Kaiso No 26 - August 7, 1999
Greetings! There's plenty of news from various newspapers on calypso this summer but most intriguing to me is from 1951. Perhaps one of the most infamous calypsos that may never have gotten recorded is an anti-apartheid number, "Don't Malign Malan" that caused a stir on three continents! At this point, I can't even confirm it is a calypso though it certainly appears to be one given the lyrics, performed a jazz singer and dancer, Marie Bryant.
Born in New Orleans, this daughter of bandleader and longtime Apollo MC Willie Bryant, entered showbiz at 16 at the Cotton Club, had an ongoing association with Duke Ellington, appears in several films, notably The Duke Is Tops (1938), dancing in Gang War (1940) and sings On the Sunny Side of
the Street in the famous jazz short Jammin' The Blues (1944), and appears as a singer in the film noir classic, Nicholas Ray's They Live By Night (1949) and in the Betty Grable musical, Wabash Avenue (1950) and in one of Elllington's soundies. She reportedly dies in 1978.
She made her British debut in April 1952 and within a month married an Indian engineering student who was 21. She gave her name as Marie Neal Bryant and her age as 34. She was in Britain at least until 1954 and recorded both jazz and Caribbean material. She records four highly regarded jazz sides with Humphrey Lyttelton. She records a number of calypso with both Lyragon and London from 1952 to 1954 and some of these recordings are released in the United States on Monogram with her Don't Touch Me Tomato being released on several album collections.
She causes an international scandal in May of 1953 that gets reported on the front page of the New York Times concerning an anti-apartheid calypso, Don't Malign Malan concerning South Africa's Prime Minister Daniel Malan.
Don't malign Malan because he dislikes our tan
She was appearing at the time nightly in a West End production at the Hippodrome, Stephen Mitchell's High Spirits at a time when Malan was in London for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Written by David Climie, the song Don't Malign Malan was reportedly getting the biggest round of applause of anything in the revue. There were pieces about it in The Manchester Guardian and the Sunday Express about it and Die Transvaler in Johannesberg where it was called "a shocking song." Regretablly, it does not appear to be recorded.
We know that it is wrong to have a skin that's all brown
And wrong to be born on the wrong side of town.
It is quite right that our filthy old homes be burned down,
Malan is a wonderful man - Don't malign Malan
He's doing the best he can.
She appears in a British feature film in 1955 called Tiger by the Tail, released in the US as Cross Up as a singer but it is unclear whether she sings calypso or jazz.
Further details on song and singer are not known at this time, but I am on it!
Meanwhile the news is coming in on a number of calypso competitions around the Caribbean for the summer Carnival season. I have been following them as I best I can through on line newspapers reachable through www.caribbeannewspapers.com
Onyan, former lead singer for Burning Flames, won the Antigua calypso monarch for the third year in a row in a Carnival season that was marked by a controversial split between the government competition and a separate one run by the calypsonian association, the People's Monarch won by Kiblai. The Calypsonian Association went their own way when the government reduced the number of finalists at the monarch competition and abandoned an annual calypso queen competition.
A new newspaper on line in Antigua, The Source, has a complete list of the calypso monarchs of Antigua with a few photos:
- 1999 Antigua Calypso Monarch
1. Onyan - Family / Swim
2. Smarty Jr - Horse's Mouth / Sleeping Dogs
3. Sleepy - Wadadli / Ills of the World
- 1999 Antigua People's Calypso Monarch
1. Kiblai - Wicked Set of People / Can't Dictate My Kaiso
2. Zicari - Lies / Into the New Millenium
3. Ivena - Don't Sing It So / Write Your Resolution
I have been looking for such information piece by piece and it was a delight to find it on the Web. There should be detailed lists fore every competition! Now if there was only details on all the calypsonians, the winning songs, and whether they were recorded.
Aruba holds a pre-Lenten Carnival and this year the Mighty Talent, Claudius Phillips, won both the Road March and the Calypso Monarch. The Aruba Carnival website offers a photo, biography, lyrics to both songs, and Realaudio of both songs at:
Talent has won the Aruba monarchy 13 times and the road march nine times! However, how many calypso fans even know his name or have his recordings?
Gabby took the Calypso crown in Barbados for the 6th time, while last year's monarch Red Plastic Bag, who has won the monarchy five times, dropped out at the last minute.
- Barbados Calypso Monarch
1. Gabby - Mock Sport / This World
2. Kid Site - Take Him Down / The Man From St Peter
3. Miss TC - Broken Dolls / Victory (Gabby)
4. Khoimal - Children, Get Up / Rise, Barbados, Rise
The details should be in next week. However, one of the country's leading calypsonians, Black Wizard, has a stinging political commentary on the losers in the recent election that he announced that he was dropping out of the competition.
Bachelor, Jason Joseph, was the monarch with a popular selection denouncing hypocrisy.
While I can glean the above from the newspaper stories, I wish it was possible to hear live tent and competitions broadcast on the internet and a place to hear the winning selections as well as have ready information on where to get various recordings of these artists and others involved in these competitions.
Complete back issues of the Kaiso newsletter can now be found on the web at the excellent on-line world music journal, Musical Traditions. If you missed any, check them out at:
Keep those email messages and news coming to the Rainy Summer No Longer Frozen North and I'll try to be more regular in the newsletters.
Ray Funk - 7.8.99