade and popular music traditions of the English-speaking Caribbean. Comprised of some 3400 annotated entries it documents a literature, both popular and scholarly, that now spans more than 85 years and ranges across disciplines as diverse as social and cultural history, anthropology, ethnomusicology, literature and economics.

The book’s main focus is on three tightly intertwined topics—Carnival, calypso and steel pan—and how each has evolved, both inside of Trinidad, their most important hub, and abroad in the large West Indian enclaves of New York, London and Toronto. The Carnival side of this trinity, a critical showcase for the region’s music and dance styles, is treated comprehensively. This includes an unprecedented level of detail on each of the four major Caribbean Carnivals—Trinidad Carnival, Brooklyn’s Labor Day Carnival, London’s Notting Hill Carnival, and Toronto’s Caribana—as well as important precursors such as Harlem’s West Indian Day Parades of the 1940s and ’50s and the early London Carnivals organized by Claudia Jones. Carnival’s musical aspects, both calypso and steel pan, are also covered in depth. In the case of calypso that encompasses all of its various forms, from its antecedents in kalinda stick-fighting to the “jump and wave” soca of today. A multitude of contemporary offshoots, e.g., binghi, chutney soca, ragga soca, ringbang, and gospelypso, are also documented in full. Numerous other sources help illuminate calypso’s central role as a vehicle for social and political commentary and its perspective on issues as diverse as immigration, race and gender relations, and national identity. Steel pan, calypso’s cousin, is discussed from the music’s introduction on the regional and international scene in the 1950s to its more recent role in the music programs of North America and Great Britain. A substantial Biographical and Critical Studies section documents the contributions made to these traditions by almost 600 individual performers and ensembles.

Citations span from 1852 to 2012, with the bulk having been published between the 1930s and 2012. They encompass musical and cultural analyses, ethnographies, oral histories, popular histories and reportage along with a wealth of archival, audio-visual, and electronic resources. The book concludes with an extensive reference section that includes a list of Sources Consulted, a guide to relevant Libraries and Archives, two appendices, and separate Author and Subject Indexes.

for more information

At 75, more still to come from Rodney

The following, which pays homage to steelpan great Earl Rodney, was written by Zahra Gordon and published in The Trinidad Guardian Newspaper, June 25th, 2013.

At the peak of his solo career, musician and arranger Earl Rodney was travelling frequently between the UK, the US and Trinidad performing at various events. Since 2008, he’s been based in Trinidad and has remained largely out of the public eye.

According to Rodney, travelling was rough and a well-deserved break was needed. The 75-year-old Point Fortin-native has spent a lot of time working on his garden, finishing his home, and generally relaxing.

This does not mean, however, that he’s given up music. During an interview with the T&T Guardian last week at his home in Point Fortin, Rodney said he is still learning.

“I keep playing all the time. I’m improving. Everyday I go on my pan and find out things I didn’t know before. It’s like you’ve never seen the pan before. I haven’t reached a bottleneck yet. It’s like out there (pointing to the sky), there’s no end.”

A few more “outings” are turning up for Rodney this year, however. During Carnival he performed at a Trinbago Unified Calpysonians Organisation (TUCO) event and in May was featured in the Point Jazz concert as part of Borough Day celebrations. Last weekend he was also the featured artist at the birdsong Benefit Concert held at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). Working with birdsong, Rodney has been introduced to young musicians whom he can envision future work with. Making a connection with real musicians, who have both talent and dedication is a rare occasion, according to Rodney.

Although Rodney said he’s able to bridge generational gaps, he doesn’t see himself fitting in with today’s local music industry.

“All over the world there’s a downgrade in music. You go to England you’ll hear the same complaints. In between there’s some good ones that could last a few years,” he said. “But these people who are into the Carnival thing, I wonder if they can remember the Road March or the Soca Monarch from last year. I hate to say that and I wish I didn’t have to say it. People used to sit down to write and arrange music for people to dance. It’s a different time and these people are enjoying their time, but for me, the music isn’t going anywhere.”


His disappointment with the industry will not stop him from producing. He has a few projects under his sleeve. He hopes to build a studio and has the scores of numerous compositions waiting to be recorded piled up at home. He also wants to work on scores for film or theatre as this is one area in his vast career that he has yet to venture into.

Rodney may best be known for his winning Panorama arrangements for Solo Harmonites and his work on iconic calypso music. As a member of the Troubadours he arranged seven albums for the Mighty Sparrow. He has also arranged and played with Lord Kitchener, Arrow, Black Stalin, Valentino, Lord Melody and Explainer, to name a few. Although Rodney has worked extensively in calypso, he admitted that his favourite genre is Latin.

“Almost everything I do has a little Latin in it,” he said. Rodney shared that while growing up in Point Fortin, it was Latin music that filled nightclubs.

Rodney is also remembered for his 1972 recording Friends and Countrymen. He has recorded two other solo albums: Steelband Music (1999) and Pure Original Music (2002). Rodney said he has all intentions of recording another album and developing new methods to record live steelband music, which can often be difficult.

“We need a good way to capture pan and I don’t know how come we haven’t come up with one yet,” he said.

His formula for longevity and the large body of work come from an undescribable source, he said.

“For me it’s not a labour really because most of my compositions just come to me. Sometimes I do sit down and manufacture something, but other times it just comes from nowhere. I’ll be watching TV and just hear music in my head. These things are magical. Music for me is a natural thing.”

Earl Rodney was co-founder of Tropical Harmony Steelband and a former member of the T&T National Steelband. He was also a bass player in the band Dutchy Brothers during the 1960s and 70s. As arranger for Solo Harmonites, the band won four Panorama titles.For the original post:

At 75, more still to come from Rodney | The Trinidad Guardian Newspaper.

Roots Revives Caribbean Nights

Pelham Goddard, the man behind this fortnightly special, has been responsible for some of the biggest soca hits of the last four decades. He has been the musical genie behind the late Maestro, Calypso Rose, SuperBlue, David Rudder and Chris “Tambu” Herbert.

Musician, arranger, producer, Goddard began his career at a very early age, since the days of the combos, graduating into the studio as the keyboardist for all the big name artistes of the era. He played everything, be it calypso or local pop ballads and was eventually also part of the creation of a new hybrid calypso genre, made by Lord Shorty, the late Ras Shorty I.

In 1975 a small group of musicians which comprised of drums, bass, guitar, saxophone and Goddard on keyboards formed a band and called it Sensational Roots. The band was based at KH studios in Sea Lots where it did most of the studio’s products on its label, on the Kalinda label. The quickly hailed as the country’s top studio band and was hired the do a project with the Wild Fire singing group, embarking on a whistlestop tour, traversing the entire nation, with star guests like Mavis John. Roots also worked with celebrated playwright Derek Walcott on one of his productions at The Little Carib Theatre in Woodbrook.

In 1976, when the studio upgraded to 16-track facility, New York-based Trini entrepreneur Rawlston “Charlie” Charles signed Goddard and Roots to record the calypso Savage with Maestro. The single was a mega hit. That year, Roots also was also a hit for Labour Day Carnival. After producing Kitchener’s Christmas hit Drink A Rum, Charles decided to sponsor Roots as a road band. Now known as Charlie’s Roots, the aggregation set about promoting the new wave sound of soca.

On Charles’ CR label, in 1977, Roots produced two songs for Maestro–Calypso Music and Play Me. The band also did More Tempo and Action Is Tight for Calypso Rose, and she won the Road March title, a first for Goddard.

After the Carnival ’77, Roots returned to New York and purchased all the instruments and equipment to start Charlie’s Roots, officially launched in July 1977. Ironically, simultaneously, on the same night of the launch, a new mas band was launched by a talented artist who would change the face of T&T mas forever–his name was Peter Minshall. Minshall and Charlie’s Roots remained joined at the hip for the next 15 years.

In 1978, Calypso Rose repeated the Road March with Goddard’s arrangement of Come Leh we Jam. What happened next was a slew of Road March victories for Goddard, producing hit after hit for Blue Boy (SuperBlue), Penguin, Rudder and Tambu. To this day no one has matched Goddard and Roots record of 12 Road Marches and most popular songs. Included among these hits are Soca Baptist, Rebecca, Ethel, No No We Aint going home, Free up, Bahia Girl, The Hammer, This party is it, Permission to mash up the place, and Bacchanal Lady.

In 1985, Goddard and Roots introduced Caribbean Night, on a Thursday night, at Atlantis Club in West Mall, later renamed Upper Level Club. This programme that grew into something very massive as the aggregation showcased all the music of the Caribbean.

The second coming Caribbean Night has quickly become a regular fixture at The Mas Camp. Blessed with a wealth of superb musicians, Goddard and Roots are guaranteed please crowds at any kind of event.

The band comprises of a 12 piece orchestra and can be contacted for bookings at 738 6940/628 1823, or by e-mail at pelham13@yahoo.com.

For the original report go to http://www.guardian.co.tt/entertainment/2013-06-05/roots-jam-3canal-caribbean-night

See also: Roots to jam with 3canal at Caribbean Night | Repeating Islands.

Calypso and Caribbean Migration: Lara Putnam’s “Radical Moves”

The following review of Lara Putman’s Radical Moves was written by John Cline and published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, June 2, 2013.

IN 1987, THE EMINENT ETHNOMUSICOLOGIST Richard K. Spottswood compiled an LP for Arhoolie Records titled Where Was Butler? It was subtitled “A Calypso Documentary from Trinidad,” and features many of the stars of the island’s music scene from the 1930s, including Attila the Hun and Growling Tiger. While this record has never been re-released on CD, nor is it available on iTunes, its 16 tracks constitute one of the most fascinating calypso collections ever produced. Long before Public Enemy’s Chuck D proclaimed his oft-repeated maxim that hip-hop is the “black CNN,” calypsonians from Trinidad were narrating the struggles experienced by the island’s oil field workers, led by one Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler. In addition to being a labor leader, the Grenada-born Butler was also a Spiritual Baptist preacher, a faith practice then outlawed in Trinidad due to anxieties provoked by its Pentecostal-like emphasis on shouting and physical “possession” by the Holy Spirit.

You Tube – “Where was Butler”, Raymond Quevedo -Atilla The Hun.

Butler is a major figure in Lara Putnam’s Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age, his life illustrating the core thesis of her book. In her conclusion, Putnam states that:

black-internationalist and anti-colonial movements that would shake the twentieth century were rooted in the experiences of ordinary men and women — not only the cosmopolitan streets of Harlem and Paris but also in the banana ports and dance halls of the tropical circum-Caribbean.

Radical Moves thus implicitly offers a corrective to conventional histories of African Diaspora. Paul Gilroy’s 1993 The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness stressed the international character of the literature and politics of African-descended peoples in the 20th century, and focused his attention on major figures like W.E.B. Du Bois and Richard Wright. In the ensuing years, scholars like Brent Hayes Edwards and Minkah Makalani have expanded on Gilroy’s “Black Atlantic,” focusing on metropolitan centers like New York, Paris, and London, filling in the details with somewhat lesser known individuals and organizations. These authors, like Gilroy, prefer to write about individuals with international profiles and concrete political movements, from Claude McKay to the African Blood Brotherhood in Harlem and from George Padmore to the International African Service Bureau in London. In Radical Moves, however, Putnam chooses to focus instead on “the forgotten editors of port-town newspapers and the many thousands of men and women who read their pages and debated the merits in rum shops and butcher store queues.” Within the historiography of the African Diaspora, this is a shift akin to that between the union-centric studies of the “Wisconsin School” of labor history and the opening up to the quotidian of E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class.

For the full original report: Los Angeles Review of Books – Calypso and Caribbean Migration: Lara Putman’s “Radical Moves”

In Memory of the Reincarnation of O’Cangaceiro

Satelite Robber from Ken Archer on Vimeo.


May 17th 2018 marks the 8th anniversary of the death of Brian Honore
, who was known in the calypso world as Commentor and in traditional mas’ circles as the Reincarnation of the O’Cangaceiro, Midnight Robber. Brian dedicated his life to the defense and upliftment of the rich cultural traditions of the people of the twin island state of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean at large.

Drop Your Keys and Bow Your Knees

The Legacy of Calypso Great: Cecil Hume, Maestro

The Trinidad and Tobago Folk Arts Institute in conjunction with the School of Professional and Community Development of Medgar Evers College, CUNY, hosts a panel discussion on the life, work, and legacy of Cecil Hume, the Maestro.  2013 marks the 35th anniversary of his tragic death, and calypso aficionados remain awed by the undeniable genius of this tremendously gifted composer and performer of the art form.

Panel Discussion: Reviewing the Legacy of Calypso Great – MAESTRO

Date: Thursday, February 28, 2013. 7:00 – 10:00pm

Venue: Medgar Evers College, Mary Pinkett Lecture Hall,                                                       1637 Bedford Ave , Brooklyn – Room S122 (bet. Carroll and Crown Streets)

Panelists: Rawlston Charles, calypso-soca music producer/distributor

Frankie McIntosh, acclaimed musical arranger

Kenrick Mead, former producer of calypso music

Admission: Free

“Rituals of Power and Rebellion”

The following article appears in Repeating Islands, Feb. 10, 2013.

Hollis Liverpool just released his book, Rituals of Power and Rebellion: The Carnival Tradition in Trinidad and Tobago (1763 to 1962), at the John S Donaldson, UTT?Port-of-Spain Campus, last Wednesday, as Michelle Loubon reports in this article for The Guardian.

Strumming his guitar, veteran calypsonian/University of T&T professor Hollis Liverpool sang snatches of his comrade Slinger Francisco’s classic Congo Man. The setting was a canefield. It was captured in black and white film during a presentation by retired Alaskan judge and honorary distinguished fellow Ray Funk at the launch of Liverpool’s Rituals of Power and Rebellion The Carnival Tradition in Trinidad and Tobago (1763 to 1962). It took place at John S Donaldson, UTT Port-of-Spain Campus, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday.

A blurb in the UTT pamphlet said Liverpool had successfully managed to put into context the political, economic and cultural forces which inadvertently come together to create Carnival. It also noted that what appeared to be simply a musical bacchanal was in fact the struggle of the oppressed people to maintain their cultural identity in a land of foreign domination and class struggle. During the author’s oral abstract, Liverpool lamented he had to go to Michigan, USA, to do his PhD, owing to the paucity of research material on Carnival locally.

Asked about his magnum opus, Liverpool said, “Besides historical sources I used oral sources. I depended on calypsonians, masmen, writers, masqueraders and boismen. The people whom I interviewed the majority have gone to the great beyond.” Zeroing on the themes of Rituals and Rebellion, Liverpool added, “To a large extent many of the songs, events and masquerades in Carnival are rituals of rebellion. The kalinda and calypso are rituals. We show our resistance at Dimanche Gras. It is a ritual of rebellion. Even the steelband. The Chinese man who was beating pan to attract people to his church. It was the first time we saw pan being played. It is in the newspapers. J’Ouvert represents the real African traditions of the Carnival. It is what Dr Kim Johnson (senior research fellow) called the African impulse. The soucouyant, La Diablesse and cow horns, bats and devils are in J’Ouvert.”

Asked if he felt there was an improvement in the corpus of Carnival literature, Liverpool said, “I don’t know. But the book is going to be an addition to the archives. The book captures all the documentation and historical development of Carnival over time. “It is intended to impart knowledge on the complex nature of Carnival and the different people who have contributed to its development. To a large extent the Carnival defines our personality and our cultural identity.”

Tributes to Liverpool

While preparing to vie for the C2k13 calypso monarch crown Liverpool heard superlatives about his scholarship. His songs were Prodigal Son and Virginia’s Alzheimer. In the background, traditional mas characters like a moko jumbie and midnight robber milled around. Playing Midnight Robber was Damien Whiskey, a student in Liverpool’s MA in Carnival Arts class. Liverpool had pioneered it. Apart from being an academic, Liverpool has clinched the coveted crown eight times with gems like The Bandit Factory and The Mailman. Programme administrator Lana Allard chaired the proceedings in which each speaker wished him a ninth victory.

But the focus was on Liverpool’s book. Among those paying tribute to him were Funk; deputy chairman board of governors Kwais Mutema; Dr Ajamu Nymoba; Dr Fazal Ali, provost and president (acting); senior research fellow Dr Kim Johnson; and Minister of Tertiary Education and Skills Training Fazal Karim. Johnson made the salient point that while everyone celebrated US president Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, Trinidadians had written history by electing its first black Prime Minister, the late historian Dr Eric Williams in 1962. “It was the end of colonial T&T. Chalkie’s book was about the elements and one crucial element was the voice of the people. The voice of the people was not heard,” said Johnson.

Mutema described Liverpool as a cultural icon and said we are fortunate to have him at the helm of the Academy of Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs. “With a PhD in history and ethnomusicology and as the recipient of the prestigious Nicolas Guillen Life-Time Achievement Award for Philosophical Literature, Liverpool stands well qualified both academically as well as practically, to inform us all,” said Mutema.

Karim noted Liverpool’s study of Carnival is a “continuation of the work of academics who are now deceased like Tobago’s Dr JD Elder and Prof Errol Hill, as well as those who are still with us, like Prof Gordon Rohlehr and Dr Jeff Henry.” Apart from Karim, Liverpool made a special presentation to his friend/chairman of committee US Virgin Islands (St Thomas) Kenneth Blake.

For more info, contact UTT at 642-8888 or e-mail theacademy@utt.edu.tt

For the original report go to chalkdust-launches-rituals-power-and-rebellion

See also Calypsonian and WWI Professor Chalkdust launches “Rituals of Power and Rebellion” Repeating Islands.

Calypsonian Penguin takes final bow

The Calypso Fraternity and all Carnival music aficionados and enthusiasts moan the passing of Sedley Joseph, who made tremendous contributions to the art-form, as composer, performer, teacher, and past president of the calypsonians’ organization. The following Trinidad Guardian article, written by Raphael John-Lall, pays homage to this stalwart.

Veteran calypsonian Seadley Joseph, who performed under the name Penguin was a “giant” in the calypso art form says fellow calypsonian Leroy Calliste, known also as Black Stalin. “We lost a giant in calypso music, we also lost a friend,” Stalin said by telephone yesterday.

Joseph, 70, brother of former national security minister Martin Joseph, and a former president of Trinidad Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), passed away yesterday morning after a prolonged illness. He won the Road March title in 1982 with the song A Deputy Essential. He won the Calypso Crown in 1984 with We Living in Jail and Sorf Man. One of his other hits was Look de Devil dey.

Stalin said Joseph will be missed by the calypso fraternity and by the entire country. “He will be missed. His contribution to the artform is too much to even mention,” he said.  Stalin said the younger generation of calypsonians and future generations who get into the calypso genre have a lot to learn from him.

“Apart from his involvement in the music he was also involved on the business side of things and the youths today can learn from how he did things,” he said. President of TUCO, Lutalo Masimba, also known as Brother Resistance, described Joseph’s his death a “great loss.”

“His death is a loss to the music of the world and to T&T as a nation. He was a gifted composer and in my opinion did not get his just due. He was one of the few people who won the Calypso Monarch and Road March,” he said. He said  Joseph’s contribution to TUCO was invaluable.

“What he did for the organisation was important. He pointed TUCO in a progressive direction and it was an honour to work with him,” he said. Winston Anthony Bailey, also known as the Mighty Shadow, was shocked by the news and told the T&T Guardian it was the first time he was hearing of his death but said he did “great work.”

“I knew at one time he was sick. We all have to leave this life at some time, but he did work and made his contribution to the art form,” he said. He added that the younger generation, if they listen to Joseph’s lyrics, might be able to learn something. “This generation if they listen to his melody and humour in his calypsoes could learn something,” he said.

For the original article: Calypsonian Penguin takes final bow | The Trinidad Guardian Newspaper.

Charlie’s Calypso City, the Caribbean Cheers of Brooklyn

The following John Leland article was published in NYTimes.com, Jan. 3, 2013.

SINCE Rawlston Charles opened Charlie’s Calypso City, on Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in July 1972, the store has been a hub for Brooklyn’s Caribbean community, reinventing itself for each era.

n the 1970s, when calypso records were hard to find, the store was a go-to source for sounds straight out of Port of Spain, Trinidad. In the 1980s, when Mr. Charles, 66, opened a recording studio and record company upstairs, it was a magnet not just for calypso performers, but also for rappers like Whodini and the Fat Boys.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, as the borough’s island population grew, the record store expanded and became an essential part of the annual West Indian American Day Parade in Crown Heights, holding a party to start the Labor Day weekend.

And in our own fallen times, when record stores are heading toward obsolescence?

“It’s like the neighborhood Cheers,” said Tammy Hall, 53, lingering in the store on a recent Friday night, along with about a dozen other longtime regulars — drinking wine or soda; eating rice and peas, barbecue chicken or spicy cow’s feet; shouting around a television that played a Nets game.

Ms. Hall’s partner, Norris Thompson, 57, has been going to Charlie’s for 40 years, since he and his friend John Evelyn, now 60, were the store’s first sales clerks. Neither still works there, but chances are this is where they will be on a Friday night, talking about sports, music, Caribbean politics, American politics and nothing in particular. “This is the mecca of everything right here,” said Michael Greaves, a board member of the annual parade. “The ladies treat us like kings. And you couldn’t find a better guy than Charlie to hang out with. He tolerates us.”

Mr. Charles, a native of Tobago, started the store largely because he couldn’t find the calypso records that had been a vital part of his youth. At the time, he said, Fulton Street was a forbidding place. As the neighborhood improved, he watched his children thrive: his daughter Tina Charles, shown in posters and newspaper clippings on the store’s walls, was the most valuable player in the W.N.B.A. last year, and his son, Rawlston Charles Jr., plays basketball in Europe.

But the store is not the business that it once was. Young people rarely enter, he said, and even older customers are scarce. A nearby mainstay, Birdel’s Records, which had been in business since 1944, closed in 2011, done in by the same forces now eating away at Charlie’s. If he did not own the building, he said, it would be hard to keep going.

For now, though, he still has Friday nights. The crowd here might be intimidating to strangers: Sometimes people are yelling at the television; sometimes they are hitting on percussion instruments called irons, modeled on automobile brake hubs.

But for the regulars, it is a place beyond commerce — a necessary destination for visiting musicians, a place where there are chairs waiting and arguments to be joined. “When we want to see someone, we say, ‘Come by Charlie’s,’ ” said Kenny Alexander, 66. “It’s like my second home.”

The music thumped, the Nets won, the food and wine were still going strong. The secret? Mr. Charles, dressed in a natty gray jacket, looked over at his friends.

“Hard work, perseverance; believe in yourself and just stay because of the love you have for it,” he said, adding, “I’m not making a whole bunch of money, but I’m O.K.; I can survive.”

It was the last get-together of the year, and a warm and caloric tiding for the new one about to begin.

For the original article: Charlie’s Calypso City, the Caribbean Cheers of Brooklyn – NYTimes.com.