Trinidad and Tobago



Ras Shorty-I

July 12 2000
By Terry Joseph

The acknowledged inventor of soca music, Ras Shorty I, died last night at Belmont.

Shorty, 59, passed away shortly after dusk, after a battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.

His calypso colleagues expressed shock although admitting that his death was not altogether unexpected. Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Association (Tuco)_president, Seadly “Penguin” Joseph was speechless, turning us over to public relations officer, Michael “Protector” Legerton, who praised Shorty’s strength in his twilight days.

“We are all grief stricken,” Protector said. “We are still trying to come to terms with his death, although it is not a total surprise, because we knew his situation. No one here has really been able to speak since we heard the news.” The organisation will release a full statement today.

Calypso King of the World, The Mighty Sparrow, speaking from his New York home, described Shorty’s death as a shocker. “What a shocker,” he repeated several times. “I did not think it would be so soon. I am really at a loss for words. I am dumbfounded. I still cannot collect myself,” he said, audibly breaking into tears. “I just want to, at this time, extend my condolences to his family and pray that they stay strong,” he said. The mood was the same from other calypsonians who called the Express upon hearing the news.

Shorty, whose calypso sobriquet was a parody of his imposing height, first came to public attention in 1963 with the song “Cloak and Dagger,” catapulting him to the art’s major league at a single bound. A close friend and associate of the acclaimed calypso composer Maestro, Shorty carved his own space from the 1964 Carnival and rose swiftly in the calypso world. His first title came in 1970, when he was crowned Calypso King of San Fernando, beating former monarchs Bomber and Black Stalin into second and third place respectively.

By 1984, the was able to command the respect and trust of a stable of superior singers, who he presented for that calypso season in the yet upscale setting of Queen’s Hall, as The Professionals. But he was best known for premiering a new rhythm that fused Indian percussion instruments with the traditional calypso engine room to produce soca, defining the new beat as “the soul of calypso”.

In that vein, he produced some of calypsoes enduring masterpieces, including the seminal Endless Vibrations album. Apart from its infectious title-track and other catchy songs like “Zena”, the album offered an insight into revolutionary possibilities for calypso music, most notably the Hindu-oriented “Om Shanti”, a song that caused more than a mild uproar in certain quarters for its use of the chant in its chorus line.

Shorty went on to become The Love Man, singing songs in that idiom, some of which caused him to run afoul of the authorities. He was, however equally adept at social commentary, with his “Money Eh No Problem” (1984) becoming one of calypso’s all-time classics.

But by the turn of the 1980’s Shorty became disenchanted with the very image and music he had created, saying that soca was being used for all the wrong reasons.

He then underwent a dramatic change of image, taking a deeply spiritual direction and going back to nature. In the process he became Ras Shorty-I, changing his style to composing and singing deeply devout songs.

In 1997 he released “Watch Out My Children” an anti-drug song that stayed at the number one slot throughout the Caribbean for many weeks and sold well in North America and the UK. The song was translated into several languages. Just last month, Shorty and his family (called The Love Circle) released a new CD, containing his greatest hits -- or at least those which he had no objection to including.

It was about then that he broke his right arm in a fashion that caused doctors at the Port of Spain General Hospital to further investigate, when he checked into the institution for tests aimed at discovering why he was experiencing mobility problems.

The doctors found that Shorty was afflicted with multiple myeloma, the same disease that took the life of Kitchener last February.

Previous Page / Terry's Homepage

Message Board
Trinicenter Home
Any problems with this page? Contact our webmaster. This site is designed and maintained by Trinicenter. Copyright © 2000 - 2001 Terry-J