Tag Archives: legend

Celebrating Dr. Prince Ramsey; RIP, Sir.

nationalvibes307

Calypso writer/producer Dr. Prince Ramsey receiving a lifetime achievement award at the National Vibes Star Project Awards (held one time in 2006). – photo by Joanne C. Hillhouse

And so news comes (sadly) of the passing of Sir Dr. Prince Ramsey, an Antiguan and Barbudan (and wider Caribbean) medical doctor by profession, and, by calling and choosing, an HIV/AIDS activist and cultural actor (as songwriter, producer, and, yes, actor in the film No Seed – as a producer on that film I remember being on set that day through take after take as we filmed him playing a doctor delivering bad news to our main character). I’ve been fortunate to know him professionally (having interviewed him and artistes he worked with, wrote, produced for, and financed over the years) and socially (one of my favourite Old Year’s Night parties was at his house), and I am surprised (notwithstanding knowing that he had battled illness in recent years) and sorry to hear of his passing.

The Caribbean News Service reports that he died today (Friday 3rd May 2019) and leaves a legacy that includes “pioneering HIV services for pregnant women in the Caribbean”, and in 2018 received the UN Population Award for his various achievements. Those achievements include HIV/AIDS education and assisting people living with the virus with accessing the drugs that meant the difference between life and death.

Calypso fans will remember where his advocacy vis-à-vis HIV and his passion for calypso intersected with the Dr. Ramsey-penned and produced ‘Protect Yourself’ which won (in 2002) a second and final calypso monarch crown for Zero, a calypsonian living with the disease (a fact that added power and poignancy to the lyrics – while my interview with Zero about this song and his battle with the disease won me a PAHO Media Award).

‘Protect Yourself’ (lyrics):

We may not know just how AIDS began
but we surely know the mode of transmission
sexual encounter without protection
so we are exposed to this infection
some pregnant still refuse testing
some insist on breastfeeding
even the unborn exposed to this virus
that’s affecting all of us

cho.
If this turns out to be my last song
let the message still live on
the first disease of mankind
where the cure is so hard to find
aids have scientist baffled
so your life is not to be raffled
why take a chance for just one moment of bliss
you weren’t born to die like this
I sing this song with sincerity
I want the whole world to hear me
promiscuity ruins your health
protect yourself

In spite of all the sex education
AIDS still expand through migration
with inequality and pockets of poverty
it still remains a human tragedy
it is the worst plague to affect mankind
but the first one we can confine
the black plague and Spanish flu kill so much people
this virus worse than these two

cho.

if you want to live to a ripe old age
control your life at an early stage
promiscuous behaviour
dirty needles you use
to use a condom some bluntly refuse
all of us like moments of pleasure
we don’t care what happen after
unfortunately you test positive
life is now a pain to live

cho.

AIDS is a disease the world must confront
our sexual behavior got to be different
no more running around from partner to partner
otherwise we go have an AIDS disaster
I feel so obliged to make this statement to offer enlightenment
this killer virus cause so much suffering and pain
that ‘s why I join the campaign

cho.

We are fortunate that ABS TV in the last year did a retrospective on Dr. Ramsey’s career in calypso.

It’s worth watching in full for a complete understanding of Dr. Ramsey’s investment in calypso including producing the Wadadli Gold and Wadadli Diamond albums in the late 70s/early 80s which gave a platform to artistes like Douglas, Redding, Calypso Jim, Dr. Solo, Chalice (whose classic ‘Nightmare Party’ was part of these recordings) – financing not only the albums but the promotional tours; producing classic albums by one of Antiguan calypso’s big three King Obstinate (who describes him as “a great producer”) especially his 40th anniversary album and commemorative booklet in the 1990s but also earlier albums like ‘Believe’; his work with at the time former Burning Flames frontman King Onyan (which, if I’m remembering correctly is the only collaboration he ever profited from, according to him) – a partnership that yielded back to back to back calypso monarch crowns.

Some quotes from the ABS TV doc:

“I have been probably the most successful artiste that he’s ever worked with. …when I went solo, I approached him about being my manager and he was the only one that was very willing to assist me at the time … and from then he has become a friend, a brother, uncle, father, everything in one, and we have had that not only musical relationship, we have had that very friendly relationship and I find in all honesty he’s probably the most honest person I’ve ever met… and when I embarked on ‘Crazy Man’ he was the one who encouraged me to enter the calypso competition which was not on my plate…’Crazy Man’ went on, we won the competition, then we came back again, and since then all of my competition songs have been written by Dr. Ramsey. And I’d like to say he’s probably one of the best writers and the biggest song as a local competition calypso song ‘Stand up for Antigua’ was written by him…it’s going to be hard for another song to become a national anthem like that.” – King Onyan

“We worked well together and you don’t have to worry about it; if he’s going to work with you, he works with you – whether it’s financial or getting the bookings, making sure you get paid. He’s a very principled man and I admire that about him.” – King Obstinate

“I’m sure that most persons would know that he has written maybe over a thousand songs  cause he’s worked far and wide so he writes all different types of calypso – social,  political, humorous.” – De Pan Man, who also spoke personally of Dr. Ramsey’s philanthropy, the money he invested beyond the artistes he worked with directly

“I don’t know if I can ever reach that stage again in terms of lyrical content, melody. Dr. Ramsey did that.” – De Bear re his Dr. Ramsey-penned song ‘Man is Dust’ which captured the 2007 Leeward Islands Calypso title

“In my estimation he could have built 10, 20 30 houses but he chose to put his all into calypso in terms of producing the music and ensuring the survival of calypso.” – Dr. Solo

“Year after year, whether it’s Onyan or the Bear or Solo, Progress or Zero; he worked with some ladies also – Althea, Lady Smooth, even Stabba out of Barbuda…there is nothing to describe Dr. Ramsey for the work and the contribution he has done for the art form, for calypso, for calypsonians here in Antigua and Barbuda.” – Kenny Nibbs, veteran DJ

If you’ve read Jamaica Kincaid’s My Brother, you’ve seen her speak positively of Dr. Ramsey and his efforts vis-à-vis health care and HIV/AIDS – notwithstanding her usual criticisms of the island as a whole.

He inspired that kind of response. Clearly.

Dr. Ramsey began writing calypso while still a medical student overseas and wrote his first song for local competition, in 1979. His iconic songs are many – Onyan’s ‘Criteria’, Obsti’s ‘Sugar Bowl’, Baba Blaize’s ‘In Antigua (we wake up to the sun)’ – having produced over 45 albums for various artistes. All of this with no formal training in music. Dr. Ramsey is a Carnival Lifetime Achievement honoree among many other accolades – local, regional, and international – in not only calypso but the medical field.

He remained gracious through it all, saying in one interview, “I don’t have the talent or the gift. I have a passion for calypso. People like Shelly Tobitt, they have a gift. I gave Shelly a song one time and he sat down and played the guitar and came up with the melody right there. That’s a gift. I can’t do that. People like Onyan can do that.”

Well, if you’ve watched the ABS TV doc (or even just read this far) you know Onyan and others return the sentiments re Dr. Ramsey’s gift – and more important than that that there was no more stand-up guy.

He will be missed, but his contribution lives on.

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen, my books, and my freelance writing-editing-coaching-workshop services. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Over the Boundary: the Monarch

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 King Onyan (as it ran, so some of the info will be dated), who came from the soca/party world as one of the original Burning Flames to create sparks on and off the stage in the calypso world. The previous excerpts from this article focused on Queen Ivena, King Onyan, and King Swallow. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

“We are three men who came a long way, and we supported one another by way of competition. Short Shirt had to come good, because I was there waiting for his tail. Swallow had to come good because Short Shirt was waiting for him, and the three of us supported each other….”
(Sunshine Awards Hall-of-Famer King Obstinate in a 2006 interview published in the Daily Observer newspaper)

Mclean Emmanuel, alias Short Shirt, has won the crown so many times – 15 to be precise – that in Antigua when you say ‘The Monarch’ everyone knows it can only be him.

Competing for the first time in 1962, after returning from the Virgin Islands where he had worked for a time, Short Shirt was eliminated. He made strides in1963 when he snagged the second runner-up spot, before jumping to the head of the line in 1964 when he claimed his first title with ‘No Place Like Home’ and ‘Heritage’.

Since then, he’s won more Monarch crowns than any calypsonian, we believe, anywhere. The Monarch’s record of most consecutive wins may have been eclipsed, but no one has come close to touching him when it comes to most overall wins in the Calypso Monarch Competition. Add to that his seven Road March wins, and it becomes clear that he really is in a class by himself.

Short Shirt’s full measure, though, is not only in the numbers – impressive as they are. With dance-worthy music belying the weight of lyrics like…

“When will our dreams become utopia
When will our sorrow cease to be
When will the poor no longer hunger
When will mankind be truly free”,

…he spoke to people in profound ways, while infusing day-to-day concerns with epic significance. Lyrically lucrative partnerships with the likes of legendary Antiguan scribes, notably Marcus Christopher and Shelly Tobitt were key to this magic.

Short Shirt’s catalogue is deep, with many hits beyond the ones that won him the title. This includes ‘Lamentation’, a sustained wail of a song that is as relevant today as it ever was; more so in some ways. Consider any recent newspaper headline against lines like:

“Mankind can’t find no solution
I say we reapin’ the sour fruits of retribution
And I am now convinced we are violent, lord, vulgar animals
Oh Lord, oh lord
And is we who say we intelligent
We superior
We civilized and we wise
Yet we making all kinda bomb, blowing up everyone
Shooting one another with gun
And who ain’t got gun, use knife…”

Amazingly, this now classic tune lost the crown, but it remains a favourite. D. Gisele Isaac writing about the 2004 ‘Reunion of Kings’ show in the Daily Observer, commented, “The crowd did everything but genuflect when Short Shirt came onstage (opening with ‘Lamentation’). You had to have been there. You just had to be there. When every mouth in Carnival City – soprano, alto, tenor, bass – opens to sing ‘Lament, oh my sooooooooul’ and soars together on ‘Oh Lawd, Oh Lawd’, it is a spiritual moment.”

Of course, it wasn’t always spiritual; tunes like Shorty’s ‘Kong’ and ‘Send Yuh King’ testify his Muhammad Ali-esque swagger, and the keen rivalry between him and Swallow in the 1970s. More recently, his fleet footedness slowed by time, some have argued that he should have stepped down before being knocked from his perch; and his ill-fated return to competition a few years ago has been criticized. Few could deny, however, that on the strength of his vocal ability and onstage charisma, and the enduring relevance of his songs, he can be considered an icon of the game.

This is, after all, the man who sang, warningly and prophetically, in ‘Pledge’:

“True liberation does not only lie in constitutionality
We have gained nothing if all we do is pass
From bondage to a subtler task
Where foreign sharks with their fangs exposed
Surround us with promises of a brighter world”.

This is the man who reminded the powerful on their lofty perches, in 1979’s ‘Not by Might’ that:

“Wherever a people are oppressed and down trodden
They shall rise with a vengeance that will shake the world

The spirit of revolution will never bow down to a man
The quality of virtue increases beneath oppression
The more we are suppressed and denied our rights
To pursue all happiness and liberty
Is the greater our resistance to tyranny shall be…”

But Short Shirt didn’t only have great, deeply resonant, powerfully impactful lyrics, and music to make you ‘jam and w’ine’. As Dorbrene O’Marde wrote in 1988’s Calypso Talk, “He…has this tremendous performing ability – especially at competitions – to lift the ordinary, the blasé into the realms of excitement.”

One can infer further that when Short Shirt’s material was more than ordinary, he was unstoppable. His 1976 Ghetto Vibes album, coming from the belly and heart of the ghetto, comes to mind. This album contains alongside the defiant ‘Nobody Go Run Me’ and celebratory ‘Vivian Richards’, ‘Tourist Leggo’, the song that literally shook the Savannah. The year was 1977 and it was a simple but infectious tale:

“Carnival, jouvert morning, just as the band start parading
I in Scot’s Row jamming tight with a leggo,
Pretty little yankee tourist at that
She say she come down from Halifax
And she never see Carnival
So she come to join in the bacchanal…”

The song would cause all kinds of bachaanal when it proved more popular than the homegrown hits with the Trini crowd; so popular in fact that protectionism reared its head. The July 13th 2001 edition of the Outlet chronicles this chapter, and in fact points the finger: “The campaign against non-nationals was led by the very venerable Lord Kitchener, the Grand Master of Calypso.” It goes on to reference another Trini calypsonian, Lord Blake’s, defense of Short Shirt:

“You are out of place, Kitchener
Listen to what I say
Yuh tell the brass band and steel bands
what tune they must play
who give you the authority
to condemn road march in this country
what the public say
dat is road march on Carnival day

You name could be Short Shirt/Swallow/Beckett or Arrow”.

Few outsiders can claim similar impact in the self-affirmed land of Calypso.

Having won his last crown in 1992, Short Shirt retired from the calypso scene for a time; and his life took a markedly different turn when he was ‘born again’. But, even his segue to gospel paid off musically with the Monarch putting out two well-received gospel albums – ‘I Surrender’ and ‘Jesus Touched Me’. And when he began putting out secular music again, he pre-empted his detractors in 2001’s ‘The Message’:

“Nothing wrong with the Music
The rhythm or the melody
Calypso is part of our culture
That I hold very dear to me
So before you criticize
What you don’t understand
Remember music a gift from God to man
So the only thing with any song, I say
Is the message that the words convey.”

Short Shirt, one of only two Antiguan Sunshine Award Hall-of-Famers’, message has been loud and clear over the years. As he said in a 1998 Antigua Sun interview, “we were out there trying to impress upon the government what they should do; trying to turn things around to make poor people better off.” One has only to think of the lyrics of fiery tunes like ‘Not by Might’ to appreciate the truth of this.

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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Short Shirt’s Top 100

Appendix 5 of Nobody Go Run Me: the Life and Times of Sir Mclean Emmanuel by Dorbrene O’Marde

King Short Shirt’s Top 100 Songs of All Time on Radio ZDK (Broadcast Tuesday 28th February 2012 – His 70th Birthday)

*

100 Antigua Will Redeem (1972)

99 Antigua (1962)

98 No Place like home (1964)

97 The World needs love (1969)

96 Labour Day Night (1970)

95 Run Short Shirt Run (1963)

94 Starvation (1974)

93 Love Lifted Me (1997)

92 Believer (1978)

91 The World in Distress (1986)

90 What we gonna do (1979)

89 Miss Yvette (1975)

88 Josephine (1969)

87 No Promises (1976)

86 Fighting (1974)

85 Black Like Me (1970)

84 European Common Market (1972)

83 Last Jouvert (1992)

82 Ghetto Vibration (1977)

81 Utopia (1973)

80 Tyranny (1977)

79 Iron Band (1983)

78 Racial Violence (1969)

77 Nudist Society (1970)

76 Symphony (1976)

75 Pac Man (1983)

74 Disco Dumpling (1980)

73 The Madness of it all (1977)

72 Leh we go (1975)

71 Bleeding Heart (2001)

70 When we are together (1981)

69 Reach for the sky (1977)

68 Me man you woman (1972)

67 Push back you bam bam (1966)

66 Lead on/Press on/Hang on (1975/79/83)

“Yield not your soul to fill your bowl

Better death than live a lie

For they must dry the sea

And they must move the sky

Before the righteous spirit die” (from Press On)


65 Taste it (1985)

64 Vengeance (1975)

63 Help (1980)

62 Legs (1988)

61 Children (1980)

60 After Midnight (1985)

59 Tell the truth (1995)

58 I surrender (1997)

57 Statehood (1967)

“We are the gem of the Caribbean

A very special link in the chain”

56 We have got to change (1981)

55 Yankee in Carnival (1970)

54 Technical School (1970)

53 Heart Transplant (1969)

52 The Message (2001)

51 Cry for a Change (1975)

50 Raycan (1970)

49 Star Black (1974)

48 Until (1985)

47 One people (2001)

46 Pull Together (1973)

45 Stand Up Grenada (1979) (actually Viva Grenada)

44 Anguilla Crisis (1969)

43 Jouvert Competition (1981)

42 Nationalism (1981)

41 Treat me nice (1969)

40 Dance from Antigua (1977)

39 Send you king (1974)

38 Viv Richards (1976)

37 We are the ones (1977)

36 Spirit of Carnival (1985)

35 Rock and Prance (1977)

34 Summer Festival (1980)

“Some are wearing tear up pajamas

Big boots and sneakers

With oversized trousers

Zip up panties

Half slip and nighties

Like if they don’t plan to go home”

33 Kangaroo Jam (1979)

32 Lucinda (1974)

31 Push (1982)

30 Jamming (1978)

29 Hari Kari (1987)

28 Jouvert Rhythm (1987)

27 Alive and Kicking (1982)

26 Uneasy Head (1978)

25 Benna Music (1978)

24 Nobody go run me (1976)

23 Illusion (1977)

22 Forward Together

21 Hand in Hand (1993)

20 This Land (1974)

19 Awake the Youths (1975)

18 Day of Reckoning (2003)

17 Not by Might (1979)

16 Heaven Help Mankind (1993)

15 Handwriting (2001)

14 True Antiguan (1987)

13 AIDS (1988)

12 Unity (1978)

11 Share the Honey (1992)

10 My Pride and Joy (2001)

9 Afro Antiguans (1972)

8 Love and Understanding (1977)

7 Power and Authority (1976)

6 When (1976)

5 Inspite of all (1976)

4 The Fire After (1988)

3 Lamentation (1973)

2 Our Pledge (1981)

1 Tourist Leggo (1976)

*

Respect to the writers – Marcus Christopher, Shelly Tobitt, Fd, and Stanley Humphreys; and arrangers like Jagger Martin and others, and Short Shirt himself easily one of the more influential Antiguans and Barbudans of the 20th century – such was the power of his art. For more, see our songwriters database and our song lyrics database, as well as this Ghetto Vibes review, this and this review of O’Marde’s Nobody Go Run Me, which was longlisted in 2015 for the Bocas Prize.

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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I love bananas, too

Interesting bit of trivia, at least to me; according to site
stats, the all time top 5 search terms (as of August 2011) that most often lead
people to Wadadli Pen are, in descending order, most to least searched:

  1.       Legend of banana

My reaction: No wonder Chatrisse Beazer’s 2011 prize winning Wadadli Pen entry The Legend of Banana Boy is so often lately among our top posts…how much do I love that one of the products of this Wadadli Pen project, a story by
one of our young authors, is in such demand?…They are searching for the
story, right, and not some mythical legend about bananas?

2.       West Indian literature

My reaction: No surprise here; John R. Lee’s bibliography on Discovering West Indian Literature in English  has (consistently) attracted a lot of traffic to

That's Lee far left with In the Castle of My Skin author George Lamming centre, and poet and BIM editor Esther Phillips far right.

the site since it was initially posted and until the rise of the banana owned the top spot. I’m happy for this as I do want the site to be seen as sort of a resource on not just Antiguan lit and Wadadli Pen but…well, writing in general and West Indian Literature in particular.

3.       Wadadli pen

My reaction:The site’s purpose for being is Wadadli Pen,
so, guess I should count it as a win that we’re in the top three. We’re coming
for you bananas!

4.       Caribbean novels 1960  

My reaction: This is odd, not the “Caribbean novels” part but the “1960”; is this a college course or something? If not, why are so many searching for this particular year of Caribbean novels? Sure the ’50s and ‘60s was a banner period for the emerging Caribbean novel, but why 1960 in particular? Hm. Almost as much of a mystery as the legend of the banana.

5.       The Legend of Banana

My reaction: …speaking of which…

After that, you have people looking for particular authors
and poets – Esther Phillips to Althea Prince to Jamaica Kincaid – or for
groupings like “Antiguan poets”; and, given my ambitions for the site, that
thrills me no end, even as it challenges me to step up my game to make sure
that you don’t come here in vain.

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