Kaiso No 10 - October 19, 1998

Greetings! Yes, winter is here in Alaska.  The snow is on the ground and I've been to my first University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey game.  Remember snow is not, as Californians suppose, something you visit but, for someone like me brought up in Chicago, something you shovel.  We are losing sunlight at a rate of about 45 minutes a week and it starts to get dramatic very quick.  But on to calypso!

The Mighty Killer

I have been focusing the last couple weeks on a legendary calypsonian, Killer, who is best remembered for In a Calabash.  I have been putting together the little bits I can gather on him and working on a set of all the lyrics I have for his songs.  I'd be delighted to hear from anyone with more information.

Killer (Cephas Alexander).  died 1952

From Gasparillo, Killer is best remembered for his 1950 winning Road March, In a Calabash which Charlie's Roots with Rudder remade as Calabash for the theme for Minshall's mas band Golden Calabash in 1985.  It came third in the Road March contest '85.  Besides the Road March, he is known for a series of songs about Afro-Indian relations including Indian Wedding AKA Grinding Marsala (1947), Indian Women With Creole Names (1950/51) and Indian Politicians (1950).  He also did calypsos about the Chinese population and other islands in the Caribbean, with In a Calabash itself a look at St Lucia.

Killer died suddenly after only after a half dozen years singing in the tents but is still remembered as a leading calypsonian of the late Forties.  Killer won second prize in 1946 at the Savannah and sang at the House of Lords tent, Unsolved Crimes and Green Fowl AKA Parrot.  Then, in 1947, he helped found the Young Brigade and was noted to sing Mabel Leggo Me Finger, Carnival in Town, Indian Marriage, Baptist Song and Animal Concert in Cemetery.  In 1948 at the start of the season at the Old Brigade he was singing The Green Fowl and The Bad Johns in Trinidad and later in the season also featured The Mule and the Corbeau and Work Killed all My Family switching back before the season was over to the Young Brigade.  He won a Silver Cup and was the only calypsonian featured at the Queen's Park Dimache Gras show, thus making him the 1948 monarch by default.  In 1949, he won a contest at the Calypso Rendevous with Old Time Calypso.  He won a Young Brigade contest in 1950 with a song about the McCarthy child case, Laws of the Colony.  Won the silver cup for outstanding calypso of 1948 for probably either Green Fowl or The Bad Johns in Trinidad.

He was known to have made at least one commercial recording, Sa Gomes 130 Romantic Chinaman / Animal Concert in Cemetery, and the only known surviving recording that exists is from a tape of a live show in 1950 of him at Invader's nightclub singing Indian Wedding and in a war with Atilla, Invader and Skipper.

Regrettably, I have been unable to locate anyone who has that one Sa Gomes 78.  Anyone know of a copy? Here's his first popular number.

Green Fowl

Big trouble with a rooster that I had
And a parrot where I live at Fyzabad
Big trouble with a rooster that I had
And a parrot where I live at Fyzabad
I never see that since I born
You know I had to stop giving my rooster corn
I had a duck in the yard the rooster kill it dead
And now he planning to capture my parrot head
The Parrot say be careful be careful
How you going on when you belly full
For if you rush me like the duck you go get you bet
Because I sure you never see a green fowl yet

Every morning and evening
Where I living my neighbors complaining
Sometimes bout your pigeons
Or their baby chickens just born
What a funny rooster
Ain't passing nothing so longst you have feather
I stand up in the yard I laugh til I fall
For when he carry at the parrot the parrot bawl
Be careful be careful

When you see me rooster in his rage
It does tackle my bird inside the cage
Some guinea birds by my neighbor
He does have them bawling for murder
I had to stone him down with a big rock
Trying to din-day my neighbor peacock
Even corbeaus and all he does have in France
When it comes to the parrot he can't get a chance
The parrot say be careful be careful

Big trouble I had last week Saturday
With a turkey that I bought from Garraway
You know how them turkey big and strong
You don't know my rooster knock him down
My little girl child start to bawl daddy
Look how the rooster killing the turkey
Where the parrot upstairs he watching everything
After the baccanal done he start to laugh and sing
You fix up, you fix up properly
Last time was duck this time is turkey
When you coming to me you going to get your bet
Cause I sure that you never see a green fowl yet.

Killer is not to be confused with Young Killer, who was active in the tents in Trinidad in the 60s and who I got to visit in Brooklyn last month.


For a new item for these newsletters, I will try to add a brain teaser occasionally.  This week's puzzler: what song did Kitchener write for a good friend to perform in 1988?   Answer next week.

Calypso Song Craze

One of the interesting phases in calypso was the period around when there was a true 'craze' for calypso in the US with movies like Calypso Joe and Bop Girl Goes Calypso being made.  They both featured Lord Flea, a Jamaican calypsonian who was performing at the time in Vegas and Miami.  Born Norman Thomas, he was allegedly crowned the 1951 calypso king of Jamaica!  This was stated in one of the song craze lyric booklets of the time though I have never seen other references to calypso contests taking place in Jamaica in the Fifties.

Ray Funk

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