Tag Archives: Antiguan calypso

Old Road Fight by Queen Ivena

Transcribed by ear; all errors or omissions are mine. I’d love to continue building this data base of Antiguan and Barbudan song lyrics; anyone who wants to help with this (teachers? students? can anyone say research project?) welcome to do so.

Song: Old Road Fight
The artist: Queen Ivena

So with disrespect
He want to go through me land
To build highway and to mash up my production
There is no more land to give
I have no alternative
I must preserve my land so that my children could live
But them Uncle Tom
They always very happy
To appease Massa
Just to sit on his gallery
So tell Sterling and Dakati
Tell Southwell and friend Robbie
That me blade well sharp
So nuh underestimate me

Cho.
So we ah go fight them
in the dead of night
Fight them whether black or white
Fight them in the morning (Fight them)
Fight them in the evening
Fight them each and every one
Fight them all to save we land
Fight them in the morning (Fight them)
Fight them in the evening
Fight them every day until they give in (We go fight)
Fight them every day
We bound to win

From the first attack
They retreated from their golf course
They never could stand the farmers united force
And while they push their resort
And the youth they spin and contort
They never said they wanted our bay to make a drug port
The environment, the enemy came to destroy
To say he’s a nature boy might just be a ploy
The mangrove he is damaging
And the beach where we love to swim
So on every front Old Road will be fighting him

Cho.

When the war drums roll
They calling Old Road heroes
Kublai, Gracie, Shaska, Baggas, and King Laro
Young Gantone, and Kubuja
Raswaka and John Dyer
I say you fought that day in the spirit of Africa
Our ancestors, we know they were very proud
Ma Clemmie and Olive Humphreys was in the crowd
Vivian and daughter Nancy
Devon Deckins and friend Nicey
With soldiers like Ms. Aggie we will take over Wadadli

Cho.

The call to war has reached up Parham Harbour
It falls on the ears of Rasta Man Destah Jah
Where is Namba and Alister
Call Lovell and Zakela
It is a holy war, a revival of Black Power
When the conch shell sound
It spread right across the land
King Court calling rebel man and rebel woman
Go get your All Saints posse
It’s time for Black unity
For this time around we are certain of victory

Cho.

This is transcribed by me (blogger and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator) Joanne C. Hillhouse for educational purposes; no profit is being made.

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The Big Three is Now Two

“Swallow bridged the musical vibrations across the Caribbean. … His legend is greater than the number of crowns, thanks to his enduring musical tracks.” – Trinidad Unified Calypsonians Organization in Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rupert ‘King  Swallow’ Philo is a Caribbean Sunshine Hall of Famer, associated in Antigua and Barbuda with the village of Willikies, the art form of calypso, and specifically de Road. King Swallow, one third of the iconic BIG THREE of Antiguan calypso, is, as of September 11th 2020, with the ancestors.

“He was indeed the maestro of the jumpy music genre” – Daily Observer

I have been fortunate to come of age in a time when the Big Three (other points in the triangle being King Obstinate and King Short Shirt) was at peak competitiveness – so, as a child, I got to see Swallow bring a space ship on stage for Party in Space, one of the images the theatre of calypso has seared in to  my memory. I got to hear big people argue about Swallow v Short Shirt v Obsti with heat and report how the winner could not even be announced on the night of because of the passion of the fans; my own house was split down the middle. I have been fortunate to interview Swallow and have shared multiple articles – e.g. Over the Boundary: the High Flying Swallow, King of the Road, Spotlight – Calypso Icon, Swallow  – on Swallow.  Maybe it’s a cliche to do this (especially since I think we don’t do nearly enough to reward our artistic icons for all the art they’ve blessed us with while they’re here – what permanent public record exists of the Big Three, for the children to see, for instance) but having just-just learned of his passing, how about I share some of his music.

“de music too sweeet” too sweet even for the judges who awarded ‘Satan’ Road March in 1984. Fun bit of trivia, in a symbolic passing of the torch, Swallow (who had previously won Road March in 1972, Pow Pow; 1973, Push Ya, Push Dey; 1975, Shake and Break Ya Bam Bam; 1983, Party in Space) would be the last of the Antigua-Barbuda calypso Road March winners before Burning Flames, who would become the new kings of the road took their first title with Stylie Tight in 1985, ushering in the era of the jam band that they themselves dominated. Before Flames though, the Road was Shorty, Latumba, Swallow, etc., and it sounded like this.

and his signature ‘Man to Man’

Swallow was not only the king of the road (soca king), he took the crown as king of the calypso stage  four times (in 1973 with March for Freedom and Push Ya, Push Dey; in 1977 with Dawn of a New Day and Jam Dem Back; in 1978 with One Love, One Hope, One Destiny and Wining; and 1985 with All is not Lost and Tong Mash Dung).

Rest in Peace, King.

p.s. 2020, ease up.

ETA:Read Daily Observer report with tributes from local and Caribbean soca and calypso artists.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on 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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CALYPSO ALL-ROUNDER, DESTROYER … and Rising Star, Young Destroyer

This is a throwback to an article I did for the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine in 2007. In the interest of increasing awareness of the accomplishments of some of our iconic calypsonians and increasing appreciation for the art form, I figured I would share some of that issue with you. I’ve previously posted the issue’s articles on Calypso Jim, Calypso Joe, Franco, Swallow, King Onyan, Ivena, the Mighty Bottle, the King Zacari, and Scorpion. This particular article focused on father and son duo Destroyer and Young Destroyer. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

oldalbumcover

One is The Man Who Might Have Been King; the other a royal contender or The Man Who Could Be King. Of course, for Leston ‘Young Destroyer’ Jacobs – former Junior Monarch and, via the CARIFESTA Calypso competition, reigning World Calypso King – Someday can’t come soon enough. His father, Oglivier ‘Destroyer’ Jacobs, meanwhile, seems pretty resigned to the fact that perhaps he’s peaked as far as competition goes. The closest he’s come is first runner-up spots in 1971 and 1989. If you ask both of them, though, they’ve already earned the crown a time or two, notwithstanding the final decision of the powers-that-be.

Still, beyond all the competition talk, there’s a clear passion for Calypso. Destroyer, the man who – as entertainer, songwriter, tent manager, and association executive member – can be called an All Rounder in the Calypso game, declared, “up to now, I don’t listen no other music but Calypso.” It took his son only seven years of this kind of exposure before he first took to the stage. “Coming from a Calypso family, I’ve always wanted to become a Calypsonian professionally,” Young Destroyer said. “Even before 1990, I was kind of pressuring my father to put me in the competition.” It’s somewhat ironic that with his own seven-year old-daughter now chomping at the bit, Young Destroyer has decreed that she’s too young.

Both remember vividly, their first tent outing. “The first time I performed was at Kensington Court in a Calypso tent run by the carnival committee,” Destroyer reflected. “I had a song called ‘Bring back the Cat-o-Nine’. At the time, the big gun was Short Shirt and a guy named Skeech; the first runner up the year before. When he heard me sing, he came and said: “Youngster, you have a good song there, but good for the tent not for competition.” But at the end of the 1967 semifinals, it was Destroyer who made the cut – alongside the likes of Creole, Lord Lee, Mighty Dove, Smarty, and Brain; not Skeech.

Young Destroyer was, similarly, a hit, right out the gate. He went straight to the University, Swallow’s Calypso Pepperpot, where the crowd showered him with money as a token of their appreciation; the year was 1990. He won his first of four junior monarch crowns that year; the other years being ’93, ’96, and ’97. Added to this was a junior title claimed in Trinidad and, of course, last year the World Calypso King title.

Destroyer Sr. reflected, jokingly, that his young son used to taunt, “you know why you don’t want to give me no song, because you ‘fraid I goin’ win before you.” But while these words may have had the tint of prophecy, the son having claimed several crowns since his father relented and let him into the arena, both insist that there’s no rivalry. “We both share victories together,” said Young Destroyer. “I can’t be victorious without my father.”

True, he’s turned to other writers now and again and has received encouragement from others in the fraternity along the way, but his one true mentor, Young Destroyer declared, has been his father. His father, in fact, penned the two tunes – one of which includes the Best Social Commentary winner in local competition ‘Back of de Bus’ – that shook Trinidad at CARIFESTA in 2006.

Both admit having felt discouraged in local competition. There was the virtual shut-out of top positions during the Short Shirt and Swallow days. But even the decline or retreat from competition of the Big Three – King Obstinate being the third of this triad – the crown has eluded Destroyer. For him, a bitter memory is his loss in 1989 to King Fiah. His selections that year were ‘Discrimination’ and ‘Message from Gorkie’; and, he said, “I know I won that year.” What’s more, he claims that the judges knew it, too. “If is five judges,” he said, “nearly all of them come and say, ‘Destroyer, you know ah you win the crown; but how arwe go walk outa dis park wid all dem noise for Fiah.’”

As for Young Destroyer, he’s come close; 2002, for instance, when he was second runner up with ‘Don’t Write me Off’ and ‘W’ine Back’ or 2003 when he placed first with ‘Queen of My Heart’ and ‘Antigua Means Everything to Me’. Some contend that, like Jim a few years ago, he sang the wrong song when he didn’t pair ‘Popeshead Street’ with ‘Back o’ De Bus’ in 2006; but given how low he placed, Young Destroyer is not convinced it would’ve made a difference.

These disappointments made the victory in Trinidad that much sweeter. “I had this gut feeling that I would go down there and come home victorious just to prove to them that I have good talent and I have good songs to win the crown here any time,” Young Destroyer said. “I don’t know why I keep getting low marks, but I just wanted to prove to them that my father is still one of the best writers in the world.”

High praise indeed! Still, it’s not the first time Destroyer’s songwriting ability has been praised. Dorbrene O’Marde’s Calypso Talk, at one time the Antiguan Calypso bible, in 1988 praised his storytelling ability; its relevance and specificity. That relevance and specificity can be found, for instance, in lyrics like

“They move de surcharge from we light bill
but fuel variation killing we;
is All Fools Day,
is fool they fooling we.”

His favourite of his tunes, however, is ‘Woodpecker Sarah’, one of the best examples of the double meaning he likes to give to his lyrics. In the song, a single mom is forced to go in search of “wood” (wink wink) to burn coal to support her children.

Among his favourite songs by other Antiguan Calypsonians, meanwhile, are Latumba’s ‘The Love I Lost’, Short Shirt’s ‘Inspite of All’, and Calypso Joe’s ‘Poor Little Negro Boy’. Young Destroyer’s favourites include King Obstinate’s ‘Wet You Han’ and ‘Always Come Back to You’, Short Shirt’s Tourist Leggo’, Swallow’s ‘Fire in de Backseat’, and his dad’s ‘Woodpecker Sarah’. In fact, he added, “I like all my father songs.”

Talk of his father’s songs must inevitably lead to his father’s politics and its influence on his music. Destroyer wears his red proudly, joking when picking up his 2007 National Vibes Star Project Award for producer of the year for ‘Back of de Bus’ “bury me with this and red.” But he’s of the view that he’s held true to the Calypsonian’s mandate to sing it as he or she sees it. “When Labour was in power, I sing ‘Jail Cart’, ‘Country Running Good’, and ‘All Fools Day’ and all them things there,” he said. “Even Labour Party supporters, even ministers come and say, ‘if you’re a labour supporter, why sing these songs? You not doing the party no good’. I tell them ‘is Calypso, you sing what you see’.” His son’s ‘Greedy Horses’ and his own ‘Beg Georgie Pardon’ were also anti-establishment. It could be argued, however, that he was showing his colours when he came down harder on current Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer than he did on former PM Lester Bird when singing of the injustices done to late activist, analyst, and newspaper editor Leonard ‘Tim’ Hector. But as Destroyer sees it, he was merely looking at it from Tim’s perspective. “When I was writing that song, I did some research with some people close to Tim,” he said.

Of course, if we touch on Destroyer’s politics, it’s only fair that we touch on Young Destroyer’s widely reported brushes with the law and the potential impact this has had on his Calypso career. “Well, look where I am now,” he replied when quizzed about this. “I’m now the Calypso King of the world. Sometimes in life there are obstacles in people’s way. It can make you better or make you worse. It’s how you plan to come back from these obstacles. Young Destroyer is a person that lets nothing bring him down, regardless of what people think. I know what I’m headed for.” What he confidently asserted, during the interview, that he is headed for in 2007 is all the crowns – party and Calypso – and more. “This album, the world is looking forward for this album,” he said, “so we can’t politicize this album. This album is to market Antigua, to market the product, and reach even further than CARIFESTA King.”

Destroyer, meanwhile, wouldn’t be competing, at least, not up to press time; but he remained on track with his work with the Masters Calypso tent, where Young Destroyer was scheduled to make his latest run for local Calypso glory.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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Wet Yuh Han’ (lyrics)

Two woman cussing on Greenbay Hill – ah gone to work, come back they cussing still (repeat)
Crazy Ellen and Big Foot Maude – and oh me lard how dey cussin hard
So I climb up in a tamarind tree to observe the whole scenery

“well ah na me tell you fu kill yuh man…
Say you fry up he head in a frying pan”

“Well, ar yuh jus’ cuss so all the time man, every day and night,

ar yuh ha fu stop some time, yuh nuh
But ar you go church too nuh man”

I never see that man.

Them argue until night start to fall. Ms. Melvin run out and start to bawl.
“Me picknee wan’ fu go to bed, and ar you ah mek too much noise ah me head.”

Maude beg Ms. Melvin to go. “Ah melee love you love melee so. If you picknee nar sleep, don’t blame me. Boil up some ginger tee. You better go, go, go Ms. Melvin.”

“But Ms. Melvin tell you go out ah she yard, just go outa she yard nuh. You go get red mouth. No wonder you pupa dead from red mouth.”

Up came Ellen man with he good sauce pan in side he han’.
“Me sure you see a work me ah come from, an’ me hungry, me wan’ fu nyam.”

Ellen say, “you na ha no servant ya.”

De man rest down he food carrier. Man, he pelt a thump in Ellen mouth and he knock Maude false teeth out she mouth.

“Let me go” (crying)

“Ar you tap na man…He like fu bang woman so…ar yu go dead bad you na, somebody go bite out aryu yeye…”

Well a big fight break out at the stone heap and all the neighbours, they start to peep. So ah come down out of the tamarind tree to get closer to the activity.
Up came Lionel Reed. Ellen nose hole start to bleed.
They fight all night, they wouldn’t stop, ‘til they end up inside of Charles Lloyd shop.
“Ar you come out my place, man, nuh fight in ya. Me tell ar you man min’ you nar narsy up me sweet oil and subben, me red herring and subben, an’ narsy up me flour, ar you go way nuh.”

*transcribed from the recording; all errors/inaccuracies are mine. JCH.

You can listen to this song and other Obsti songs in this post. If you feel like transcribing any of them, send so that I can keep building that Antigua and Barbuda lyrical database.

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Believe (Lyrics)

I am prepping for a workshop and considered using this King Obstinate song (one of my favourites). So I transcribed it, but now I don’t think it fits. And I hate to see anything go to waste, so here it goes (hopefully it will continue to serve as a reminder to us of who we can be):

Believe by King Obstinate

Little by little we struggle on
Bit by bit we carve a way across
These many wasted years of wishful hopes and dreams
Struggling against our own purposeless fever
That envy and hatred and injustice created
But with courage and conviction
We can stand and build this nation
And shape our own destiny
People have faith

Cho.
Believe
Believe
Believe we are going to make it and we will never fail
Believe in this land its future, its glory
Believe in yourself most of all as one people
Marching together in one effort and one unity
Believe
Believe
And we shall never walk with aimless feet
Oh No
Not if we believe

We can work miracles if we want
We’ve got the power holding in our hands
The power to unite, to decide, to create, to move on
Destroy every barrier that seems to divide us
Blast away every obstacle as fast as they confront us
Onward for the future, forward for Antigua
It’s time (?????)
Unless (?????)

Cho.

Let us bury all the conflicts of the past
And make the future our priority task
Let us talk not with malice, envy, or greed
Neither with favour or fear
Face the realities, the problems, the challenge
Find common solutions to benefit the masses
Creating new avenues for progress, freedom, justice and good will
Come let us begin

Cho.

***

More favourite King Obstinate songs can be found here.

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Zacari: King by Name and Destiny

This is a throwback to an article I did for the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine in 2007. In the interest of increasing awareness of the accomplishments of some of our iconic calypsonians and increasing appreciation for the art form, I figured I would share some of that issue with you. This particular article looked at the Anchors of Antiguan calypso – not the superstars covered in Over the Boundary but the reliable contributors known for their consistent play, providing a strong foundation for the growth of the art form. The first of these looked at Franco, the second at Calypso Joe, the third at Calypso Jim, the fourth Scorpion, and this one King Zacari. In this post, I’ll share the section of that article focused on Zacari. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

Trevor ‘King Zacari’ King, who succeeded Scorpion as Calypso Association president has been another warrior in the trenches since at least the early 1990s. It all began when he ventured into writing, penning as he told the Sun back in 1998, ‘The Zulu Will Rise Again’ for junior contender, Pepperseed. But, he said, then, when he tried producing material for the seniors, he wasn’t taken seriously. “If somebody had sung the song I had written I wouldn’t be singing now,” Zacari said then; and this turn of events has, of course, been Antigua’s gain.

His Calypso has always tackled weighty issues, race and heritage and political bobol, while the poet in him experimented with devices like the literary pun.

“I never see such a thing since ah born
Tell me where de Fine-ants gone
Since bad govern-ants come along
Tell me whey de fine-ants gone
I search the town, I search the country
Tell me where de fine-ants gone
Ah search for they nest all in cemetery
Tell me whey de fine-ants gone”
(Fine Ants 2001)

But as the above example indicates the pun never hid his meaning or target, only illuminated it; and as ‘Guilty as Charged’ elucidates he was prepared to meet his adversaries head on.

“Is it true that you sing for this nation
Yet condemning our politician
I say guilty, guilty as charged
Is it a truth and a well known fact
You always riding on the government back
I say guilty, guilty as charged…”

Beyond these battle songs, Zacari who also operated the Cream of the Crop Tent, has nurtured a musical legacy of another kind with daughters Little Kimmie and Princess Thalia doing well at the junior level.

In addition to two Calypso monarch titles – 1991 and 2001 – Zacari also claimed the 1997 Leeward Island Monarch title.

Post note: Zacari is still singing as are his daughters with Princess Thalia becoming in 2014 only the second female to claim the calypso monarch title in Antigua and Barbuda after Queen Ivena.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, 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, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (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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Scorpion – Stinging!

This is a throwback to an article I did for the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine in 2007. In the interest of increasing awareness of the accomplishments of some of our iconic calypsonians and increasing appreciation for the art form, I figured I would share some of that issue with you. This particular article looked at the Anchors of Antiguan calypso – not the superstars covered in Over the Boundary but the reliable contributors known for their consistent play, providing a strong foundation for the growth of the art form. The first of these looked at Franco, the second at Calypso Joe, and the third at Calypso Jim. In this post, I’ll share the section of that article focused on Barry ‘Scorpion’ Edwards. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

Barry ‘Scorpion’ Edwards’ material was always top drawer, and apropos of his name, always stinging.

“Is not he one in the land ha’deeds with big business man
Is not he one we undersand ha’bank account in Switzerland
Is not he one in corruption mixed up with white power…”
(Dolly House, 1993)

“I want a copy of the Bob Washington report
And I want an inquiry into each and every promissory note
Find out for me in what constituency
Carla Samuel vote so easy…”
(My Offer – Mr. Bird, 1994)

“They all playing games
He and de Dominican
Pure legal tricks
No one protecting de poor citizen”
(Gathering Storm, 2001)

Clearly, he wasn’t joking when he sang, ‘Calypso go call you Name’. He never waffled; even challenging the CDC in 1999, as the then sitting Calypso Association president, by not only boycotting the official festivities but leading the association in staging its own.

Having claimed the campus crown at UWI Cave Hill in 1971, Scorpion first entered the domestic competition in 1975; the following year he finished third, behind Short Shirt and Swallow. He’d remain stuck in third for much of his competitive years, and, as Maxine Allen wrote in a 1995 article, “he has placed third in the competition so many times – including a tie with Latumba – that the witty Calypso stalwart Obstinate has dubbed him ‘my friend, Scorpion the third’.”

But Scorpion has always taken it in stride. In fact, he sang, in 1996,

“Here I am, not a King, but one who is duty bound
To get on this stage and explain why corruption abounds….”

As he told, Allen in 1995, “It is all about loving people and country – and believing that the expression of deep held convictions is more important than winning.”

The ‘Why’ of it was probably best captured in 1995’s ‘Inheritance’,

“What you going to say when you grand chile ask you
Where all dey future gone
What games you goin’ play when they start diss you
Curse the day you born
You could lie then like you coward now
You can’t say you didn’t know
Every record I make Scorpion tell you so
So wake up my people when you sleeping
You taking chance
With the children inheritance.”

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, 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, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (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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Calypso Jim: “de die de die diddle eye-o, that’s the way to sing Calypso”

This is a throwback to an article I did for the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine in 2007. In the interest of increasing awareness of the accomplishments of some of our iconic calypsonians and increasing appreciation for the art form, I figured I would share some of that issue with you. This particular article looked at the Anchors of Antiguan calypso – not the superstars covered in Over the Boundary but the reliable contributors known for their consistent play, providing a strong foundation for the growth of the art form. The first of these looked at Franco, and the second at Calypso Joe. in this post, I’ll share the section of that article focused on Calypso Jim. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

“I love it! I love it! I don’t smoke, I don’t drink…my main hobby is singing Calypso,” Charles Smith told Essential magazine back in 2005 still enthusiastic about the stage that had failed to bless him with a crown. Still, what is a crown when he’s gone to such comic lengths – including drag – to make sure that people have a good time? When fans think of him, it’s of how he continues to make them laugh with his ribald humour.

“When you done
Go down in me flowers garden
And lawn um dung
Don’t lock off you engine
Lawn um dung
Cut down every single thing
Lawn um dung
Just spare me ladies of the night
Lawn um dung
And mine you nuh bus me water pipe”
(1988’s Lawn Um Dung)

In fact, he even comes at his serious topics with that trademark humour.  As Mickel Brann reflected in the Essential article, this included local resistance to the growing number of immigrants in 1992, when he donned protective gear from head to toe and proceeded to flit down the place.

“Tek de Baygon and arwe go flit flit flit.”

His best years were perhaps 1981, 1986, and 1993, when he cracked the top three with the likes of ‘Aliens’.

“Clear de way, de Aliens coming!”

This is evidence that his humour ought not to give one cause to dismiss him as a lightweight. As Calypso Talk assessed in 1993, “He sings Calypso well, earthy, folksy, funny and extremely relevant”.

Let it not be forgotten as well, that that insightful humour made ‘Exercise’ one of the few tunes to interrupt Flames’ dominance of the road, when it took the road march title in 2000.
“You Calypsonians you not very smart
That’s why the bands win the road march
For we the people we don’t want no politics
We want to jump up and sing stupidness…
…one an’ one ah two music we want from you
Three an three ah six, to hell with lyrics”

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, 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, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (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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Franco: The Original ‘Sweet Voice’

This is a throwback to an article I did for the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine in 2007. In the interest of increasing awareness of the accomplishments of some of our iconic calypsonians and increasing appreciation for the art form, I figured I would share some of that issue with you. This particular article looked at the Anchors of Antiguan calypso – not the superstars covered in Over the Boundary but the reliable contributors known for their consistent play, providing a strong foundation for the growth of the art form. in this post, I’ll share the section of that article focused on Franco (who recently passed). DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

Frank Reynolds, Franco, has never worn the monarch crown, but when he took to the stage during 2004’s Reunion of Kings show to sing ‘Yes, we are Ready’, the crowd’s response was no less electric. From the 1960s to the 1980s, as a consistent finalist except for a couple of years when he didn’t make the cut, he etched out a place in the hearts of Calypso fans at home and abroad.

His self-described “sweet voice” is key. His peers agree. Destroyer recently said, “I believe Antigua’s best Calypso singer is Franco”; and Bottle, another veteran, said, separately, when asked to name his favourites, “Franco has a tremendous voice.”

The critics, too, have complemented his instrument; D. Gisele Isaac once describing him as “one of the country’s best voices.”

Dorbrene O’Marde, in 1987’s Calypso Talk, went beyond voice to the use to which it was put by an artist who understood his craft. He wrote, “Young Calypsonians will benefit from listening to the way he phrases his lyrics because Franco is a ‘Calypsonian’. There are many who sing to a Calypso beat without demonstrating that style of delivery which differentiates Calypso from ballad or gospel or other music forms.”

For his part, Franco can’t say where the talent comes from; but he remembers displaying it early during his boyhood days. “I used to sing Calypso on the street corner for the guys,” he said. “I used to love Blakey, that nice high-pitched voice.”

He entered the arena in ’69 with ‘Let us Live Together’

“Come let us reason together
For without understanding
This nation will go to ruin”

It’s still one of his favourites and quite similar in sentiment to the later ‘Yes, We are Ready’. But it’s the more irreverent ‘Fork up the Land’ of the 1970s that’s his most popular tune, by his own assessment. He reflected that it held the number one spot on New York’s WLIB for a time.

His Calypso career also includes stretches performing in New York and at Kitchener’s tent in Trinidad. So, does it irk, just a little, to have never worn the crown? Franco’s answer: “The public is the one I set out to please at all times when I’m doing Calypso. Even though I never won the crown, I always try to put my best foot forward.”

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, 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, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (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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Over the Boundary: Ivena

This is a throwback to an article I did for the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine in 2007. In the interest of increasing awareness of the accomplishments of some of our iconic calypsonians and increasing appreciation for the art form, I figured I would share some of that issue with you. This particular article looked at  a quartet of repeat-repeat-repeat winners. in this post, I’ll share the section of that article focused on Ivena (as it ran, so some of the info will be dated), the first (and to date only) female in Antigua and Barbuda to take the Monarch crown and, proving it was no fluke, to dominate the previously (and subsequently) male dominated Monarch stage. Per her moniker, the sub-head was ‘The Razor Lady’. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

This is a picture I took with Ivena and her writer Best back when they were killing it. DO NOT publish or otherwise repost with out permission.

This is a picture I took with Ivena and her writer Best back when they were killing it. DO NOT publish or otherwise repost with out permission.

Diminutive in size, Ivena had a colossal impact when she shattered the glass ceiling that had long hung over Calypso, becoming, in 2003, the first female to wear Antigua’s Calypso monarch crown.  In all, she’s amassed three Calypso monarch crowns, five female Calypso queen crowns, a Leeward Islands crown, and a Caribbean monarch crown. For a time, she seemed unbeatable. “I was shocked to see the kind of passion that she sang with,” her writer Cuthbert ‘Best’ Williams told the Daily Observer in 2005, “and it’s really paying off, you know. People admire the passion that she sings with.” Of course, Calypso fortunes being what they are, she would subsequently fall in 2006 to main rival Singing Althea in the female Calypso competition, and fail to make the top three in the Calypso monarch competition.

Lena Philip announced her arrival in the Calypso Association’s 1999 competition during its rift with the Carnival Development Committee. “Her coming,” as Gisele Isaac wrote in 2006 “(precipitated) the most sparkling rivalry seen in ages, first on the female scene and then on the big stage.” That rivalry, of course, was between Althea and Ivena, and, at times it seemed, Ivena and everyone else who was trying to climb the insurmountable Everest she seemed to represent.

Of course, she herself had had to climb a few mountains to Calypso glory. She’s had to weather criticism of her vocal ability. Also, it was Empress, not Ivena who won the 1999, female crown – though Ivena went on to come second behind only Kublai and Zacari in the Calypso Association’s Monarch contest. She didn’t make the top three though in 2000, her first run at the ‘official’ female Calypso title. Two thousand and one’s unforgettable ‘Old Road Fight’, a ripped from the headlines saga, changed all that. It earned her her first female Calypso crown and a reputation of singing, with confrontational fervour, of and for the people.

“When de war drums roll
They calling old road heroes
— They calling Old Road heroes
Kublai Gracey Shaska – Baggas and King Larro
Young Gantone and Kubujah
Ras Waka and John Dyer
I say we fought that day in the spirit of Africa
Our ancestors, you know they were very proud
Ma Clemmie and Olive Humphrey was in de crowd
Lillian and daughter Nancy
Denon, Decade and friend Nicey
And soldiers like Miss Aggie
We will take over Wadadli…”

Ivena made no bones about her desire to be the first female monarch, but getting to play with the big boys did not come easily; and at one point the frustration saw her threatening to boycott the female competition in protest.

But, in the end, Ivena proved not only a fighter, but a victor.

She took on the power brokers.

“You find it hard
You can’t cope
Yet more millstone around your neck
And I hear Treasury broke
The economy is a wreck
Yet they borrowing more and more money
Pawning off all yuh land
Soon the whole ah de country
Might be sold to that blue-eyed Texan”
(Remember the Pledge, 2002)

Not only was the ‘Cry Cry Baby’ fair game but the then Prime Minister who came in for mockery in tunes like ‘I’m Angry’. As she told Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau in the November/December 2005 Essential, in which she was the cover girl boldly flashing her crowns, “to be a Calypsonian, you must have a strong heart.”

When old adversaries faded to the political sidelines during the 2004 elections, Ivena turned her attention to the new administration with winning tunes like ‘After Lester’ (in which she warned the new PM Baldwin Spencer, that she had her eye on him) and ‘Tell us What Castro Say’.

The crown may have slipped, but it’s fair to say, at this writing, that we’ve not heard the last from Ivena.

FYI, here’s a short cut to some other calypso related links on the site: this is a report from the launch of the book on the Monarch King Short Shirt by veteran calypso writer – Dorbrene O’Marde; an article on that book being short listed for the regional Bocas prize and why it matters; an article on Antigua’s King of the Road – Swallow; an article on Marcus Christopher – the late great calypso writer and key figure in the development of the art form and of Carnival locally; a piece on pre calypso pioneer Quarko; an article on Short Shirt’s documentarian and the birth of his film; a piece on Short Shirt’s 50th; the site’s evolving songwriters’ data base – dominated by, you guessed it, calypso writers; an article on King Obstinate; a reflection on Latumba; a review of Dorbrene’s book by D. Gisele Isaac; a video retrospective – King Obstinate; an article on bandleader and key figure in the development of the art form – Oscar Mason; Lesroy Merchant was, among other things, a calypso writer – we remembered him here on the site when he passed; Short Shirt article; my review of his classic Ghetto Vibes album

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. And using any creative work without crediting the creator will open you up to legal action. Respect copyright.

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