Kaiso No 5

Greetings from the Far North of Alaska where it is the time of the Midnight Sun and regular rain.  My eight year old son Owen just won blue ribbons at the local state fair for a dinosaur riddle haiku and vegetable earrings made of jalapenos and radish slices while I stay up nights listening and thinking about calypso.  I've been thinking about calypso too much some might say.  Who is Unknown Soldier?  What about Vital Angel who issued many impossible to find calypso records in the Fifties on his Vitadisc label?  Many people remember that calypsonians back in the Thirties would create a new calypso on a topical event, sing it on the street corner and sell the lyric to it for a penny on a broadside.  The question is have any of those survived?  Not that I can find!

A decade ago I started collecting calypso and Soca records and for the last four years have come down for Carnival.  Since then, I've been researching calypso, working on a Who's Who with John Child in London and trying to work up discographies on every calypsonian and on my computer build a database of calypso lyrics.  Last month I started a short weekly e-mail letter to other collectors and researchers, with draft Who's Who entries, lyrics, questions.  Kim Johnson suggested I let the Express publish them so here I am.

Now it may seem crazy for someone in Alaska and London to work on a calypso Who's Who but no one else seems to be doing so and we are dedicated to giving it a good effort.  We're starting at the A's and it will be quite a while to get this into shape but here is the draft entry for one of the first entries we are working on.

De Alberto (Winston Albert, born Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad; raised in Morvant)

A teacher who rose to prominence in the '80s with songs of political commentary.  While at Government Teacher's Training College '76, spearheaded a Trinidad & Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) march for trade union recognition; composed and sang five songs for teachers union marches including They Must Go and Recognize TTUTA Right Now.  Debuted at Spektakula calypso tent '84; made impact '85 with Pyramid Bust, about the popular game that left many Trinidadians penniless, and Mother-in-Law Gift, qualifying for that year's National Calypso Monarch semi-final and voted Most Promising Calypsonian by the Carnival Development Committee.  Released first mini-album Here's To De Buss on Can the following year.  Sang Granny Lucas and Words '86; qualified for that year's Young Kings final and National Monarch semis.  Teamed-up with Bally and Rootsman to release a cassette compilation of their '86 calypsos which sold 6,000 copies.  

Had international hit '87 with title track of album Rambo the Avenger distributed by Crosby's (issued on B's in US) including Pan Woman, composed by Winsford Devines with co-arrangement by pan maestro Ray Holman and Leston Paul, which Exodus steel orchestra took to first place in East Zone Panorama final (Cordettes' performance of Pan Woman tied third) and eighth position in National Panorama final; both tunes were released in 12-inch format on Hot Vinyl in UK; toured New York, Washington DC, St Vincent and Grenada during '87.  Returned '88 with the humorous Macho Belly from Moving On on Love People featuring My Band, penned by Holman, Devines and Alberto with co-arrangement by Holman and Paul, which Carib Tokyo steel orchestra took to fourth position in National Panorama final; LP sold over 10,000 copies outside T&T.  Toured again '88, visiting Jamaica, Miami, Los Angeles, Toronto and New York; performed at the historical 'Soca On Broadway' concert headlined by Sparrow and Arrow at the Big Apple's Beacon Theatre, Easter Saturday 2 Apr '88.  Last album was Stronger than Ever '89 on Love People including double entendre No Pan Dey in the Party, the calypso won him nightly encores at Spektakula; competed in that year's Young Kings final.  Produced cassette compilations with Bally, Rootsman and Scrunter for '87-9 seasons.

Lived in Santa Cruz and taught at Barataria Boys R C school before relocating to London '90, where he continued full time teaching and seeks to advance his calypso career at every opportunity.  Released single Caribbean Party / Dry Chalk on Hot Vinyl '92.  Performed at '91's Socalypso calypso picnic, London, headlined by Superblue.  Supported Singing Francine with Tobago Crusoe at Dougie's Intermezzo Club and Restaurant, East London, Aug '92.  Joined cast of Crusoe's Kaiso House July-Aug '94, a Sunday night calypso tent led by Tobago Crusoe at Dougie's Intermezzo.  Performed Bat On Lara in tribute event to Trinbagonian cricketer Brain Lara at London's Equinox, Leicester Square '95; appeared with Crusoe at London's prestigious Grosvenor House Hotel '96.  Penned calypsos for BBC2's Black comedy revue TV show Get Up, Stand Up.  As Head of Special Needs at Princess May Junior School, East London, he began preparing a collection of self esteem calypsos '98, incl.  Johnny King's Appreciation, Shadow's Everybody Is Somebody and Baron's Nobody's Soldier, for use as a teaching aid.

Any additions?  Corrections?  Anyone have tapes of those early teacher's union calypsos?

Now, while many may remember Alberto well, what about Unknown Soldier?  He draws a few mentions in newspaper ads or articles in the Forties and is prominently mentioned in one calypso by Small Island Pride.

Letter from Executor (1952)

I received a letter from Lord Executor
Signed Basil the manager
Yes, a letter came from Lord Executor
Yes, it was signed by Basil the manager
He said he bounce up the Unknown Soldier,
Killer, Destroyer, and the Mighty Growler
He said next year is bachannal
He signed a contract for Carnival
He said Cyril Monrose is the band leader
He said Jack James playing the tenor,
Eastman on the trumpet and Filo on the bass
And two dead Jamaicans jocking their waist

Well, in the letter had a strip of paper
Killer ask me to do him a favor
He tell me to try and contact the Spoiler
And try me best to set up Invader
Because Hoodahl is their manager
He promised to take them up to Hell
Where Mussolini cuttin' record
So send him some "Mighty" don't send him "Lord"
He said with Invader and Executor,
Spoiler, Killer and the Growling Growler
Well if they don't make no bachannal
Boys, is fire in hell for this carnival!

I read the first page and then turn over
Executor explaining me the boys behavior
He said Destroyer is a real nice fella
You find him at the gates working as a checker
He said Winston Wright, the Unknown Soldier,
He works with King George as a porter
Killer working with Cabin in the rum band
Cipriani a duke, Growler as a son
He said that is scandal every evening
Four o'clock when the boys done working
When Killer and Growler drink their hot stuff
They blastin' road march after road march.

Bolo Christopher remembers Unknown Soldier was from Siparia.  Anyone recall what calypsos he sang?  Or more information about him? Exciting news for lovers of early calypso is that tapes of a 1946 calypso concert in New York City featuring Lord Invader, Duke of Iron and Macbeth the Great have turned up in the Alan Lomax Archives and are being put together for a Rounder reissue.  Details next week!

The above is my first attempt to put this in a form for the Press.  We'll see if they run it.  You'll note I am not using my old e-mail address, rfunk@polarnet.com which I am having problems with and ask you all use the new hotmail account as I don't seem to be getting all my messages through polarnet.  If you don't hear back from me on an e-mail within 48 hrs, please re-send.

I am finalizing my ticket to Brooklyn for Labor Day Carnival and Hartford, Conn.  for the Carnival Conference where I hope to get to see a lot of you as well as do a lot of interviewing of calypsonians.

Ray Funk

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