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Andrew Boyce dies

By Terry Joseph
March 05, 2006

Of the tens of thousands of masqueraders jumping and prancing to calypso music on the streets Carnival Tuesday, few would likely have known Andrew Boyce, fewer still were aware of his role in the founding of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organization (TUCO) and perhaps just a miniscule inner-circle were in timely receipt of news that, amidst the revelry of which he was most fond, this major contributor died quietly at his San Juan home.

But in the annals of Carnival, Boyce deserves greater recognition, not just for dedication to calypso, for he was equally well-known as a regular with Trinidad All Stars Carnival Tuesday Sailors Ashore portrayals and as leader of a Jouvert band, the popularity of which peaked in 1976 with his presentation, The Epic of Man. In essence, he was among the early Carnivalists, although his self-effacing personality helped keep that role a secret.

Although immortalized in the Mighty Sparrow's calypso "Bad Johns", Boyce, whose transgressions must have been no more than fashionable, was really a saga-boy at heart, in his halcyon days driving an unusually large Pontiac car, forever impeccable in dress and unassailable in turn of phrase, a soft-spoken teddy-bear with the most disarming smile, more of a mentor to upcoming singers and historian to veterans; command of language making him a sought after resource for mid-20 th Century composers.

He would not only correct lines recklessly strung together by calypsonians but guide them in the subtleties of delivering outstanding performances. Officially, he served for many years as general secretary of the (now defunct) Calypsonians Association of Trinidad and Tobago (CATT), later representing that body on the Board of the Carnival Development Committee (CDC).

Substantively the owner/operator of Keynote Club which, up to the mid-1990s, was one of Port of Spain's more popular liming spots, where the size of Friday evening after-work gatherings rivaled that of the famous Saturday morning cool-out at which fish-broth and a variety of soups were available as tasty alkali for those who had imbibed excessive acids overnight; Boyce used his persuasiveness and premises to convene the meeting that would significantly enhance respect for calypsonians.

CATT had been established since the turn of the 1950s and was, at the time, presided over by the Mighty Gibraltar, who also occupied a seat on the CDC Board. The Association executive met in a barber saloon on Duke Street, an ignominy often mentioned by members of a rival grouping, comprising mainly younger singers of the day, including Gypsy, Protector and Tambu, who felt reduced by CATT's circumstances and apparent inability to move the art forward.

They had, in 1990, formed the new grouping, Trinbago Calypso Organization (TCO), which loudly contested decisions made on behalf of calypsonians by CATT. Pained by resulting divisiveness, Boyce contacted this reporter, suggesting I chair a meeting which, in the existing scenario, seemed impossible to convene. He however coaxed representatives of the warring factions to the table at Keynote Club on July 19, 1992, the Labour Day holiday.

The marathon session lasted from 5 pmuntil shortly before midnight, Protector leading the TCO team, while Gibraltarand the Mighty

Terror ranked among CATT seniors.

Agreement was reached circa 11 pmand, as I remember it, Tambu suggested the new entity be named the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organization.

I appointed Protector as interim chairman  and planned a meeting for the following week at the St Paul Street Community sports facility, at which gathering a working group was appointed to reconcile constitutional matters. Protector piloted the activity, funding TUCO's assumption of an office at the Cruise Ship Complex. At its first election, Protector was firmly installed as president, with Kai Maloney as his deputy and Boyce as general secretary. Other members were Bally (public relations officer), Eddie Yearwood as assistant, Delamo as treasurer, Muhammad Shabazz in the role of marketing manager and Ruby Radix and Lennox Campbell as trustees.

It was Boyce's last hurrah as a prime mover in calypso but without his input, we would probably have lived through a much longer period of uncertainty over who really was in charge of the welfare of calypsonians and whether they were being accorded due reward.

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