We said goodbye to songwriter Rupert ‘Littleman’ Pelle in December. Here on Wadadli Pen we included his life notice in our mid to late December 2020 Carib Lit Plus bulletin, sharing an obit from young calypsonians Trevaughn ‘Lyricks Man’ Weston. In it, he spoke of Littleman’s eight consecutive junior calypso monarch titles as a songwriter for him (2005-2007), Lady Challenger (2000-2002) and Princess Thalia (2003-2004), all of whom went on to shine in the senior competitions – with Thalia ultimately claiming the monarch title for the first time in 2014. If Littleman’s story is a reminder of anything, it’s the value of the investment in the youth and what it takes – that it’s not strictly a financial thing but a year in, year out, commitment to mentoring, in the process building up and sustaining the calypso art form (the junior calypso being a feeder to the larger calypso culture) by building up the individual, one person at a time.
I’ve been meaning to revisit Littleman, a man so self-effacing I had trouble pinning him down for his full discography as I built the songwriters and song lyrics data base. To be honest, he is not unique in that regard, my attempts to record our art history suffers as much from, I don’t know, indifference with the whole record keeping project by both those in the art form and those tasked with (and actually receiving a paycheck for) development and oversight, as it does lack of resources. Maybe people are too busy doing to care about the arc of it all. Maybe I should have tried harder, though, in my smallest defense, this is is a voluntary side-project and a time consuming one.
I was happy, therefore, to discover, in January 2021, a deathbed interview with Littleman, conducted by the Cultural Development Division’s Research Department – the kind of thing I’d like to see them do more of (ideally before the subject is on his/her deathbed), or maybe they do and I just need to catch up. Either way, I shared an excerpt and linked the video to the A & B Artists Discussing Arts database. But I wanted to share some more of it. Hence this Littleman in his own words post.
Excerpt, Rupert ‘Littleman’ Pelle, on helping juniors find their calypso voice: “Even though I’m helping them, I always try and tell them to learn to write, learn to play the guitar, learn to play some kind of instrument; go to the pan yard and learn to play a pan so you develop some musical skills. I always encourage them to write but the only one I see interested in writing was Lyricks Man.”
Excerpt, Rupert ‘Littleman’ Pelle when asked his last words: “My last words to them would be that we got to protect our culture, we got to preserve it in the best way we think possible. I think we should make pan our national instrument. I hear somebody talking about flute, I don’t know if flute really should be a national instrument, but I think pan is what it is. I remember as a boy growing up in this community. They used to have the dung heap where you see Dredge Bay is now and we as children used to get butter tin and burn it, throw it in the fire to burn and get a nail and hammer and mark out notes in those butter tin and sing them and turn tune on those pan. This area, this point area when you hear it come to pan is full of culture. At one time, Point have in about five steelpan – Hell’s Gate, Haronies (?), there was a female band there was Supastars, and there was school boy Harmonites. There was so much talent in the area at one time but nowawadys most of the pan players are not even from the area and that to me is a serious problem, but as a say we got to take our culture very seriously; it’s up to us to preserve it, analyse it from the beginning, see, where it started, how it starts and decide now where are we going to take it, how are we going to plan to develop it, and make it become what we want it to be.”
The Department of Culture was given the opportunity to interview Rupert ‘Littleman’ Pelle exactly one week and a day before he passed.
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!, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and Spanish language edition Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, The Jungle Outside, With Grace, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved.