Kaiso No 22 - April 22, 1999

No need to go into the various excuses why I have been delayed in getting this newsletter out. My apologies. Spring has come to Fairbanks and we are out on walks with the dogs and biking with the kids.

Lionel Belasco

Many people may have been intrigued at the Calypso Revue this year by Devon Seale's fine performances of GB's Lio, which tells the story of pioneer composer, pianist and band leader Lionel Belasco. This young calypso singer went to the monarch finals with it. However, few of Belasco's extensive recordings from the Twenties and Thirties have been available until now. Rounder Records continues to issue more of classic calypsos CDs than any other label and has just issued a new CD, Lionel Belasco, Goodnight Ladies and Gents: The Creole Music of Lionel Belasco, Rounder 1138. I can't wait to hear it!

Virgin Island Carnival

Upcoming in the next few weeks is Virgin Islands Carnival. They have a good website at   www.vicarnival.com   and list all last year's winners but with no details as to the calypsos themselves. Last year's Road March was by the Starlites featuring Wahdablee titled This One's for Milo dedicated to one of the Virgin Island's great bandleaders, Emile Francis, whose band Milo and the Kings recorded several albums and played on the Road in Trinidad in the Seventies. Their Carnival committee is headed by Blakie, Kenneth Blake, himself a calypsonian, when not serving as an officer in the police force. In addition, on Sunday afternoon from 5:00 to 10:00 pm, he hosts a radio show, Calypso, Past & Present on KISS, 101.3 fm. Also on KISS is Lincoln Farrell's Golden Age of Calypso on Mondays 7:00 to 9:00 and a program of strictly local Virgin Island music on Tuesday nights, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. KISS also broadcasts live on the web. Check them out at   www.wwks.net  Thanks to Carmen Nibbs-O'Garro, wife of calypsonian Figgy who has been keeping me informed on Virgin Island calypso. Figgy has been competing in the competitions and has two good CDs, check out his web site   www.members.spree.com/figgy2/

I still have very spotty information on Virgin Islands calypso but certainly as early as the Fifties Trinidad calypsonians were going to the Virgin Islands to perform at their Carnival and in hotels. The Mighty Zebra, Charles Harris, came to VI for the 1952 Carnival and appears to have stayed for several years being based at the Virgin Isles Hotel with the La Motta Brothers Band. He recorded an album for RCA in 1956 where he covered songs by Radio, Terrror, Spoiler as well as his own calypsos like the following one for the all female steelband, the Girl Pat Band.

Zebra - Ping-Pong

Christmas night was confusion
Mama believe me I jump in a steel band
It was the Girl Pat orchestra coming dozen
With some fiery tunes to burn the town
So I jump in the band without hesitation
And ask the leader for a beat on her ping pong

Give me a beat on your pomalong, pomalong, pom, porn
And armed with my big stick in my hand
Give me a beat on your pomalong, pomalong, pom, porn, pomalong

The woman start to bawl like a ram goat
I'll give you a beat but I fraid you bust the note
I sald darling I'll be careful
Because I see that the ping pong is very beautiful
She said that stick you got too big for this pan
And if you bust the notes I have another one
I said honey I give you a guarantee
That if you give me a beats I will touch the notes softly

All that I beg for she wouldn't give me
So I said I got to do a little showing off on she
So I snatch another girl's ping pong
And I started to beaf a beautiful little song
Bassplayer then started to get jealous
Zebble I want my tune boom test
But before I touch a note the leader start to shout

Don't let him beat on your pomalong, pom, porn
He going to mash up your tomalong, pang, pang
Give me a beat on your tomalong pom, pang, pamlong

When I saw water more than flower
I decoded to start making advances on her
So I spoke some remarkable English
But she turn to me and said, Zebbie you foolish
I could have give you a beat without all that fuss
But that stick you got is ridiculous
So I left the band and ran home like a mad man
And work down the stick to suit the occasion.

Zebra was born in Grenada in about 1927 and is deceased. He moved to Trinidad as a child and became very interested in calypso. He was in the Young Brigade tent in the late '40s. Sang No Pan, No Pan in the Band in the Young Brigade in 1948 and a song about stick fighting. He was active in the tents until he moved to the Virgin Islands. He returned to Trinidad to appear in the OYB tent in 1959 featuring Jamaica and the Federation. He continued to sing in the OYB throughout the '60s. I'm looking of course for more information on his career.

Ray Funk

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