Kaiso No 37.  July 26, 2000

The major event in the calypso world is the death of legendary singer Ras Shorty I a few weeks ago.  I hope to finish a newsletter that offers a survey of his complex career soon.  Meanwhile a number of breaking news and events shape this edition.  Calypso is going strong this summer with events happening all over.

In New York City, Lincoln Center has a special series of concerts under the title Caribbean Route/Caribbean Roots including one tomorrow night entitled GRIOTS OF THE WEST INDIES DUB POETRY AND CALYPSO.  A double bill featuring Linton Kwesi Johnson & the Dennis Bovell Dub Band and David Rudder & Charlie's Roots with guests Composer and The Mighty Power.

Cropover in Barbados is also coming to a head in a few days.  This year a website cropovercentral.com has been gathering all the Barbados Nation articles about Cropover with a great number about the Pick of the Crop calypso monarch competition this Friday.  One item of note to lovers of extempo is that both Gypsy and Relator are guesting to compete with Barbados current monarch and leading calypso Gabby and veteran Barbados calypsonian Lord Radio.  A biography of Gabby is up at the Ice Records site, http//www.icerecords.com/apgabby.htm in connection with a recent double CD release.

In England Carnivals are occurring all over the country with Shadow and Rose appearing this Sunday at the Palace Pavilion in London.  3 Canal are based in England for the summer Carnival season and appearing in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival with other Rituals artists.  The Association of British Calypsonians are opening their annual London Calypso Tent 2000 featuring Lord Cloak (reigning Calypso Monarch), D Mighty Tiger (Undisputed Calypso Monarch), Sister Sandra, Alexander D Great, Totally Talibah, Explorer, Congos, Rev.  Sweet Foot, D Jamma, Peace and Love, Admiral Jack and Kerwin DuBois and twice Trinidad and Tobago Junior Calypso Monarch Karene Ashe.

The tent opens Friday 28th July 2000 & every Friday for the month of August at the Yaa Asantewaa Cultural Center, 1 Chippenham Mews, Chippenham Road, near Little Venice, London (off the Harrow Road) in London W9.2AN.  See more information, see http//www.yaaasant.demon.co.uk   For the best info on calypso, soca and carnival events in England, check out Soca News at www.socanews.com

The Center for Black Music Research in Chicago is sponsoring a conference "on the musics of the Circum-Caribbean" in Port of Spain at the Hilton May 23 to 27.  There are a number of interesting papers and events planned including focus on calypso.  Chalkdust will be the keynote speaker.  Full details at www.cbmr.org/2001.htm   Chalkdust has also been named the head of the Carnival Institute in Trinidad which is still seeking a physical home for its activities.

St Lucian Calypso

St Lucia has just completed its Carnival and for the first time a woman was calypso monarch.  Lady Spice was crowned for her selections I Can't Find a Man and This Woman Vex.  A number of articles on this year's Carnival are at the local newspaper's site, www.stluciastar.com   Last year there was a calypso collection put out called Lucian Carnival that included the 1999 calypso monarch, Bachelor's humorous I Saw What You Did Last Night.  A brief review is on the British Soca News website - www.socanews.com/bsoca/jam99.htm   At this time, I do not know what recordings are available of this year's St Lucian calypsos. 

The history of calypso on this island has been recorded in articles in a series of annual booklets, Lucian Kaiso, which the St Lucia's Folk Research Centre started publishing in 1990.  Calypso competitions have been held in St Lucia every year since 1957 except for 1964 and 1965 and 1996.  Local calypsonians were plying their trade since the Forties with the first calypsonians of note to include Lord Scrubb, Battle Axe, Ezekial, Piti Quart, Mighty Session and Mighty Bonnet.  Initially these singers would sing on the streets.  Later in the Fifties, concert and club appearances and annual competitions sprang up.

Trinidad's influence was strong in the beginning but local songs started winning the Road March as early as 1955.  Mighty Session won Road March that year with The Flying Cask about a cask or rum that disappeared from the wharf.

The first calypso monarch of St Lucia was Terra (Pancras Theodore) a teacher who held the crown for five year running, 1957-1961 and again in 1965!  Initially there were competitions but no tents.  It was the son of a Trinidadian, Lord Jackson (Mark Jackson) who had spent much of his youth in Trinidad going to the tents there that brought calypso tents to St Lucia.  He got the first calypso tented started in 1976 with Terra and others.  The next year a second tent was added and now there are half a dozen tents every year.

Lord Jackson was also a founding member of the calypsonian association which formed the year before.  His own success as a calypsonian was slow in coming.  Lord Jackson won calypso monarch in 1980.  The competitions started expanding.  Calypso spread to the schools in the late Seventies and regular competitions are held yearly.  Women were slow to take on calypso singing in St.  Lucia.  Only one women made any weight in the Eighties Madame Sequin but in the last decade several others have jumped into the ring crowned by this year's first ever female monarch.

There has been a growth of soca with the Mighty Jaunty (Pierre Regis) being one of the most successful with a series of road march wins and recordings.  He is based in New York and worked in the last few years with the Soca-Zouk Express out of Martinique.

Thanks to Jocelyne Guilbault for getting me copies of the Lucian Kaiso magazine!  One of these years I hope to report on things there first hand. 

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: http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/kaiso.htm

Please note my email address has been changed from .com to .net   This has likely resulted in a number of unintentional failures to respond to emails.  Please accept my apologies.  Send messages to the balmy North where it is sunny and beautiful these days. 

Ray Funk - 21.3.00
POBox 72387, Fairbanks, AK 99707, rfunk@ptialaska.net

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