TROJAN CALYPSO BOX SET (TJETD033) - The roots of all Caribbean music can be traced back to the days of the slave trade. It was then that thousands of individuals, primarily from Africa's west coast were enslaved by European traders and relocated to the islands that make up the West Indies. Those who survived the gruelling journey were subsequently auctioned off to the landowners, with no regard for tribal groupings or family ties. The thoughtlessness of these dealers in human cargo resulted in a melting pot of African nationals. While the detestable disregard for individual needs was deplorable it produced a fusion of African music that later drew in European influences inspired by the slave masters. When the various African musical styles merged they shared a common ground in as much as all forms concentrated on the rhythm. This mélange of African music in many ways proved more complex than European music, certainly in terms of rhythmic patters. While European rhythms consisted of 2/4 beats, the music from Africa Diaspora in essence appeared to be 4/4, although it's far more complex than that.

The prominent form of popular music in the West Indies before the development of Reggae was Calypso, the name of which is derived from the African word "Ka'iso". Developed in Trinidad, Calypso was originally used by slaves to ridicule their "masters" in the style of an African griot, where the singer could harangue his subjugators without fear of reprisals, as the topical verse would be sung in an African language followed by a chorus in the local patois. While Calypso evolved from the Shango and Shouters in Trinidad, in Jamaica, a similar style developed from Kumina - a combination of Christianity with African elements. In essence, the music is a form of polka, featuring a heavy bass line, originally played through a hollow branch of a trumpet tree. Before slavery was abolished, slaves were forced to entertain the "Massa" with singing and dancing. The musical accompaniment was derived from rattles made up of calabashes filled with seeds, as well as gourds, goombahs and flutes that were produced in a similar manner to the "trumpet tree bass". The fast pace of the music led to toe tapping, finger snapping, hand clapping and energetic body moves such as those demonstrated by the traditional but now virtually extinct "Tiltman-Man".

In the thirties and early forties, Mento - as Jamaican music had become known - was re-titled Jamaican Rumba. This was due to an English pianist named Arthur Benjamin, who emulated the style and published "Jamaica Rumba" as sheet music. Benjamin's Rumba was particularly popular amongst the avaricious governing bodies of the British Empire. As the music developed, as early musicians introduced a large thumb piano called a Rumba box and a banjil (a precursor to the banjo) as well as bottles, spoons and cans. The practice of using everyday objects is similar to the using of washboards and tea chests like those used in the '50s for Skiffle music.

Mento continued to develop and when Jamaica became a haven for tourists in the fifties, the style, numerous of so-called Calypso bands vied to perform by the pool or at the docks to entertain the foreign visitors. The most popular native performer at this time was the late Trinidadian-born Aldwin Roberts who as Lord Kitchener was influential in inspiring Jamaica's first musical export, Harry Belafonte. (Lord Kitchener is best remembered for the tale of "Dr Kitch" that has since become a Jamaican yardstick). Harry's traditional Calypso resulted in global hits such as "The Banana Boat Song", "Island In The Sun" and "Brown Skin Girl". While Belafonte's work is closer to Calypso than Mento, many local Jamaican performers remained faithful to their indigenous style. Among these were Laurel Aitkin - who began his career performing Mento-styled Calypso for the Jamaican Tourist Board for visitors who alighted at Kingston Harbour - while other early performers included Lord Flea, The Ticklers, Count Sticky and Count Lasher, whose risqué lyrics took the sound to the height of it's success in this period. Other lesser-known nomadic street performers using the portable instruments such as the banjo, bongos and Rumba box would add a carnival/bacchanal flavour to the music. These roving performers remained popular with the lower classes, since Rediffusion, the only radio stations there dismissed Mento just as they did with early DJ records twenty years later.

The first producer to recognise the potential of the music was Stanley Beresford Motta who released a number of early examples on 78rpm, issued on his MRS label. Stanley utilised the only one-track recording facility at the aforesaid Jamaican radio station and while he is recognised as the first Jamaican to produce records, it was Ken Khouri who took things one-step further. Khouri was instrumental in setting up the Federal record pressing plant in Bell Road, Kingston where hundreds of shellac discs that initially surfaced on his Pioneer label were manufactured. While the two originators made these discs for the international market, they also featured on the early sound systems in Jamaica such as Tom "The Great Sebastian" and Sir Nick "The Champ".

While the sound systems of the early '50s would primarily play imports from the USA, it was the locally produced Mento discs that would create the most raucous response among revellers in the crowd. By the mid '50s, other sound systems emerged, including Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Downbeat and Arthur "Duke" Reid's notorious Trojan system that was named after the truck that transported the sound around the island. Before Trojan Records appeared in the UK, the Duke had set up his own Jamaican Trojan label that highlighted local Mento acts, notably "Penny Reel" by Lord Power & the Calypso Quintet. The dominence of Mento in Jamaica lasted until the development of Ska in the early sixties and while many performers refused to succumb to the new style, others, such as Lord Tanamo, adapted with ease to the new sound.

In Trinidad, meanwhile, Calypso continued to rule the islands, with the Mighty Sparrow claiming the crown. Born Slinger Francisco, The Mighty Sparrow is widely accepted as the king of Calypso, having first won the Monarchs crown in the 1956 carnival. Other notable Calypsonians include Lord Nelson, Attila the Hun, Lord Invader and Lord Observer, alongside a negligible number of ladies such as Calypso Rose and Singing Francine. As the music progressed, Calypso turned into Soca, a style that was basically a result of modern studio techniques. One of the more significant Soca stars is Arrow, from Montserrat, who supplemented his career in music through various business ventures before recording his debut album "Instant Knockout", a collection that spawned "Hot Hot Hot" - a record that relished international acclaim and went gold following a major label deal.

In Jamaica, bandleader and music entrepreneur, Byron Lee began recording a number of Calypso-flavoured albums and topped the charts with a version of Arrow's "Miss Tiney Winey". Byron began his career with his Dragonaires band, a group that initially supported Harry Belafonte before backing Ska singers through to Reggae. But in the 1990s, the group returned to playing Byron's first love, Calypso. Byron also recruited Admiral Bailey who used Mento similes to record "Dancehall Soca", a recording that subsequently proved a bashment favourite. While not as popular as Calypso or Soca, Mento continued to enjoy a cult following with artists such as the Jolly Boys Stanley & the Turbines and Lord Creator. Creator, born Kendrick Patrick, began his career singing Calypso in his native Trinidad before relocating to Jamaica in the mid fifties following the popularity of his ballad "Evening News" - the first of many hits in his adpted homeland. In 1962 he recorded "Independent Jamaica", a song that echoed the mood of political optimism at the time and was the first release on the Island label in the UK, while some years later he penned "Kingston Town", a song that provided a major UK chart hit for British Reggae outfit, UB40.

In the late nineties Machel Montano and Xtatic stirred up a Calypso revival when they topped the Jamaican chart and performed alongside Red Rat, while the Jolly Boys relished international notoriety when the World Music Followers championed their "Pop 'N' Mento" album. So don't let anyone tell you this music is dead - a trip to London's Notting Hill in August will allay any doubters of that.

The final part of this celebration of Mento, Calypso and Jump-Up features a number of UK based performers, including Egbert Moore better known as Lord Beginner and the aforementioned Lord Kitchener. Kitchener was filmed performing a Calypso song as he disembarked from the "Windrush" to a supposed better life in the UK. That was at least until he arrived in the city to be greeted by animosity from the city landlords whose selective bigotry in offering tenancies was just the start of life in the colonial homeland.

While the Caribbean immigrants experienced a certain amount of hostility, enlightened A&R negotiators realised the potential of the music and began recording authentic Calypso in the UK. The success of the West Indies cricket team seemed to reverse the fortunes of many immigrants, a fact reflected in the music. Notable contributors included Lord Beginner who sang "Cricket Lovely Cricket", while 'Kitch' directed his followers to "Jump In Line" and the Mighty Terror established notoriety. The best UK-based Calypso tunes were featured on the Pye/Nixa label and no compilation would be complete without a an appropriate nod in this direction.

So now it's time to roll back the carpet, get some brew and switch the amp' to full power. 'Cos it's bashment time in a carnival style - seen.

Shake yer boom boom 'cos it's gonna get Hot! Hot! Hot!.

Stephen Nye
Sources Kim Johnson - Trinidad Express




The Weed (aka Man Pyabba)
Count Lasher with Lyn Taitt & the Baba Brooks Band
Love In The Cemetery
Lord Kitchener
Big Bamboo
Lord Creater
Jamaica Is The Place To Go
Charlie Binger & His Quartet
Get Me To The Church On Time
Tommy McCook & The Supersonics
The Valet
Nora Dean
Woman A Love In The Night Time
Lord Spoon & David
Do Re Mi
The Mighty Vikings
Aston & Yen
Nice Time
Phyllis Dillon
In The Park
Count Alert with Lyn Taitt & The Baba Brooks Band
Our Time Fe Celebrate
Derrick Harriott
Great '68
Marva Moore & The Gaysters
Bam Bam
The Maytals
Bam Bam
Count Lasher & Williams with Lyn Tait & The Baba Brooks Band
Jamaica Woman
Lord Kitchener
The Undergrounds

Neighbour, Neighbour
Lord Kitchener
Must Get A Man
Nora Dean
Count Lasher & Williams with Lyn Taitt & The Baba Brooks Band
Country Gal
Charlie Binger & His Quartet
Paint Up, Clean Up Time
Lord Creator
The World On A Wheel
Lord Spoon & David
Happy Times
Derrick Harriott
Hard Time
Count Alert with Lyn Taitt & The Baba Brooks Band
Raggae Merengue
Tommy McCook & The Supersonics
Dumb Boy And The Parrot
Lord Cristo
Village Ram
The Mighty Sparrow
Teacher, Teacher
The Mighty Dougla
The Sausage
Baldhead Growler
Muhammad Ali
Mister Calypson
Undemocratic Rhodesia
Sampson The Lark
Kitch, You So Sweet
Lord Kitchener
A Dash Of The Sunshine
Lord Tanamo

Calypso War
The Mighty Terror & His Calypsonians
Me One Alone
Lord Invader & His Calypso Rhythm Boys
The Water Gobbler
Lord Ivanhoe & His Caribbean Knights
Not Me (aka Man Woman, Woman Smarter)
Ben Bowers & Bertie King's Royal Jamaicans
Brownskin Girl
The Mighty Terror & His Calypsonians
You Don't Need Glasses To See
Lord Invader & His Calypso Rhythm Boys
Lord Ivanhoe & His Caribbean Knights
Heading North
The Mighty Terror & His Calypsonians
I'm Going Back To Africa
Lord Invader & His Calypso Rhythm Boys
Africa, Here I Come
Lord Ivanhoe & His Caribbean Knights
Little Jeannie
The Mighty Terror & His Calypsonians
Naughty Little Flea
Ben Bowers & Bertie King's Royal Jamaicans
Mahalia, I Want Back My Dollar
Lord Invader & His Calypso Rhythm Boys
Lift The Iron Curtain
Lord Ivanhoe & His Caribbean Knights
TV Calypso
The Mighty Terror & His Calypsonians
Teddy Boy Calypso (Bring Back The Cat-o-Nine)
Lord Invader & His Calypso Rhythm Boys

Time - 49:59

Time - 50:58

Time - 42:16

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