Kaiso No 27 - August 18, 1999

One of Barbados' biggest calypso and soca stars is John King who has been a leader in Cropover activities for years and a founder of the Conqueror's tent.  He has produced eight albums from 1987 to last year.  He is known especially to Trinidadians for his band Jegna that featured Nigel and Marvin Lewis.   Recently, a remarkably detailed annotated discography has been issued about King: Elizabeth Watson - From "Ma Boy" to a King, John King, 1982-1998, an Annotated Discography of Popular Music from Barbados, Research Riddims, Barbados, 1999.  

It features a short biography and detailed entry on every song that he has recorded - over 200 - with details as to the recording personnel and an abstract and notes on each song, and a number of indexes and a handful of his lyrics.  The detailed listings are especially useful on the social and political commentaries he has done.  The volume is illustrated with numerous photos and is very well done.  It is the first in the Barbados Popular Music Series and I am looking forward to future volumes.  Contact Elizabeth Watson, 37 Friendly Hall, Hothersal Turning, St.Michael, Barbados , watsone@uwichill.edu.bb for availability.  It is $30 US postpaid for shipping to the US.  To better familirize you with King, I prepared the following who's who entry based on this excellent volume.

John King   (born May 10, 1964)

The Barbados calypso monarch for 1986 and 1994 and a regular finalist for many years in the '80s and '90s.  He is one of the leading Barbados performers who does soca, reggae and pop music as well as calypso.  Although most of his early songs were written by Anthony Walrond, he is a leading composer and his songs are performed by many other calypsonians as well as having his soca tunes becoming popular and recorded by Trinidad bands like Atlantik and Traffic.  Born in Birmingham, England of Bajan parents, came to Barbados at age six.  After completing school he worked as a social worker for the Government Industrial School until 1991, before going into music full time.  He also got a certificate in Social Work from UWI-Mona during this time.

He started singing calypso in 1982 calling himself Johnny Ma Boy and was a founding member of the Conqueror's Tent.  His Married Life was featured on a compilation album for the tent, Conquest 1.  He would continue to a regular at the Conqueror's Tent every year.  In November, 1982, he won the local St Phillip competition with his compositions, Rosie and Senseless Killings.  He was in the 1983 monarch finals with Black Box about the country's budget and the belt-tightening that was called for by the Minister of Finance that year.  In 1984, he performed Cherie and a song about the efforts of South Africa to get West Indian cricketers to play there, Pamensy.  He was second runner for the 1985 Calypso Monarch with I Want a Plantation and Queing, which were both released on a single.   He won the 1986 monarchy with Tribute to the Skipper, a tribute for the first Prime Minister of Barbados Errol Barrow and Congratulations.  In 1987, he performed for the first time in the United States, released his first solo album, Different Strokes, and was second runner-up with I am a Calypso, though he was doing two uptempo numbers, Rocking Time and Push It Back at the tent.  He was a serious contender for the Monarchy again in 1988 with Living a Lie and Family Ties, both on his strong album Awesome, only to be runner up, beaten out by Rita (Forester), who was monarch singing two of King's own compositions.  He was the first runner-up in the 1988 Independence Calypso Monarch competition.

In 1989, he recorded his third album, Massive: Unmistakeably and joined the band Sygncha and toured and performed both in Barbados and internationally with them.  The band also recorded one album, Come Down Posse.  He and Alison Hinds of Square One won the 1992 Barbados Song Contest with Hold You in a Song, which was also released as a single.   He also did an album of Xmas Melodies with Carolyn Leacock as a fund raiser for the Barbados Cancer Society.  His song, Columbus Coming, was performed by Nicki V., a finalist in the 1992 monarchy.  His own recording of party song Move Ya Mass was on a couple anthologies that year.

Sygncha split up in 1993 and King took a job as a solo performer with the Norwegian cruise ship, The Starward, and stayed for ten months before returning to Barbados in April 1994.  The next month he did a song Lift the Children Up for the Child Car Board's ad promotion of Child Month in May.  He was overwhelmingly popular that year at the Conqueror's Tent with his proclamation I'm Back and his soca hit, Jump and Wave.  He went on to win the 1994 calypso monarchy and released his album, Psyched.  He was the second runner-up in 1995 with Coming Fuh King also did a benefit concert in 1995 for the Child Care Board called John King: One for the Children.  He then became a lead singer with one of the leading bands, Spice and Co but left the next year.

In 1996, he released his first solo album in the US on Mesa/Blue Moon, Yard Style, and released a solo album in Barbados, Jegna.  He also was one of the composers and vocalists on an aids awareness song released by a number of Barbados artists, One World, One Hope, One Song.  In 1997, he formed a band called Jegna which featured two of Trinidad's soca stars, brothers Nigel and Marvin Lewis.  His Bend Down was recorded by the band Atlantik on their 1997 album, Hot and Spicy and Leave It In was on Traffik's Wicked and Wild.  He also recorded an album that year of covers of all the hottest Barbados Carnival songs, Crop Over Festival Classics: Tunes of the Crop Winners, 1979-1995.   He went on in 1998 to produce perhaps his best album, Message From Beyond, with soca, calypso and a style mixing soca and folk.  Four of his songs were also released in the US on the anthology, Four by Four Vol 2, on Mesa/Blue Moon.  In 1999, he did not perform in the tent but instead served as Manager of Conquerors Tent.   Several of his songs were performed by other calypsonians including Rise, Barbados Rise by Khiomal, a promising 17 year old calypsonian, former Junior Monarch and 3rd runner up in the 1999 Calypso Competition.  Generation Next by Natahlee and Men in Crisis along with And I Told You So were rendered by Ricky Stoute, both of whom were semifinalists in the 1999 Calypso Competition.

To learn more, get Elizebeth Watson's excellent discography and buy King's albums!

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 - 19.8.99
POBox 72387, Fairbanks, AK 99707, rfunk@ptialaska.com

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