Calypso Music

New York honour for Alison Hinds

Barbados’ reports that SOCA QUEEN Alison Hinds has been bestowed with an honour from New York City just in time for Christmas.

The former lead singer of Square One was presented with a proclamation and citation on Monday after performing with a host of Caribbean music headliners at the Caribbean Fever Music Festival at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.

The proclamation, from Deputy Majority Leader of the New York City Council and Council Member for the 27th District Leroy Comrie, honoured Hinds for xemplary service spanning her 20-year career on music stages across the Caribbean and as far as Stockholm, Sweden.

The proclamation called her a legend, noted her appearance on the Today  Show, her work in chutney and soca music, as well as her humanitarian work in HIV/AIDS, women’s rights and with the Diabetes Foundation.

The citation was signed by Senator Eric Adams of the New York State Senate’s 20th District.

“It feels great to be recognized for what I do, not only outside of Barbados but outside of the region for these many years,”  Hinds told the SATURDAY SUN on  Thursday.

“But I still have more to do. I ain’t done yet,” said the singer of hits like Roll, Faluma, Ragamuffin and Unity.

For original report: New York honour for Alison Hinds — NationNews Barbados — Local, Regional and International News —

See also: Repeating Islands


The Calypso Queen

The following article was written by Tony Hiller for World Music, and published on Sept. 2, 2001.

McArtha Linda Sandy-Lewis might never be immortalized in the global annals of female activism, but the feisty woman claiming that formal and somewhat long-winded moniker has certainly made an indelible mark on the history of Caribbean music. Back in 1978, Calypso Rose, as she is widely known, shattered the glass ceiling in Trinidad & Tobago when paradoxically becoming the first of her gender to win the coveted ‘Calypso King’ crown. Organizers of the annual championship were obliged to change the title to ‘Calypso Monarch’, and Rose went on to win the prestigious event for five consecutive years. In recent years, the Tobago-born singer has gone international with her trademark husky vocals, incisive wit and raunchy calypso and up-tempo soca songs.

Now 70 years of age, Calypso Rose revisited her trail-blazing days after being voted the No. 1 calypsonian of Trinidad & Tobago earlier this year. Speaking from New York City, where she has resided for the past three decades, this voluble, irrepressible woman, said: “The calypso scene has changed immensely over the years. It was mostly men back in the early days like Kitchener [Lord Kitchener], The Lion [Roaring Lion], The Sparrow [Mighty Sparrow], Atilla The Hun and Lord Irie. When I came into the arena in 1955, Lady Irie, the wife of Lord Irie, was the only female and she was a senior citizen at that time.”

Despite calypso being a male domain, Calypso Rose, a Baptist minister’s daughter, says she was received “very highly” by audiences in general, but not by church groups, who frowned upon her performing in that milieu. “They called me to meeting after meeting,” she recalls. “They wanted to know how come a young girl like me could be in the calypso tents, singing calypso between all the men. In 1963 I said: ‘Look, I will not be like the five foolish virgins that buried their talent in the soil’. I said: ‘The Lord has given me the ability to write calypso lyrics and create the melody and make the people happy and I will continue doing that until the day I die’, and I got up and I walked out of the room.” Whether by divine intervention or not, it’s a fact that Hurricane Flora devastated the islands of Tobago and Grenada soon after. “I wrote a calypso about the hurricane to sing in the tent in 1964. After every verse I sang ‘Abide With Me’.” After rendering a verse of said hymn down the line from Queens, Rose suggests that may have given her some purchase with the church elders.

As an idiom, calypso currently lives in the shadows but that wasn’t always the case. In 1969 Calypso Rose was on an equal footing with Bob Marley. The Caribbean artists performed together at a New Year’s Eve concert held in the ballroom of the Grand Concourse in New York’s Bronx. “The people went crazy,” Rose recalls. During its heyday in the late ‘50s, Harry Belafonte took calypso to the top of the pop charts with ‘The Banana Boat Song’ (aka ‘Day O’). Calypso Rose, who has written over 800 songs, herself had a major hit in the Caribbean with her signature number ‘Fire in Meh Wire’, which was subsequently recorded in nine different languages, and Bonnie Raitt did a cover version of her ‘Wah She Go Do’. “I was in San Francisco one year performing and she came on stage and sung it with me,” she says. Rose has rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in show business. In 1978 she did a gig with the late Michael Jackson. In Europe she says she has performed to audiences of up to 10,000. Back home, where she’s regarded as a living legend, Rose is a fixture during the annual carnival season in Trinidad & Tobago, playing for many thousands of revellers.

Rooted in social and political commentary, calypso is a music form that puts more emphasis on lyrics than almost any other idiom, and is invariably peppered with patois. Rose has written her share of risqué numbers over the years, but only one overtly political song, ‘The Boat Is Rocking’, which she penned leading up to a crucial local election. One of the songs she’s most proud of, ‘No, Madame’, she wrote when Trinidad & Tobago domestics were working for a paltry $25 a month. “Soon after that song was released, the government voted that no domestic should work for less than $1200 a month.” Rose says that you could sing just about anything in the calypso tents, but the more controversial songs wouldn’t be played on the radio.

She points out that calypso has changed considerably in style over the years and that these days soca, a faster, more dance-orientated variant which places less emphasis on the lyrics, holds sway. “It’s gone from the minor calypso to the four-verse calypso, from the four-line calypso to the eight-line calypso. With the four-verse calypso you’re getting more rhythm. The structure of the bass has been changed and the drumming has been changed too. It’s vastly different now, and I think that is the reason why the Mighty Sparrow and myself are still on the road working because we do soca, although we also do the old-style calypso.”

It was calypso that enabled a 13-year-old McArtha Lewis to overcome a debilitating stammer. “I’ve come a very long way,” she reflects. “I couldn’t speak without stuttering badly back then.” Calypso Rose will forever be proud of the fact that she opened the doors to let other females enter the long-time male preserve of calypso. As she observes: “There are a lot of female calypsonians around these days, not only in Trinidad & Tobago but the whole of the Caribbean and even beyond.”

• The above interview first appeared in Rhythms, Australia’s only dedicated roots music magazine, for which the author is World/Folk correspondent.

For original report: The Calypso Queen | World Music


In a Calabash or In de Savanah Party: Pelham Makes Music


Musician, arranger, and composer Pelham Goddard has been involved in the musical life of the Caribbean for over 4 decades. Pelham was born into a musical family that includes the renowned steelpan leader, George Goddard. His mother played the piano and his brothers were all actively involved in the steelpan movement in west Port of Spain, Trinidad. The music of the Goddard household took hold of Pelham at an early age, and he took up playing the piano.

Growing up in the town of St. James, with a proliferation of steel orchestras and Hosay yards in close proximity, significantly impacted Pelham musical drive. By the 1960s he actively participated as a drummer in the annual Hosay festival. He also became an in-demand keyboard and bass player for numerous musical aggregations participating in the burgeoning combo culture among young musicians in Trinidad at the time. During the late 60s Pelham made his foray into steelband as a five-bass player with Starlift Steel Orchestra.

The 1970s saw Pelham blossom forth in even greater demand, particularly for his keyboard/paino skill. He was invited to join the musical band, the Dutchy Brothers led by Pete de Vlught. Among the respected musicians he played alongside in this band was Earl Rodney, revered pannist and steelpan arranger. Following this experience with the Dutchies, Pelham was encouraged by the late Clive Bradley, talented musician and pan arranger, to join the Esquires, a combo led by Bradley.

Pelham Goddard – The Combo Experience from Ken Archer on Vimeo.

In this setting Pelham was driven to enhance of knowledge of music theory, and to write and arrange music for the Esquires with Brass. By the mid-70s, Pelham also became a steady studio musician and a stable member of the Art de Coteau Orchestra, which provided accompaniment on many calypso recordings and toured throughout the Caribbean, performing in many Carnivals, festivals, and shows around the region.

The 70s also herald two additional aspects of Pelham musical career. The decade saw Starlift Steel Orchestra endure significant ruptures that led to former members founding Phase II Steel Orchestra led by Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, the now-defunct Pandemonium Steel Orchestra, and the Third World Steel Orchestra. Pelham was recruited as the musical arranger for Third World, which was located in his native St. James. This marked his foray into the world of steelpan arranging, and he has gone on to be one of the foremost steelband arrangers, especially for his work with the Exodus Steel Orchestra.

Change and experiment also characterized the musical environment of the 70s, and Pelham was at the forefront of this. He was intimately involved in the advent of Soca music, performing with the late Garfield Blackman – Ras Shorty I, who is credited with development of this innovative genre in calypso music.

Pelham also played and recorded with Ed Watson, Dr. Soca. This bandleader, arranger, and composer is recognized for his contribution to the Soca genre, and is known to have arranged music for a number singers at the time, including Ras Shorty I and the deceased Aldwyn Roberts – the Lord Kitchener.

Pelham’s sterling contribution to this genre crystalized as founder, leader, and musical arranger for the Charlies Roots band, which became internationally respected for its calypso music played at Carnivals and festivals across the North and South America, Europe , and the Caribbean. Over that period Pelham penned arrangements for 13 road marches in the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and produced music for some calypsonians such as: Calypso Rose, David Rudder, Austin Lyons – Superblue, Chrisopher “Tambu” Herbert, and Cecil Hume – Maestro.

In the following video Pelham Goddard speaks about his early life as a musician in Trinidad; the different influences that shaped his development: his family, the steelbands of St. James, Hosay, and the developing combo scene. Great information, not only about Pelham’s formative years musically, but also the various bands existent at the time. Pelham – The Beginnings