Tag Archives: Calypso Joe

Most Influential Antiguans and Barbudans

This list is not scientific.

But that’s not the point. The point is….there is no point just an opportunity to acknowledge some of the people who’ve helped shape life in Antigua and Barbuda over the last hundred years or so according to … a very small group of people …with internet access … and a facebook presence … who had time today (not today) … and were aware that there was a poll being run by a random person on the internet.

Like I said, it’s not scientific.

But it was fun and educational, and culturally-relevant; all reasons I thought sufficient to bring the top 10 here to the Wadadli pen blog. My primary interest was in seeing how many of our artists made the list but it’s an opportunity for us to reflect (especially as the year winds down, and as we lose more and more) on the people who have shaped life in Antigua and Barbuda.

 So, here we go.

Top 10 Most Influential (in Antigua and Barbuda) of the last 100 years … (according to some people on facebook):

10 – tied – Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, Samara Emmanuel, Kevinia Francis, and Junella King (i.e. Team Antigua Island Girls – first all Black, all female team to row the Atlantic), Baldwin Spencer (former Prime Minister and former leader of the Antigua-Barbuda Workers’ Union),

 

 

 

 

Jamaica Kincaid (celebrated international author of fictionalized memoirs like Annie John, Lucy, and See Now Then whose newest book is a children’s picture book based on one of her early short stories), Lester Bird (former PM and officially designated National Hero who published his autobiography The Comeback Kid in 2019), Prince Ramsey (Doctor/HIV-AIDS awareness activist, calypso writer and producer who died in 2019) – one social media commenter said of Dr. Ramsey “I think he’s the most inspiring of them all”

9 Short Shirt (most decorated Antiguan calypsonian; the Dorbrene O’Marde penned biography about him Nobody Go Run Me was longlisted for the 2015 Bocas prize)

8 –  Obstinate (undefeated calypso icon)

7 – tied –

Edris Bird (former resident tutor of the UWI Open Campus who in 2019 also became a Dame), Andy Roberts (bowler, first Antiguan and Barbudan to play for the West Indies Cricket team, knighted),

Winston Derrick (deceased host of Observer Radio’s Voice of the People and co-founder of Observer Media Group which transformed the media landscape and broadcast media especially after a legal battle for the right to broadcast that went all the way to the privy council and with its victory opened up the broadcast media door for others to enter)

6Alister Francis (late former principal of the Antigua State College, a groundbreaking tertiary institution of its time for Antigua and Barbuda and the eastern Caribbean)

5George Walter (Antigua and Barbuda’s second premier and former leader of the Antigua-Barbuda Workers Union; officially designated National Hero)

4  Nellie Robinson (late former educator, founder of the TOR Memorial school which is credited with breaking down class/social barriers in Antigua and Barbuda, and officially designated a Dame and our only female National Hero)

3 V. C. Bird (deceased; second president of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, which is credited with boosting the voice and fortunes of Black and working class people in late colonial era Antigua and Barbuda, first Chief Minister, Premier, and Prime Minister – Father of the Nation, and first officially designated National Hero)

2  Tim Hector (late pan African political activist; media pioneer – founder of the Outlet newspaper and writer of the Fan the Flame column; fighter for press freedom through his investigative reporting, and battles in and out of court including the privy council, arrests, and alleged arson; award winning journalist;  commentator on politics, culture, sports; and political candidate)

1Viv Richards (second Antiguan drafted to the West Indies cricket team, the only Windies captain never to have lost a Test, one of Wisden’s top five cricketers of the 20th century, and officially designated National Hero)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So a handful of artists made the top 10 which is always good to see. But I did wonder who were the top 10 artists in the poll overall, hence this second list. According to the same poll – but in reverse order – and highlighting only the arts side of their life – these are the top 10 artists among the Most Influential in Antigua and Barbuda of the  last 100 years or so…according to the voters in this particular social media poll:

1 –  Obstinate

2 –  Short Shirt

3 – tied – Prince Ramsey, Jamaica Kincaid

4 – tied – Swallow (who with Obsinate and Short Shirt make up the Big Three of Antiguan calypso, known especially for his road march hits), D. Gisele Isaac (writer, cultural critic, author of Considering Venus, The Sweetest Mango, No Seed), Burning Flames (iconic jam band)

5Barbara Arrindell (writer)

6Reginald Samuel (sculptor, national flag designer)

7Ralph Prince (writer)

8 – tied – Oscar Mason (musician, masquerade artist), Yvonne Maginley (musician, composer, Community Players), Dorbrene O’Marde (playwright, cultural critic and activist, calypso writer, novelist), Roland Prince (musician), Joseph ‘Calypso Joe’ Hunte (calypsonian), Marcus Christopher (calypso writer), Alister Thomas (mas designer and builder), Robin Margetson (pan composer, Panache founder – pan school and orchestra)

9 – tied – Stachel Edwards (musician), Rupert Blaize (singer), Wendel Richardson (musician, one of the founding members of Osibisa), John S. Laviscount (musician, founder of the island’s oldest band Laviscount Brass), Isalyn Richards (director of the combined schools choir), Winston Bailey (musician), Althea Prince (writer), Oliver Flax (writer, playwright), The Targets (music group), The National Choir, Shelly Tobitt (calypso writer known for many Antiguan and Barbudan top calypsos of the 70s and early 80s especially through his collaborations with Short Shirt e.g. classic albums Ghetto Vibes and Press On), Ivena (calypsonian, Antigua and Barbuda’s first and to date only female calypso monarch), Bertha Higgins (musician, involved with Antigua Artists Society, Hell’s Gate), Veronica Yearwood (Afro-Caribbean dancer and choreographer, founder of the Antigua Dance Academy), Zahra Airall (writer, award winning dramatist and playwright – Zee’s Youth Theatre, Honey Bee Theatre, Sugar Apple Theatre plus her work with Women of Antigua, poet, arts event producer – notably Expressions Open Mic, photographer), Hilda McDonald (writer)

10 – tied – Novelle Richards (writer), Conrad Roberts (actor)

*

Apologies if I’ve offended anyone or breached protocol by leaving off all honorifics; that was a choice I made to leave off all instead of forgetting some as I am likely to do (better to have you mad at me for something I chose to do than for something I didn’t mean to do). All honorifics are, however, of course, acknowledged. Also acknowledged is that the named people have done much more than captured in my mini-bites. Some books are pictured in this post but remember to check our listing of Antiguan and Barbudan literature for books on or by any of the named influential Antiguans and Barbudans – if you’re looking specifically for biographies/autobiographies, scroll through the non-fiction list. Also, if someone’s picture is not included it’s because they’re not in the Wadadli Pen photo archives and time constraints didn’t allow for scouring the internet. Hopefully, that covers it – this is just FYI and for fun and I would encourage you to continue the conversation by sharing your picks for most influential Antiguans and Barbudans of the last 100 years or so (the or so is really 20th century forward to this year – I think those were the parameters).

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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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, Links We Love

A & B Artistes Discussing Art

Primarily, in this space, I’ll be sharing discussions, in Question and Answer format, of craft, and insights to not only the author/artist’s journey but the story of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. This is a Work in Progress. The main criteria, so far, for inclusion, apart from the Q & A structure and the arts/art history focus, is that these are interviews not conducted by someone who is part of the artistes’ publishing and/or promotional team, and are interviews that are in the public sphere on a platform independent of the artistes and/or their publishing and promotional team. Beyond that, it’s what I come across and you can also link me interviews that fit the very broad stated criteria by emailing wadadipen at gmail dot com

A

“One of the early writings I did was a play called Dreams…Faces…Reality…and that play was actually performed over 25 times in Antigua and Barbuda… it was used as a tool to help students in the schools understand everything concerning HIV/AIDS.” – Barbara Arrindell with ABS TV (2020)

“Nellie Robinson, Dame Nellie Robinson is listed somewhere in our history as being the first chairperson of the artists association of Antigua and Barbuda, but so is a lady named Elizabeth Pickney…back in 17something… I found one in the 18th century too… we’ve had an artists association here many times and it’s been so far apart that each person thinks of themselves as the first chairperson of… in terms of history, there’s a book called A Brief History of Antigua written by Brian Dyde. Brian Dyde wrote brief histories for about four or five islands around the Caribbean, if it was five, four of them are still in print, guess which one is not in print, the other four were taken on and used in the school systems in the other islands, guess which one they couldn’t even sell one print run for…?” – Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Dorbrene O’Marde, Heather Doram, and Joanne C. Hillhouse on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.

“I don’t really have a routine, I just take advantage of times when I don’t have anything to distract me, when I can get stuck into writing for as long as I want. I like to write with my feet cocked up on a comfortable sofa, and a good view in front of me. We have a small apartment in the old walled city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, which looks out onto a plaza with trees, a few birds singing, passing salsa music, and sounds of people chatting and relaxing. That’s my spot. When I am researching, of course, it’s different: if I’m not working online on the above-mentioned sofa, I’m usually sitting at a table in a research library somewhere in the Caribbean, or in Cornwall.” –  Sue Appleby, author of The Cornish in the Caribbean (2019) 

“If I was to specify what path I’m on and what matters to me the most I think it would be inspiring people…I have a reservoir of information that I could then pass on.” – Sonalli Andrews, graphic designer in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for her column CREATIVE SPACE (2020)

“At the time we did not know we were doing pioneering work in film. There was no pressure to get everything right. It was only after we began doing the film festival circuit did we learned it was not only the first indigenous feature film for Antigua and Barbuda but in fact the Eastern Caribbean. Some intellectuals thought our first film should have had more ‘grit’ dealing with social issues.” – Mitzi Allen in discussion with Karukerament about The Sweetest Mango, written by D. Gisele Isaac, directed by Howard Allen, with Allen as producer and Joanne C. Hillhouse as associate producer. The Sweetest Mango was Antigua and Barbuda’s first feature length film. 2020.

‘I was literally born into the theatre. My parents met each other through the Antiguan drama company “Harambee Open Air Theatre”… and since then they have both always nurtured the love and appreciation for the arts, exposing me to varying types of performances, including visiting ensembles to the island, and performances whenever I traveled. I remember my father taking me to see Cats on Broadway at a young age…it was exciting, and just cemented the fact that that was what I wanted to do with my life … perform and create productions that would make people feel the way I felt as a child sitting in that theatre. My mom then enrolled me in a drama programme called Child’s Play, under renowned Jamaican dramatist and storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks.’ – Zahra Airall talking to The Uncaged Phoenix (2018)

Glenroy Aaron participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Mark Brown, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “To be honest, I have learned a lot more about the Antiguan aesthetic from this conversation than from my years of observing art in Antigua. I say this because there is so little indigenous Antiguan art to observe, and historic recording of it is also quiet faint. My art is basically an attempt to capture the beauty around me and the moments in which they occur. My techniques and methods continue to evolve as exploring New continues to excite. Forays outside my comfort zone to explore deeper emotions have produced interesting results; with some apprehension as to the commercial viability of such ventures. The balance between creativity and viability is tricky but can be done, as others have found ways to make it work. Themes and scenes indigenous to an artist’s place of birth will ultimately make its way onto an artist’s canvas but considering the fusion of influences and cultures that have existed on the islands for some time now, an Antiguan aesthetic may be a bit difficult to define. Further, holding that many view art as a visual expression of the artist’s thoughts and emotions, we can appreciate that some of these ideas and emotions may not be “local” in scope.” Read in full.

B

“When I climbed down into the landing craft, my sketchbook was out, I was sketching men climbing down the ladder. And when we were on the beach I was drawing the men in the foxholes.” – Ashley Bryan talking about being an artist while doing active duty during World War II on The Story on American Public Media. 2013.

“When I was growing up there was the WPA…a programme the government set up for free schools in art and music for all the communities throughout the United States and my parents with six children…sent us all out to the free classes, so we were all painting and drawing and playing the piano… I was not able to get a scholarship (to art school) because they said it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a black person.” – Ashley Bryan talking to BBC Sounds about his early development as an artist.

Tammi Browne Bannister talking to David DaCosta (December 28th 2016):
“When I was little, I loved reading Aesop’s Fables and was attracted to the humor, the lessons, and the tragedies and of course the way these tales made me think about the characters long after reading. I’ve written a few.” Full interview.

“It took coming here to see that my voice was a voice that needed to be heard.” – Brenda Lee Browne, Real Talk with Janice Sutherland at Phenomenal Woman. 2018.

Mark Brown participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “I view art making as a human activity which cannot be defined as mine or yours, and this is based on the type of work which I engage in. My work, in my mind, is about responding to stimuli, that act of engaging with my feelings about my environment, religion, identity, sexuality, all of which most, if not every human being faces at some point in life. As a result, for me Antiguan Art, like Art elsewhere, is individual voices singing their own tune. Of course we may use objects specific to our culture [that have] distinct meaning but many times these same objects may have a different name in another culture and [be] used in different contexts, but then it is also specific then to that locale. How else do we explain lending your voice in paint or any other medium to a specific issue in a way that you deem visceral and then later on somewhere else, Google for instance, you discover another artist on the opposite side of the globe exploring the very same idea in very similar ways. To me it is just the act of discovering, in visual format, that which is buried deep within with the ultimate aim of finding out the real reason for my being “here” and at this time.” Read the full discussion here.

Mark Brown (2015) on Popreel, Swedish TV: “The main aim of the Angel in Crisis series was to bring a sort of humanness to people like her (the nun), priests, people who have to bear that burden of conforming to what society expects of them.” Interview begins at 7:35.

Jazzie B. talking with Chris Williams for Wax Poetics (May 14th 2014): “’Keep On Movin’ actually came about lyrically because we were at the Africa Center in Covent Gardens, and we were being put under a lot of pressure by the police. It was due to the fact that other clubs in the area were empty and ours kept being full. Every so often, we would get the squeeze put on us. At one particular moment, they threatened to close us down. The whole concept of this song came from there.” Full interview.

C

A CREATIVE SPACE discussion on the domestic book market looks at which books are selling well and why.

D

“In my current creative phase, I feel so invigorated, so inspired, so playful, and so expressive. As both an artist and a woman, I am exploring new spaces, taking on new challenges, transcending my past, and shaping my future.” – Heather Doram (2020 interview with findyello.com)

Heather Doram on Observer Radio in a discussion which also included Joanne C. Hillhouse, Barbara Arrindell, and Dorbrene O’Marde (October 2017): “My feeling is that I have lived under several administrations and I really do not get the feeling that there is that widespread support for the visual and performing arts…you just use them when you need them…we do not even have a national gallery in Antigua and Barbuda so we the artists are there producing work in sort of isolation. I’ve seen it in many other countries where the national gallery would commission work; this sort of spurs the whole generation and activity of work and then the artists start to feel that sense of involvement and that their art work can actually support them…the same thing I’m sure applies to the literary artist…something like the cultural development division should be that nexus of that sort of leadership, this is where the cradle is…I would really like to see more support for the arts generally.” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.

Heather Doram participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Mark Brown, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “They were reactive and passionate. They were not satisfied with the realistic interpretation of the Antiguan landscape. They wanted to push boundaries, they wanted to produce work with the visual language of engagement with their audience. Many of their works responded to and explored social, political, gender issues and self. The younger generation sought to explore their roles as messengers in their visual language. I think artists like Mark [Brown], Emile [Hill], and Zavian [Archibald] can be included in this group. They are much more open to expressing themselves and exploring a range of media and techniques in their work.” Read the full discussion here.

E

“Art is not just a commercial transaction. When an artist shows you their work, they’re showing you their soul, their heart, and what’s important to them.” – Debbie Eckert on Sweden’s Popreel (2018) – beginning roughly at 4:30

F

Cray Francis talking with Good Morning Antigua Barbuda (April 5th 2016):
“I felt like I had to write my own stories.”

G

“It’s always a burning passion but it’s not a fruitful burning passion. You do the arts cause you love it and you have something you want to say.” – Gayle Gonsalves (2020) on ABS TV

“I’m a Caribbean poet foremost, I was not born in the BVI. I was born in Trinidad to a BVIslander father and a Trinidadian mother. His mother is Antiguan, her mother is Grenadian. He grew up in Guyana, and I grew up in the BVI. Because of that chain of connections, I think that the vibrations that drive my work are deep in the currents of this sea, those currents that touch each island – I would invoke that famous image of Brathwaite’s from ‘Calypso’, ‘the stone had skidded arc’d and bloomed into islands’.” – Richard Georges in Pree. 2018.

“As far as my poetic horizons go, I try to let the tides tug me along, and trust that they will take me where I’m meant to go. I thought I’d write a book of poems and then move on to spend some time experimenting with fiction, but poems seem to keep coming. I think I have to trust that.” – Richard Georges in Caribbean Beat. 2017.

Linisa George reads and talks about ‘In the Closet’, which was the Antigua and Barbuda Poetry Postcard  for the UK series featuring works from the Commonwealth in time for the 2012 Commonwealth Games. “I’ve always been a poet…” she says, then explains the journey toward stepping in to that power. Link.

H

“I wanted her to be blacker, I wanted her to be on the dark-skinned side of the spectrum and I wanted her to be natural, have natural (hair) …because part of it for me …in the world of children’s picture books we don’t see enough people at the darker end of the spectrum, especially as characters that children can feel affection for and love and recognize themselves in.”

Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Trinidad writer-artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune in a World Book Day chat that involved audience questions.

“The Boy from Willow Bend is by any measure growing up in abject poverty and in an abusive situation, and yet there is laughter and yet there is love and yet there is hope and yet there is dreaming and fancifulness because that is life. Life is not just one thing. It’s a myriad of things, and so that’s what I try to capture of this young boy coming of age in Antigua in this particular time.” Joanne C. Hillhouse is the first National Public Library Author of the Month in January 2021

“For me they were people first and, of course, I had to research just how the world of the underwater would move, what I would need to know about arctic seals, what I would need to know about jellyfish, what I would need to know about sea turtles. So there was a lot of research in that regard. But in terms of the voices of the characters, they were children. They wanted to play and explore the ship, and, of course, Dolphin the Arctic Seal wants to get back home so he can tell his own adventuring grandmother about his own Caribbean sea adventure.” Joanne C. Hillhouse in 2020 self-made video on her own platform but with audience submitted questions for the #Catapultartsgrant (specifically a Catapult Caribbean Creative Arts Online grant). She answered questions submitted via social media about story, craft, theme in Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and all her books

“Songs are universal and you don’t even have to know the lyrics sometimes to feel it.”  –  Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Musical Youth with gender advocacy group Intersect (2020)

“The first storytellers I knew were the calypso writers the Shelly Tobitts of the world,these were the people that taught me how to tell a story and how to tell Antiguan stories in particular.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, ABS TV (2020)

Joanne C. Hillhouse interview on Caribbean Literary Heritage (June 2018): “Honestly, the first thing that flashed in to my mind is Antiguan and Barbudan calypso and Paul Keens Douglas – especially Tanty and Slim at the Oval – on the radio. Neither of which qualify as reading but which were foundational to my introduction to Caribbean literature. It’s there in Antigua and Barbuda’s King Obstinate’s Wet You Hand – a song which was fun and funny to me as a children and which I’ve used as an example of scene building and character description in my workshops, or in the way he knits the story of Anansi stealing the birds’ feathers into another of his songs – songs that did what Calypso did which was be bold-faced and satirical and reflective of our lives and our truth (especially the truths we didn’t dare speak) while bearing our unique brand of humour and matter of factness about life’s tragedies. It’s there in the writings of Shelly Tobitt – named for Romantic era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; though I wouldn’t see the connection until college. A romantic idealist in his own right, or so his lyrics would suggest, as a child Shelly, the calypso writer and frequent collaborator of Antigua and Barbuda’s best calypsonian and inarguably one of the best the region has ever produced the Monarch King Short Shirt (who Dorbrene O’Marde writes about in his Bocas longlisted biography Nobody Go Run Me), was to me a poet who used the frustrations of the people to comment on economic, social, and political issues in a way that was deeply and enduringly philosophical, with melodies that captivated. So, the calypsonians and the oral tradition (including the jumbie stories) would have been my first reading of Caribbean writing.” Full interview.

“When Heather was culture director…I remember her starting a national collection where she commissioned pieces featuring Antiguan and Barbudan icons…what has become of that? What has been the continuity with respect to that national collection?… things like that, like you can have someone with a good idea start something… but there was no continuity, so if there’s no continuity it’s like you’re starting from scratch every time someone gets fired up and passionate about something so that’s the whole point…if you have that continuity then this person’s efforts will connect with that person’s efforts and we’ll have progression instead of starting from scratch every time…one of the things I do on the Wadadli Pen website is I have a project where I record the books that are put out and the plays and the songs that are put out by Antiguan and Barbudan creatives and there’s no shortage of stuff in the last 10 or so years, there’s a lot of people just feeling inspired and doing their own thing… there is stuff happening independently by artistes who feel inspired and creative but not by any system that’s giving them foundation or supporting their efforts.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Heather Doram, Dorbrene O’Marde, and Barbara Arrindell on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to The Culture Trip (July 2017): “in The Boy from Willow Bend, Vere’s mother leaves Antigua for better economic and personal opportunities in the U.S., and Vere himself leaves at the end; in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Selena and her sisters move to Antigua from the Dominican Republic for better opportunities, and at some point one of the sisters moves away from there as well; in the story, ‘The Other Daughter’, the title character moves to the US for educational purposes. I don’t know if it holds significance to me (there are many stories in which people don’t leave) so much as being a reflection of the reality that movement is a part of the Caribbean existence—whether it’s to seek higher education, economic opportunities, or a different kind of life—the Caribbean diaspora (i.e. the number of Caribbean people no longer resident in here or in the Caribbean country of their birth) is significant. We are a region of small islands with intelligent and talented people, sometimes the desired opportunities to recognize our full potential or even the cover needed to brave the economic storms stirred up in bigger places isn’t there. So, it’s just a reflection of the reality, I think (but just one part of the reality that I write).” Full interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse in the Meet the Writer series at Grab Life by the Lapels: “I just enjoy experimenting within the story writing form, short and long. Much of what I write is character driven and distinctively Caribbean with (I like to believe) universal resonance – because I do believe the stories that are about the human condition can cross over without having to be diluted.” Full interview. 2016.

Joanne Hillhouse in conversation with book blogger Geosi Gyasi (2015): “I don’t think about it like that. I just tell the story. Sometimes the protagonist is a child, sometimes a teen, sometimes an adult, sometimes an old person, sometimes a jelly fish named Coral. The writing is always character first, not audience. During the editing process that’s when I’m challenged, often by the assigned editor, to think about things like can the target age group for this picture book understand abstract thinking, do I maybe need to be more literal, more detailed, more specific, provide clearer resolution, like that.” Read the full interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse on Popreel, Swedish TV (2015): “The characters come to me; they don’t always reveal their stories fully, so for me writing is a journey of discovery. I can’t always see where it’s going but I’m kind of wandering my way through it and trying to figure out what is it all about.” Interview starts here at 8:50.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t know any writers from here, from Antigua, until I discovered Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid; the writers from here that I knew, and I have great respect for them, were the calypso writers, people like Shelly Tobitt and Marcus Christopher, because when I was coming up, calypso was the literature that I would hear that had some relevance to my community, the other literature that we read was mostly from America or from Britain. So it was a while before I could wrap my mind around this idea that this was what I was called to do.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse (2015) on Bookworm, Swedish radio 

Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to M. J. Fievre at the Whimsical Project (November 21st 2014): “Calypso, the calypso at that time, sang the things people were afraid to say and reflected the concerns and reality of the folk, authentically, in their voice, in a way that stirred spirits. I think there’s a part of me that strives for that in my writing.” Full interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to Commonwealthwriters.org (2014): “I use a lot of detail, a lot of specificity in rendering the world, and I write from a very character-driven place – Who are they? What do they want? What is their truth (don’t compromise on telling their truth)? Why should we care?” Full interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse is interviewed by Jamaican publisher-writer for Susumba (2013): “Honestly, I think it comes down to the material. I see publishing as the end game not the first step. Develop your craft, read a lot, experience life, write; these are more important. And when you’re ready do your research… take your shot, and don’t give up.” Full interview.

Emile Hill participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Mark Brown, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): ‘Ok so I’m a bit of a texter (cell phone, social media etc.) and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself engaged in several conversations, all completely different subject matter and all requiring a different “Emile” to deal with each of them. And I think, in this day and age, this happens to most persons at some point in time. The series I’m working on presently deals with the “multi-sidedness” of human interaction and relationships. It’s caused me to ask myself some questions, looking at whether this is a means of masking the true self and why? Is Survival a reason? What makes us accommodate each other so, switching faces? Is the face we see real, fake (and sometimes, does it even matter)? With regards to the Antiguan and Barbudan aesthetic, I think that every artist’s contribution is one that continues to make up the grand tapestry of who we are and so I think it fits simply as a local artist’s perspective on things… another thread in the tapestry.’ Read in Full.

73297806_1482817935189902_5047018221308215296_n“I wanted to bring the element of sound to my piece. If you saw my design in a room (by itself), I wanted you to hear the waves crashing on the shores…that’s why I did the ruffles on the bottom (and the peplum at the waist).” – Nicoya Henry, winner of the 2019 A & B Independence fashion competition, interviewed for CREATIVE SPACE

I

‘Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to tell other types of stories. For HaMa Films I wrote “No Seed”, which is a political drama (set on the fictional island of St. Mark) that mirrors the political reality of Antigua & Barbuda. It shows the dark side of “paradise,” where money, greed, manipulation, self- interest, and even murder are played out. I have also written “Considering Venus”, the story of a relationship between two women – one gay, the other straight – that is set in New York and Antigua. It acknowledges what was taboo (in 1998): not only same-sex love but same-sex love among Caribbean people. It speaks to how the relationship affects the families of each woman and what people are prepared to sacrifice – or embrace – to find emotional fulfillment. It is my absolute best work!’ – D. Gisele Isaac being interviewed by the Karukerament website about writing The Sweetest Mango, one of two films produced by HaMa Films Antigua, which she wrote, the other being No Seed – Antigua and Barbuda’s first and second feature length films. 2020.

“No it was not difficult getting started because I was always writing” – D. Gisele Isaac on ABS TV. 2020. Full interview below.

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Clifton Joseph talking with Andy Williams: ‘…the first person to really encourage me into the writing/performing arts was an older man in my village of New Winthropes in Antigua, Mr. Murray, probably, visually, the most black, blackest person in “Blizzard” as we called our home on the northern coast of the island. I think I was around ten years old and in addition to singing the Antiguan calypso songs we heard on the radio, Mr. Murray would actually pay me a penny, or sometimes two-pence (we were still using the British colonial currency at the time) to make up my own “calypso” verses. The only snippet I remember from then are three lines: “in January they called me clinky, then in February they start to call me sebassie, and in June they start to call my cousin boone”…I have to give Mr. Murray maximum props for sparking that early interest in writing and performing.’ Full interview.

Clifton Joseph talking with Ian Ferrier (2007): “Hip Hop, Dub Poetry, Dancehall, Reggae all sort of come out of the same African inspired, Caribbean, American, emphasis on words, rhythm, repetition; all of those things pull from the same pool of stylistic influences.”

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Tameka Jarvis-George interviewed about her comic series August by Jump magazine: “I wrote to escape everything I didn’t like and anything that made me uncomfortable. I love my fictitious world.” Full interview. 2018.

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Shabier Kirchner’s Love Letter to Antigua, an interview with Penelope Bartlett on Criterion Collection: “We are very proud people and yet we are so underrepresented on-screen by ourselves. I think Ousmane Sembène said it best: If we continue consuming images solely from abroad, and telling the stories of other people or absorbing others’ perspective of us, we will eventually lose our identity—and I truly believe that. The Caribbean is my home. Our people are the most interesting to me, and I just want to share the truth of who we are through local eyes.” Full interview. 2020.

Shabier Kirchner talking to Caribbean Beat magazine about his film Dadli: “While I was shooting this test footage, there was no agenda. I wasn’t looking for a main character. We weren’t recording sound, so there weren’t any interviews. I was just walking around shooting things that were interesting. It wasn’t until many months later that we realised there was this boy who kept appearing in the footage. So Tiquan became the force behind the narrative. After we had an idea of what we wanted the film to be, we tracked him down and interviewed him.” Full interview. 2019.

(Shabier) Kirchner: That’s Antigua’s old sugar factory. It’s been abandoned for many years; I used to go there as a kid. It was like Tarkovsky’s Stalker. You could completely lose yourself there, let the imagination would run wild. I always loved that place. Visually, I’ve been shooting it for years, and I knew I had to shoot it on 16. It’s a coincidence that Tiquan was talking about running away from home and finding a place where he could just let loose. It wasn’t that specific place for him, but I’m assuming it was similar. What he described was what the sugar factory was for me.” Full interview. 2018.

JamaicaJamaica Kincaid talking with the BBC (in an interview which also included Jacob Ross and Claire Adam, 2018): “I didn’t know I wanted to tell stories. I knew I wanted to write and I thought I wanted to write about my mother and me, and a lot of my writing is about mother and daughter. But really I could early on see before any critic, I may have pointed it out to critics, that I was really writing about imbalance of power. And the mother country and the domestic mother is quite intertwined. If you really give a cursory and then thoroughly investigation into colonialism, you will see how much the colonial world has to do with the domestic and the domestic is almost always the female domain.” Full programme.

Jamaica Kincaid talking with Mother Jones (January/February 2013): ‘I think I was trying to understand how, short of an accident—you know, you pick up the phone, he says, “Your mother is dead. Her car. The Earth fell”—I never expected the everyday to suddenly become an accident. Suddenly you go downstairs and the pine floor is a gravel pit. I was trying to understand how the everyday suddenly becomes the unexpected.’ Full interview.

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Natasha Lightfoot talking with Renee Goldthree for Black Perspectives (April 4th 2016): “In the UWI archives, there was an almanac for the West Indies in the nineteenth century, and it contained an entry in the year 1858 for Antigua. The entry mentioned that there had been a riot and that the island’s jails were completely full, but it also claimed that the riot was nothing of any political significance. The entry suggested that the rioters were basically rabble in the streets causing trouble—and not at all political. That entry raised my antenna so to speak. I thought that the way the entry was written was a sign that whatever had occurred was very political: there had been a riot in the streets for several days and the jails were full of rioters. I wanted to figure out what happened and why.” Full interview.

JoyLapps1Joy Lapps talking with Joanne C. Hillhouse (December 2nd 2012): “I think that my strengths lie in composition and writing lyrics for music composed by others and by myself. My inspiration comes from my lived experience and some things I read about or see on the news, my spirituality and love of God, falling in love with my husband, the everyday challenges of life…etc.” Full interview.

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Jelani ‘J-Wyze’ Nias, author of Where Eagles Crawl and Men Fly, talking about following his path to publication: “The biggest wall I encountered, not that there weren’t others, but the biggest was my own fear. And once you get through that fear/feeling of will people understand this, will people accept this, are people gonna see my vision, once you go through that then everything else tends to be a lot more easy to deal with.”  – Watch the video.

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Dorbrene O’Marde in conversation with Heather Doram, Joanne C. Hillhouse, and Barbara Arindell on Observer radio’s Big Issues (2017): “We’re definitely not doing enough…you talk to groups today and mention Tim Hector …in schools, the name is not know; what he does has not been heralded…my interactions with young people…points to this particular void…history clearly is the subject of interest here, that we know who we are…the decisions about where we’re going will be made on the basis of that knowledge…if you understand the history of how we came to own these lands…then we wouldn’t behave the way we’re behaving, for example, with our land…” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.

Dorbrene O’Marde talking with Judd Batchelor at Batchelor of Arts Theatre Online (2016): “And one of the comments I made -which seemed to rattle some of the young writers, was the total absence of socio political concerns in this region, at this particular point in time when there is so much need for concern and there is so much need for understanding the post-colonial independence bind that we find ourselves in, that our leaders find themselves in that we as persons trying to inform leadership have not really clarified for ourselves. And my view of the role of the artist is to help in that clarification.” Full interview.

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Rupert Littleman Pelle, final interview, with the Cultural Development Division Research Department (2021): “I never believe I write a good song until I hear somebody criticize it. If I write a song and we can’t sit down in a group and discuss the song, and add and subtract, something wrong with the song, something definitely have to wrong with the song. And you can’t just change a line in a song like that. You write a song and somebody take it and they change a line can destroy the whole song. Because you na know what is leading up to the second verse or the third verse that have to do with the line in the first verse that you interfere with.”

Althea Prince talks about her research and her writing with A Different Booklist bookstore in Canada: “We need to hear from women about their experiences, their creative journeys, so The Black Notes brought together older and younger women. The contributors include some young girls who are just reaching the age of maturity. The book seeks to bring together the two generations. We have then the viewpoint – not a complete cross-section of those, but as far as I was able – of those women and girls from the African-Canadian community. So the same objectives: the same business of giving equity, giving voice, allowing space for these voices to express their creativity. Some of it is non-fiction, some of it is fiction and some of it is poetry.”

Rowan Ricardo Philips talking with Deadspin about his tennis themed book The Circuit: a Tennis Odyssey: “Carribeans love racket sports. My dad played a lot, so I started out going to his matches and serving as a terrible ballboy. The only thing we watched as a family on television was tennis, Breakfast at Wimbledon was big in my house. I had forgotten about those days, but I am fond of them. I never would’ve written the book without it. Here’s a good example: My dad rarely calls with breaking news, but one day he rang me up and said, ‘Turn on the TV, there’s a tennis poem being read on the air.’ It was Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated encapsulating his time at one of the big tournaments. Dad wanted to make sure I saw my personal Venn Diagram becoming one circle.” 2019.

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Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards: “We’re prophets; a lot of things we write about comes true.” (King Obstinate on calypso, September 2013)

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“One of our goals was to have the Cultural Division of Government fully support this organization and work alongside us and our artists. A fraction of that goal has been achieved as the Festivals Division recently came on board to sponsor our signature event, The Ink Project.” – Spilling Ink, for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020.

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“What I’d like to see really is, to be honest, is not just for Halcyon but steelband in general, especially at Carnival time apart from panorama, the bands, they not that important. …You know before time steelband used to dominate the road and be an integral part of the whole Carnival thing. Now apart from panorama, after panorama, nobody waan here no pan again. …steelband will have to move to a next level, they will have to amplify the bands an’ dem.” – George ‘Scenty’ Thomas, former captain of Halcyon Steel Orchestra, on the occasion of the Grays Green band’s 50th anniversary, 2021

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Amber Williams-King talking to the Toronto Arts Foundation: “The reality is that the voices, experiences and identities of those who are not a part of the dominant culture are often erased and disappeared away. As a Black femme who grapples with suicidal ideation, disability and the medical industrial complex, imagining myself in the future has, at times, been almost impossible. Art offered me the space to name these parts of myself, connect with others, and help build a world that does not thrive on the absolute destruction of me and my people.”

PHOTO credits: Pictures of Joanne C. Hillhouse and Joy Lapps are from the 2011 event Telling our Stories at the University of Toronto – event photo; of Tameka Jarvis George is from the 2006 Wadadli Pen/Museum literary showcase Word Up! – event photo/Laura Hall; of Jamaica Kincaid is from the 2014 University of the Virgin Islands literary festival – event photo; of Jelani Nias is a screen grab from a televised interview.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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Calypso Joe: Vintage

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; in this post, I’ll share the section of that article focused on Calypso Joe – who in 2015 distinguished himself as one of the star presenters of Antigua and Barbuda’s first ever TEDx forum. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

Joseph ‘Calypso Joe’ Hunte’s ‘Bum Bum’, became, in 1970, the first homegrown road march winner; and it can still get hips rocking with its old school shout out to the party loving side of any Antiguan.

“I say Ella le go me hand

Le me jump in de band…”

Coming one year after his entry into the Calypso arena, it’s significant for another reason. As current Calypso Association president Jerome Bleau wrote in a 1997 article, “it took Antigua and Barbuda 13 years of Carnival before it could throw off the heavy weight of Trinidad’s heavyweights. Prior to this period (i.e. 1970) the Trinidad road march song was automatically the road march for Antigua. Joe helped break the spell. It is historic.” ‘Bum Bum’ remains one of his biggest hits to date.

Apart from his pioneering role on the road, Joe claimed the 1971 Calypso monarch crown, the only individual not named Swallow or Short Shirt to do so in the 1970s. His winning tunes were ‘Educate the Youths’ and ‘Recorded in History’. Other well loved tunes include  ‘War’, ‘A Nation to Build, A Country to Mould’, and 1972’s ‘Life of a Negro Boy’- his performance of this on competition night and the crowd’s response ranking as his all-time favourite Carnival memory.

Bleau, in the previously cited article, also said: “Few Calypsos composed here match Joe’s in literary quality while he was a master of the catchy and patriotic line.”

“Every citizen to the cause of justice must rise

We must build together and not fractionize

Dedicated to your country’s cause with body mind and soul

We have a nation to build, a nation to build, a country to mould

We have a nation to build, a country to mould”

Guitar in hand, he’s become a familiar face on the hotel circuit and at other national shows, in his post-competition days, continuing to play his part in song.

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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Antiguan and Barbudan song writers

The cover of the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine on which I had the privilege of working as editor.

As with the playwrights and screenwriters, the listing of Calypso song writers may will take a good long while, building sloooowly over time as I gather information and as I find time to upload the information I already have. Part of the challenge is that while we know the names of the artistes, the writers often exist somewhere in the wings, out of the spotlight (sometimes deliberately so). Often, even today, there are no liner notes (a pet peeve of mine since well-written liner notes enhance the listening experience for me). So, more than any of my lists, this one promises to be a challenge. In a number of cases, I’m not 100% sure about the songwriting credits (so if anyone knows, for sure – i.e. with proof, please email wadadlipen@yahoo.com). I think Antigua and Barbuda has produced some classic calypsos (and noteworthy songs in other genres) and they dripped from somebody’s pen; and those guys and gals deserve a bit of the spotlight, wouldn’t you say?

Davidson ‘Bankers’ Benjamin – Bankers’ popular tracks include ‘Me D Ras’ and ‘Fire go bun Dem’ which won him the Antigua Calypso Monarch crown in 1996. He’s also popular for the songs he did with Dread and the Baldhead (‘Motorbike’, ‘Do You wanna rock some more’ etc.) in the 1990s and for songs like ‘Pulling Me’ on the Sweetest Mango [film] soundtrack.

Boasta (Tario Philip)Old Time Something (2015).

Muerah ‘Mighty Artist’ Bodie His calypsos are known for their double entendre (read: alternate lewd interpretation), earning the most humorous prize in competition a time or two. His songs include ‘Vitamins and Iron’, ‘Tarpan Tone Up’, ‘Woman Working Under Man’, ‘Me Ole Wife’, ‘Pot Hole’, ‘Business Dead’, ‘Clap You Tongue’, and others. He’s been singing since 1972.

Marcus Christopher– over 300 calypsos written: incuding several which won the Calypso Monarch competition like Short Shirt’s ‘Carnival on the Moon’ (1969), ‘Beatles MBE’ (1965), ‘No Place Like Home’ (1964) and ‘Heritage’ (1964), ‘Technical School’ (1971), ‘Black Like Me’ (1971); Zemakai’s ‘Tribute to Radio Antigua’ and ‘Fidel Castro’ (1961); King Canary’s ‘Gem of the Caribbean’ and ‘Slapping Hands’ (1960) and ‘Island People Names’ and ‘Immigration Bill’ (1962). Also many that while not winners are memorable, such as Short Shirt’s ‘Parasites’ (1963) and ‘Anguilla Crisis’ (1969) and Sleepy’s ‘Under the Carpet’. Christopher died in 2015.

Toriano ‘Onyan’ Edwards – One fourth of the original groundbreaking Antiguan jam/soca band Burning Flames and later a solo act and four time calypso monarch (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000); Onyan has attracted controversy for lyrics deemed offensive by some (I for instance wrote an article critical of 2012’s ‘Kick een she back doh‘- loved by fans who assured it the road march win, and decried by women’s groups) and not for the first time; anyone remember such classics as ‘Man fu Whorehouse’ and ‘Baby Food’ off the Baby Food album? But with songs like ‘Crazy Man’, ‘Old Fire Stick’, ‘Life in the Ghetto’, ‘Nice and Slow’ and even the named controversial songs he remains  a crowd favourite and road march winner.

Mclean ‘Short Shirt’ Emmanuel – The Calypso Hall of Famer is celebrated as The Monarch (subject of the documentary film The Making of the Monarch  and of the book Nobody Go Run Me – long-listed for the 2015 Bocas prize) as the 15 time Calypso Monarch (’64, ’65, ’66, ’69, ’70, ’72, ’74, ’75, ’76, ’79, ’80, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’92) of Antigua and Barbuda; in addition to being a multiple title holder in both the Road March and Caribbean Calypso King categories. Check out this article on his 1976 album, Feeling the Ghetto Vibes. Also scroll down for the Shelly Tobitt entry.

Fd – The official pseudonym of a songwriter who provided evidence of his contribution to Antiguan calypso (as I hope other songwriters will do so that I can continue to build this data base). Those contributions include social commentaries  –  ‘True Antiguan’ (2011), ‘Forward Together’, ‘Share The Honey’ (1992), ‘Heaven Help Mankind’ (1993), ‘How Could I Sit Back’ , ‘Tell The Truth’; and party tunes – ‘Push Back You Bam Bam/Jennifer’ (1987), ‘Taste The Honey/Taste It’ (2011), ‘After Midnight’ (1983), ‘Get It Up’, ‘Champion’ (1987) & ‘Angela’ (1987) – all performed by King Short Shirt. Other Fd songs: ‘The Party’, ‘Give me a Beer’, ‘Rolling Back’, ‘That’s How I Like It’, ‘Wire Waist’, ‘Stay out of Politics’, ’25 Years’, ‘Good Advice’, ‘Love Me Up’, ‘Shake de Booty’, ‘Push Wood’, ‘Selfish Man’ (1983), and ‘Rub Your Body (1983)’.

Stanley Humphreys – a frequent Short Shirt collaborator beginning with 1980s Summer Festival album, continuing wtih 1981’s Dance with Me Album including songs like ‘Nationalism’ and ‘We have got to Change’, and ongoing; also in 1981 ‘Pledge’ (as confirmed by the artiste himself).

Joseph ‘Calypso Joe’ Hunte – His classic ‘Bum Bum” became, in 1970, the first homegrown winner of the Antigua and Barbuda calypso road march title. Other well known tracks composed and (I believe) written by Joe include: 1971’s ‘Educate the Youths’ and ‘Recorded in History’ with which he won the Calypso Monarch crown;   ‘War’, ‘A Nation to Build, A Country to Mould’, and 1972’s ‘Life of a Negro Boy’.

Tameka Jarvis-George is a novelist and poet who continues to cross boundaries by mixing genres such as when she converted her poem Dinner into a short film of the same name. Her lyrics for Naki’s ‘Talking in Tongues’ on the Tin Pan Riddim is another example.


Oglivier ‘Destroyer’ Jacobs  has written for both himself and his son Leston ‘Young Destroyer’ Jacobs. Destroyer Sr. has never won the crown, though he came close in 1971 and 1989 winning the first runner-up spot. His written songs include 1967’s ‘Bring Back the Cat-o-Nine’, 1989’s ‘Discrimination’ and ‘Message from Gorkie’, ‘Back of de Bus’ (sung by his son and winner of best social commentary in 2006),

Accepting a National Vibes Star Project Award

‘Woodpecker Sarah’, ‘Jail Cart’, ‘Country Running Good’, ‘All Fool’s Day’, ‘Beg Georgie Pardon’, ‘Ah Wha Me Do You’, ‘Can’t Smile ‘Bout That’, ‘Ah Wonder Who Do Dis’, and many others.

King Zacari

Trevor ‘King Zacari’ King  (pictured above, performing)- The 1991 and 2001 monarch began writing for juniors in the early 1990s (e.g. ‘The Zulu Will Rise Again’ performed by Pepperseed) before entering the arena with his own tracks among which can be counted ‘Black Rights’, ‘Guilty of Being Black’, ‘Fine Ants’ (2001), ‘Guilty as Charged’ etc.

Logiq (Vincent Pryce) – A rapper whose discography includes tracks like ‘Sometimes‘, ‘Intimidation‘, and ‘All 4 Love‘.

Menace (Dennis Roberts) – ‘Old Time Something‘ and ‘ Sand to the Beach ‘ (2015).

Kobla ‘Promise No Promises’ Mentor – This Guyana born singer-songwriter broke through in Antigua with his behind the scenes contributions (as co-writer) on the 2003 Wanski hit (‘More Gyal‘) before claiming the so/calypso spotlight the following year with hits like ‘Can’t Stop My Carnival’ and ‘Pon de Move’; 2010’s ‘Do Good‘, 2011’s ‘Her Drums‘, and 2014’s ‘Draw we out‘are among his more recent offerings.

Lesroy Merchant – His songwriting is referenced in this obituary/tribute but details of the specific songs remain elusive. RIP. ETA: “Lesie wrote mainly for Franco, as a matter of fact, it was Lesie who introduced me to Franco and tried to get me to write songs for him. I was very busy at that time hence Lesie wrote the songs for Franco and many times he would have me look at them and asked for my input. May he rest in peace.” – William Shelly Tobitt in the comments below the post ‘Press On’

Justin ‘JusBus’ Nation – He’s written and produced songs and remixes for many artistes including himself with his 2015 J. Nation CD (‘Vertigo’, ‘Hard Work’, ‘Sometimes I’, ‘Blasting Away’ etc.)

Dorbrene O’Marde – song listing requested. Dorbrene is also the publisher of Calypso Talk magazine and the author of the Short Shirt biography Nobody Go Run Me.

The Mighty Bottle (Percival Watts) – ‘Fungi’, ‘Dive Dung Low’, ’10 Bag a Sugar’.

Rupert ‘Littleman’ Pelle – Winning Junior Calypso titles during an uninterrupted eight year run: ‘Parenting’, ‘Prostitution’, and ‘Wadadli Children’ sung and won by Lady Challenger (pictured left, above), 2000-2002; ‘Jump & Wave’, ‘Aunty Esther Say’ sung and won by Princess Thalia (2003-2004); and ‘Train Us Up’, ‘T. N. Kirnon Say’, and ‘Thank You Icons’ sung and won by Lyricksman (2005-2007). – Junior calypso record courtesy a facebook post by Trevaughn ‘Lyricks Man’ Weston on Littleman’s passing in December 2020. Also, ‘Riot 68’ for Latumba – first song when he was still performing as Deceiver (1968) and ‘From Statehood to Independence’ for Prince Jasbo (1978), along with songs for Daddy Iko, Calypso Farmer, Baby Eve and many other junior calypsonians.

Swallow

Rupert ‘Swallow’ Philo – ‘Raphael Trujillo‘ (1961), ‘Party in Space’, ‘Man to Man’, ‘Dawn of a New Day’, ‘We Marching’, ‘Subway Jam’, ‘One Hope One Love One Destiny’, ‘Don’t Stop this Party’, ‘Fire in De Backseat’, and more as chronicled here. With Short Shirt and Obstinate, he is considered one of the big three of Antiguan calypso and a legend in his own right. King Swallow died in 2020. RIP.

Quarkoo

Quarkoo, circa 1942. (Museum of Antigua and Barbuda archival photo)

“The dominant form of popular music in Antigua [up to arouund 1950] was ‘Benna’. The main proponent at the time was a strolling minstrel John ‘Quarkoo’ Thomas.” – P. 20, King Short Shirt: Nobody Go Run Me by Dorbrene O’Marde. Listed among his songs – ‘Maude Smell Donkey’ and 1924’s ‘Man Mongoose, dog know your ways’; 1943’s ‘Yes, it is more than tongue can tell…’

Sir Prince Ramsey is a family physician by profession, an HIV/AIDS activist by choosing, a calypso lyricist and producer by calling. He has produced more than 45 calypso albums and written over 100 songs since 1979 for artistes like King Obstinate, Rupert ‘Baba’ Blaize (‘In Antigua’), Onyan (‘Stand up for Antigua’ – 1998 Calypso Monarch winner), De Bear (‘My Allegiance’ – 2003 Calypso crown winner; and ‘Man is Nothing but Dust’ – 2007 Leeward Islands calypso competition winner), Zero (‘Protect Yourself’ – 2002 Calypso Monarch winner), De Empress (‘We don’t want it here’ and ‘Power of a Woman’ – 2000 Queen of Calypso crown winner), Blade (‘The Brink’ – 2008 Carnival Development Committee winner for best writer and best calypso), and others (about 50 artistes in all). Dr. Ramsey died in 2019. RIP.

Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards – The Undefeated is the creator of such classic gems as 1980’s ‘Believe‘, ‘Children Melee’, ‘Always come back to You’, ‘Antigua’s True Heroes’, ‘Got a little Something  for  You’, ‘Coming down to Talk to You’ (1982), ‘Hungry’, ‘Shiny Eyes’, ‘Who kill me Sister?’ (1985), ‘I already Talk to you’ (1992), ‘All of Self‘ (1993), ‘Ready to Go‘ (1996), as well as ‘Wet You Hand’, ‘Gold Rush’, and ‘Is Love a Love You’.

King Obstinate

Shelly Tobitt – Arguably Antigua and Barbuda’s best songwriter in the calypso arena, especially at his height in the 1970s during his winning partnership with the country’s most lauded calypso icon The Monarch King Short Shirt. It’s important to define Shelly’s partnership with his cousin and frequent collaborator Short Shirt. “Shelly wrote, virtually everything. He also provided ‘base’ melodies. Short Shirt either fine-tuned the melodies or created new ones based on his singing abilities or his own melodic instincts and he helped shape musical arrangements. He also provided a grounding of Shelly’s lyrics. Shelly was the poet, prone to flights of fancy and fantasy. Short Shirt pulled him back, opting for the ghetto slang or the dialect expression in phrase or sentence.” – p. 81 – 82, Nobody Go Run Me by Dorbrene O’Marde. Among the songs they did together are ‘Lamentation’ in 1973; ‘Lucinda’ in 1974; the songs on 1975’s Pan Rhapsody album – ‘Pan Rhapsody’, ‘Cry for Change’, ‘Awake’, ‘Antigua’, ‘Miss Yvette’, ‘Leh We Go’, ‘Vengeance’, ‘Lead On’, and ‘Come J’ouvert’; the tracks on the classic Ghetto Vibes album of 1976 – ‘Carnival ’76’, ‘Inspite of All’, ‘When’, ‘Tourist Leggo’, ‘Nobody Go Run Me’, ‘Power & Authority’, ‘Fantasy’, ‘Vivian Richards’, ‘Hands off Harmonites’, and ‘No Promises’; ‘Rock and Prance’ in 1977, ‘Jammin’ and ‘Gently on my Mind’ in 1978,  ‘Press on‘ the title track for an album that included songs like ‘Viva Grenada’  and ‘What You Going to do’ in 1979, and ‘HIV/AIDS’ and ‘Fyah’ in 1988. Tobitt’s discography also includes:  Latumba’s ‘Culture Must be Free’ and ‘Liberate Your Mind’ in 1979, Chalice’s ‘Show Me Your Motion‘ (1981), King Progress’ ‘You getting it‘ (1984), Figgy’s ‘Look what they’ve done to my song‘ (1998), ‘Benna’ (2011). ETA: “I am the writer and arranger of my works and provide everything needed to realize a complete production. Back then, before I could write the musical parts for the musicians I needed an arranger to do so, but it was my arrangements that they wrote. I sat with and instructed every arranger I worked with how I wanted the songs, and what rifts and motifs to write.” – William Shelly Tobitt in the comments section below the post ‘Press On’

Cuthbert ‘Best’ Williams

Cuthbert ‘Best’ Williams with Queen Ivena

has written winning tunes for Antiguan monarchs Smarty Jr. (who won the crown in 1993, 1994, 1995 with ‘Never Again’, ‘Role of the Calypsonians’, ‘What Black Power Means’, ‘Cry for Change’, ‘Draw the Line’ and ‘Follow the Leader’) and Ivena (who won the monarch crown 2003, 2004, 2005 with ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’, ‘Ivena’s Agenda’, ‘After Lester’, ‘Reparation for Africa’, ‘What Did Castro Say’, and ‘Don’t Pressure Me’; and the  Queen of Calypso crown in 2001 – 2005 with ‘Old Road Fight’, ‘Save Ms. Calypso’, ‘I’m Angry’, ‘Remember the Pledge’, and the other named songs).

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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