Kaiso No 28 - August 26, 1999

On August 31, Trinidad will proudly celebrate 37 years of Independence.  In 1962, Independence was celebrated by a calypso competition.  Since that first competition, several more have been held.  Chalkdust won the Tenth Anniversary Independence competition with We are Ten Years Old and Who Next. A Twenty Fifth Anniversary competition in 1987 was won by Cro Cro's Happy Anniversary and a few other competitions followed but the Independence Calypso competition has disappeared in recent years.

The first competition was organized by a special celebrations sub-committee led by Senator Marguerite Wyke.  Prizes of $1,000 for the winner and $600 for the first runner up and $400 for the second were established.  After auditions at Radio Trinidad, thirty six calypsonians were chosen and from them twelve finalists including many of the leading calypsonians of the time.  Pretender, Nap Hepburn, The Hawk, Power, Brynner, Bomber, Dougla, Cristo, Sparrow, Chang Kai Shek, Striker, and Lazy Harrow.  Bert Innis and his Combo provided the music and the March of Dimes Quartet backed up the singers.  A distinguished panel of judges included Andrew Carr, Harry Pitts and Charles Espinet.  The event was held at the New Town Hall on August 15, broadcast live on both Radio Guardian and Radio Trinidad with speakers set up so it could be also heard in Woodford Square, which was filled to capacity.   The winner was not Sparrow, 1962 calypso monarch or Dougla who had won in 1961.  Indeed, Sparrow was second and Nap Hepburn was third.  Instead, it was Lord Brynner, Kade Simon, a bald twenty five year old from Arena Village, Erin, in the south western corner of Trinidad.  He had been a rising star in the calypso world over the past half dozen years, singing in the tents and local nightclubs, recording a hand full of singles, winning local competitions and touring the Caribbean.  His winning of this competition was an incredible boost to his career.   On Independence night, he sang at the grand ball at the Hotel Normandie in a program with dancer Julie Edwards.

Lord Brynner - Trinidad & Tobago Independence (1962)

People only talking but they really don't know
What's the proper meaning for Trinidad and Tobago
Cipriani start the ball rolling
Now the Doctor doing the bowling
So we have Uncle Eric to perform a real hot trick.

Because this is your land, just as well as my land
This is your place and also it is my place
So let we put our heads together
And live like one happy family
Democratically, educationally,
We'll be independantly.

31st of August, Independence
1962, Independence
Will go down in history for everyone of you
Forget racialism and nationalism too
Let discipline, production, and
Tolerance guide us through Independence

Constientiously, Independence
And constitutionally, Independence
Forget all this lousy rumor about racial equality
If you are an East Indian and you want to be an African
Just shave your head like me
Then they can't prove your nationality

And next thing again
I want you to know
I must tell you plain
Whether your status is high or low
The time has come at last when there is no more
Coal on your rule I believe
So together we will aspire, together we will achieve.  

His winning composition was released on RCA on a single and the album, Mr Calypso.  Brynner would go on to be a flamboyant and outspoken calypsonian, he appear in the tents through the Sixties but spend more time outside of the country especially in Jamaica and Canada.  He died in the Eighties.   I am still trying to piece together his complicated career and won't attempt a Who's Who entry at this time.

His recording career is extensive and undocumented.  He released a number of albums on his own Erin label in Canada among other labels and recorded extensively in Jamaica.  Indeed, just this summer one of his ska numbers, Where's Sammy Gone, was released on an album, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Wailers and Friends: Top Hits Sung by the Legends of Jamaican Ska, on Heartbeat Records.  For full information on this fine album go to: http://www.rounder.com/rounder/catalog/bylabel/hbea/201/201.html

What other calypsonian can claim that Bob Marley was in his backing band?

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 - 26.8.99
POBox 72387, Fairbanks, AK 99707, rfunk@ptialaska.com

Part of Article MT044

Top of page Articles Home Page Reviews News Editorial