Songwriters Database – Status Report

In the time since I started building the data base of Antiguan and Barbudan literature – expanding that definition to include the writing which influenced my formative years, calypso, often not written down, uncredited, I have struggled to build the songwriters database. Part of the hurdle has been my own too narrow definition – there are many Antiguan and Barbudan songwriters, for instance, who do not write calypso (but instead mix it up in gospel, jazz, rnb, reggae, hip hop, soca, and fusions of many of these and other forms); perhaps they felt that this space was not for them. I have tried to grab the ones I can but, problem number two, is that too often writers are uncredited. Part of it, going back to calypso, had to do with the prophetic nature of calypso – if the prophets had ghost writers, they certainly stayed in the shadows, so, too, it seemed, for the most part (with notable exceptions like Shelly Tobitt, Dorbrene O’Marde, and Marcus Christopher) the calypso writers. 

Dobrene Omarde presents copy of book to Marcus Christopher

Dorbrene O’Marde with the late Marcus Christopher, two of Antigua and Barbuda’s main calypso writers.

When CDs or before them cassettes, and before that vinyls were still a thing, they often listed sponsors and maybe songs, maaaaybe producer if a name brand producer, but rarely (read: almost never) lyricists, composers, and the like. So I’ve had to pluck a lot from memory, boosted by research, because I want to be as factual as possible. And though I’ve asked time and again for people to help me fill in the blanks, while fiction and poetry book writers reach out with fair frequency to have their listing corrected or updated, only one songwriter has ever contacted me with his songs and then when I requested verification, returned with that as well. It took time but he understood, it seemed, the importance of putting these things down for the record, how often we are not part of the larger conversation simply because we haven’t bothered to write ourselves in to the history.

So, this songwriters database remains a struggle list – light on details. Perhaps with funding and a research intern or two, I could remedy that, but for now, so it stands.

So the call goes out again, if you’re a songwriter and you’re miscredited or not credited at all in the songwriters database , bring the receipts; if you’re not a songwriter but you know the history, congratulations you are a valuable resource – help me out; and if you’re a fan, well, enjoy: Antigua and Barbuda songwriters database

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, With Grace, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Do not re-use content without permission and credit. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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