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Not me, it’s the music

By Terry Joseph
June 12, 2002

Call it a consequence of advancing age if superficial explanations bring you comfort, but I fear deeply for the relevance of today’s calypsoes 25 years hence, when some future flag-bearer for we kinda music decides to throw a back in time dance.

For openers, the clientele would be nearly three decades older, unable or at least unwilling to dedicate an entire night to high speed pelvic gyration or keep its “hands in the air”, unless under threat on both counts from bandits toting doomsday devices.

Because, as I have discovered, selecting music for a back in time dance cannot be a purely historical pursuit. Even today, just 50 years since riding widespread popularity, songs like Spitfire’s “Post, Post Another Letter for Thelma” and Wonder’s “Ramgoat Baptism” aren’t heard anymore at parties.

For much the same reason, recordings by the Arthur Watson, Nelson Riddle or Tommy Dorsey orchestras have been sidelined even where digitised, the intrinsic worth of their music devalued more through technology than time, as the mature ear is pampered by increasingly scintillating sound sources.

But even if the mind-boggling possibilities of audio research and development were paused, we’d still be left at the vintage kaiso dance of 2025 with today’s speed, inanities, vapid rhythms, ghoulish vocals and insipid hooklines; all party-poopers when you’re attempting to rekindle fond memories.

Of the lot, it may not be necessary to use more than one hand for counting calypsoes that are properly up to the task, as distinct from today’s problem of selecting ten from the reprise of calypso’s golden age, the period 1960 to 1990.

The primary requirement that these selections move mature people to dancing may narrow the field, but does not reduce any of its complexity, given that acceptable rhythms span from uptempo, through hold-on-and-dance numbers to your fundamental lavway.

It is why I am in complete sympathy with those of my professional colleagues who are still befuddled by the breadth of choices available, in other words, having the challenge of their lives at attempting to extract a Top Ten dance calypsoes from that 31-year period.

To their credit, Guardian entertainment editor Peter Ray Blood, Friday Mirror editor Ken Ali and Power 102FM Head of News Andy Johnson have come up with their picks. Sprangalang plans to serialise his selections during evening drive-time on I–92.5 FM and Sharon Pitt will drop hers en bloc Saturday morning on FM 100.

Of course, among those yet to come up with their selections may be a few waiting to see or hear picks from their peers, giving themselves opportunities for enhancement although, from my own experience, the task is just not as easy as it first appears.

It is all in the interest of compiling a soundtrack for the second annual Back in Time Kaiso Dance, which takes place next Tuesday night at the Queen’s Park Oval. Sure, I asked them to distil these Top Ten lists, but don’t blame me. It’s the music.

The lists that have come in throw up some interesting songs. Among Ali’s picks are “Tourist Leggo” by King Shortshirt, “Norman and Audrey” by Nelson. Johnson who for the inaugural dance last year startled the field with King Fighter’s “Come Leh We Go, Sukie” and Fitz Vaughan Bryan’s “Tan Tan”, has this time delved even deeper into the bag. On his 2002 list is Singing Diane’s “You Got to Give Away”, “Doh Rock Meh So” by Kitchener and Duke’s “Honey Needle”.

Blood opens with the virtual anthem of dance calypsoes, the Leston Paul/ Lennox Picou command to “Get Up and Dance”. He backs up nicely too with Tambu’s “No, No, We Ain’t Going Home”, Maestro’s “Savage”, Duke’s “Total Disorder” and Squibby’s “Iron Man”.

My Top Ten selection process threw me back into boxes of dusty vinyl albums, poring over cassette cases with faded handwriting and finally, testing some of the shortlist on trusted calypso aficionados.

King Wellington’s “Miss McCarthy Party”, “Lifeline” sung by Ann Marie Inniss, All Rounder’s “Innocent Jimmy” and King Austin’s “Progress” simply couldn’t be excluded.

Then there was “Money Eh No Problem” by Shorty, Prince Galloway’s band doing the extended version of “Archie Buck Dem Up” and Roaring Lion singing “Papa Choonks”, calypso music that just had to be there.

But what excuse could I summon up for leaving out Sparrow’s “Yuh Mad”, Brigo’s “Limbo Break” or Merchant’s “Let No Man Judge”?

With all ten spaces exhausted, any number of precious calypso titles remained adrift. “Ah Feeling to Rock” by Plainclothes, Organiser’s “Doh Tell Ah Soul”, Becket singing “Ah Coming High”, “Party Time” by Bally, “Party Fever” by Scorcher, “Life is a Stage” by Bro Valentino and an assortment of medleys by Shadow, David Rudder, Merchant, Rose, Nelson and, of course, Kitchener and Sparrow.

Perhaps having the knowledge that Black Stalin, Baron, Singing Sandra, Protector, Explainer and Blakie will be there with Roy Cape & the Kaiso All Stars and DJs Hurricane George and Crosby Sounds are long-standing music collectors, my list can at least argue it sought only to complement performances at the dance.

But try it yourself and recognise how much of the music you really love has slipped through the cracks, then select ten from today’s catalogues and see them in the back in time party of the future.

Perhaps more of the new wave singers should take a cue from their peers Ghetto Flex and Rocky, whose “Carnival is Bacchannal” success was based largely on a Kitchener music bed (“Mr Sobers”). At least that way, the great melodies will linger on.

Well, at least for a while longer.

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