Kaiso No 14 - December, 1998

Well, it is easy to focus on Carnival and the Caribbean as the temperature dips to -25 at night here in Fairbanks and the sun is coming up at 9am and setting at four.  Also, a good time to heat up a bowl of callaloo, which brings up the subject of -

Calypso Callaloo

The first use of this phrase I've found was for what is now called the annual clash between calypso tents.  The Monday before Carnival at the Savannah has been for several years a clash between Spektacula and the Revue.  This practice started in 1967 as a fund-raiser for the Calypsonian Association and featured the best of Original Young Brigade, the Calypso Revue and the Calypso Theatre.  It was called Calypso Calalloo for the next several years.  In 1969, the title was used for an anthology album on the Tropico label and featured two cuts each by the Mighty Bomber, Chalkdust, Mighty Power, Composer, and King Fighter with the first side titled First Helping and the reverse, Second Helping.  I can say I have never seen this rare album and just got full details from Dmitri Subotsky, a serious calypso record collector from London who recently has been helping add items to my working discographies of several calypsonians.

The phrase is also the title of a book by Donald R Hill, Calypso Calaloo: Early Carnival Music in Trinidad, University of Florida Press, complete with a CD (which is available separately on Rounder with the same title).  It was Don who really sparked my interest in calypso, he who first told me a decade ago that Sir Lancelot was alive in Los Angeles and I decided to try calling to interview him, which resulted in a reissue album on Lancelot a decade ago.   That was my first serious calypso research, years before I ever got a chance to come to Trinidad.

Anyway, everyone should own the book and if you don't, Don has a few copies at an attractive price.  Email him at hilldr@oneonta.edu and check out his website at   http://www.oneonta.edu/~hilldr/

At this site there are photos that Hill has taken over thirty years of various carnivals, draft copies of published and unpublished articles, links to sound samples from CDs he has been involved with, and other goodies.   Coming soon: an audio copy of his talk at the fall '98 Carnival conference at Trinity College, Hartford, CT.

Anyway, to go back to the callaloo theme, this week I offer the following lyric to un-recorded calypso from 1950.

Wonder - My Troubles With the Eastern Market

One Sunday morning I take up me basket
Hurry hurry and I float in the market
One Sunday morning I take up me basket
Hurry hurry and I float in the market
I said I feel to drink some callaloo
So I bought me bush crabs and ochro too
Long ago you buy a crab not a speck of mud
Well tied with a piece of grass that was a good job.

Since they putting them on a scale
Well a crab today have more weight than a whale
Because it's mud on the thing like fire
And they tying them with rope and cable wire.

I buy my dasheen I buy me chicken
Me papers so I rest me goods in me kitchen
Quite on me soap box I went and sit down
Reading 'bout the two children that born stick on
While reading I shock to see
A big snake thief a bake in Caroni
When me wife kill the chicken she call to me
Inside of it just like the Eastern foundry

It may be the first of your hearing
It full up with balls from a ball bearing
Safety pin, Hair pin, nail file, zip
I even find a bicycle chain inside it.

I sure you don't know the racket
Running inside the fish market
Long ago you buy a fish they would scale it for you
Cut it and wrap it in thick paper too
But with the black market now in place
They wouldn't scratch a scale from off a fish face
If you are not paying black market price as male
They'll hit you the old talk it's not for sale.

And as though the fishes don't take the bait again
They eating the lead from off the seine
I bought a four pound catfish from Oxley
And I find two pounds of lead inside the belly.

I buy me cow-milk flour inside it
I wonder how they want me to keep fit
They must be think I have a farm in me belly
For the kind of thing they does sell me
I buy me pudding it thick and fat
I find a small pig inside of that
I bought a couple eggs to eat with me bread
Chicken hawk flying all over me head.

The Mighty Wonder (Victor Atwell)

Wonder is one of those calypsonians on whom I continue to seek information.  He is cousin of pianist Winifred Atwell.  In the Young Brigade at the Calypso Palace in 1948 with Visit to Grenada and Why Ma Dog Must Bawl in 1951 with Laughing Man and New Constitution.  Sang out of the Victory tent in 1952.  Recorded for the Sa Gomes, Calypso and Kiskedee labels in the early fifties and was well known for Ramgoat Baptism, Lady Shaw, Ju-C and Follow Me Children.

He left for Venezuela in about 1954, returned for a short visit in 1964 and returned after 16 years in 1970 returned to perform at the Revue with four new tunes, Mr Tie, Steel on Carnival Day, Trinidad Independence in Venezuela and Too Much Smut on Records.  He is reported to have returned to Venezuala after the season but I have not able to confirm this or any information on him since 1970.  Anybody help?

Ray Funk

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