Carnival, Canboulay and Calypso: Traditions in the Making – John Cowley – 1999
I’m a big fan of Calypso and have wanted to know more about the background and development of this genre of Caribbean music for a while now. Cowley’s book goes someway to explaining the historical background to its development.
Being a study of Trinidad and it’s tradition of Carnival, Canboulay and of Calypso, it’s not entirely taken over with music but seeks to explain how Carnival came about, its roots and development from the earliest records right through to the era of sound recording. Whence it’s music became the predominant force by which it was known worldwide. In general it succeeds.
It reads like a well written and engaging thesis, a historical study, unfortunately suffering from structural repetition as the author uses mainly newspaper reports of Carnival to trace development over time. Wonderful that it begins in the days of Trinidad’s enslaved Africans and discusses the influence of that islands’ many diverse ethnic groups on Carnival and Carnival’s culture (music included), but it is a little dry and lacking in personal testimony. We are treated over and over again to reports of each year’s Carnival and of the subsequent court cases involving wayward participants, and this becomes mildly soporific.
However within these confines it is also revealing and revelatory.
Did you for example know about the tradition of stick fighting in Trinidad? Or the many riots that occurred during Carnival and the way in which Carnival became a canvas for the dispossessed to paint their complaints and to cock a Snook at the gentry and at the White and sometimes Creole classes? The book reveals the influence of North American black-face minstrelsy and of Jubilee singers on Trinidadians and on Carnival, and the influence of touring Circus on the island. It tells of the influence of the Spanish and the French and particularly of Venezuelan culture. Finally it discusses the rise of the calypsonians in the early part of the 20th century.
In short you’ve got to be a motivated reader to engage fully with this book, but if you are, then it’s a great read.
Mento, not Calypso – Fantastic Voyage Double Cd to be released
Due out on the 12th of August this year (2013) hopefully Mento lovers and the general music loving public will enjoy this double cd of Jamaica’s very own vintage music. With 51 songs in the main dubbed from 78rpm singles and some from hard to find early Long Playing Lps, there should be something on it that pleases the ears of Mento mad music lovers. At least I hope so, because I had the joy of compiling it.
Entirely taken from my own collection of rare 78rpm discs, I am told that the track listing will be, as I submitted, please see below. Though the label Fantastic Voyage have not confirmed that as I write, it seems likely.
What the hell is on it then?
Many of the songs have never been widely available and even for the avid collector, may not be well known. Being able to include some of the songs from an album called MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND which likely features Lord Lebby and may have been produced by Stanley Motta for the hotel was for me a highlight. I tried really hard not to repeat too many songs that have already seen digital release, though did include some, where for instance they have only appeared once elsewhere, or have been duplicated on less than ‘pukka’ releases. I was helped in the dubbing/recording of the discs by Port O Jam, and I understand to some degree they have been ‘restored’ since, though until I hear the final cds, I won’t know how heavily. I hope they leave a good level of texture to the cd release, though understandably the hiss of a 78rpm record and the obvious scratches that walk with a recording that’s over 50 years old may not be to everyone’s taste.
Hopefully I covered a number of bases, Rural Mento, Hotel Mento, both the rootsy and more commercial sounds, I wanted to include records created by the main movers in Mento in the 50s and early 60s and so have included recordings produced by Chin, Tewari, Khouri and Motta, and sung by singers like Count Lasher, Lord Power, Harold Richardson etc. It also includes some of the earliest recorded work by Lord Flea for Khouris pre Federal Times Record label.
At the same time hopefully I’ve made the two cd albums work in their own right, providing and entertaining overall ‘listen’ and not just a collection of individual songs.
Witter on why don’t you?
I won’t witter on, but I think it will be a more than welcome addition to anyone’s collection of Jamaican Mento, early Jamaican and Caribbean music. If you love Mambo, Cuban Jazz, Paranda, Ska or are a World Music and Folk fan, you’ll find loads on it to excite. Put it this way, If I hadn’t compiled it, or already collected the tunes, I’d be very very excited to get hold of a copy.
As I write this is the assumed track listing. Please excuse the Upper and Lower case . . .
01 Sir Horace and His Merry Knights – Vocal – Horace Abrahams – Mambo Jamaica
02 TOWER ISLANDERS, THE – BROWN SKIN GAL
03 MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND (FEAT. LORD LEBBY) – RED HEAD
04 GEORGE MOXEY QUARTET – VOCALIST – CLYDE HOYTE – MONTEGO CALYPSO
05 LORD TICKLER – MEDLEY – SWEETIE CHARLEY – MR. PARNEY – MANGO WALK
06 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Mary’s Lamb – The More We Are Together
07 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Calabash
08 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Wheel And Turn Me
09 Chin’s Calypso Sextet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Give Her Love aka Woman’s Tenderness
10 Wigglers, The – Vocal – Denzil Laing – Limbo
11 Jamaica Boy (Denzil Laing) and his Kingston Calypso Orchestra – Man Is Smart, Woman’s Smarter
12 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – The Mighty Panther – The Talking Parrot
13 BABA MOTTA AND HIS ORCHESTRA (VOCALS BEN BOWER) – KITCH
14 LORD POWER – PENNY REEL
15 Dan Williams and his Orchestra – Vocal Lord Fly – Calypso – Whai Whai Whai
16 HAROLD RICHARDSON – GREEN GUAVA
17 Ticklers, The – Vocal – Harold Richardson – Hard Hearted Lover (Man Could A Smart)
18 COUNT LASHER WITH GEORGE MOXEY AND HIS CALYPSO QUINTET – THE OLE MAN’S DRIVE
19 Local Calypso Quintet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Honeymoon
20 MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND (FEAT. LORD LEBBY) – HOLD ‘IM JOE
21 TOWER ISLANDERS, THE – ADVICE TO MEN
22 Dan Williams and his Orchestra – Vocal Lord Fly – Transportation Kingston Style
23 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Donkey City
24 COUNT OWEN AND HIS CALYPSONIANS – TAKE HER TO JAMAICA
25 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Calypso Cha Cha Cha
26 Lord Power and His Calypsonians – Mambo La La
01 Sir Horace and His Merry Knights – Vocal – Horace Abrahams – Morgan’s Mento
02 Lord Power and His Calypsonians – Special Amber Calypso
03 LORD TICKLER – LIMBO
04 COUNT OWEN AND HIS CALYPSONIANS – BROWN SKIN GAL
05 REYNOLDS CALYPSO CLIPPERS – VOCALIST BOYSIE GRANT – TENOR BANJO – EDDIE BROWN – SOLUS MARKET
06 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal Lord Lebby – Ethiopia
07 Chin’s Calypso Sextet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Industrial Fair
08 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Dalvey Gal – Parson
09 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Miss Goosie
10 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Mattie Rag, Brown Skin Gal
11 Ticklers, The – Vocal – Harold Richardson – Parish Gal
12 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – The Mighty Panther – Cinemascope
13 MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND (FEAT. LORD LEBBY) – BACK TO BACK, BELLY TO BELLY
14 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Miss Daisy And Brown Skin Girl
15 Count Lashers Calypso Quintet – Vocal Count Lasher – Trek To England
16 George Moxey and his Calypso Quintet – Vocal by Joseph Clemendore (Cobra Man) – My Brother Calamity
17 CHIN’S SEXTET (VOCALS A. BEDASSE) – ADAM AND EVE
18 Jamaica Boy (Denzil Laing) and his Kingston Calypso Orchestra – Mary Ann, Brown Skin Gal
19 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Perseverence
20 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Ugly Woman
21 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Run Mongoose, Linstead Market
22 Count Lashers Calypso Quintet – Vocal Count Lasher – Water The Garden
23 MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND (FEAT. LORD LEBBY) – BLOODSHOT EYES
24 Local Calypso Quintet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Money Is King
25 TOWER ISLANDERS, THE – HOLD ‘IM JOE
Finally I wanted to sa:
‘I WOULD LIKE TO DEDICATE THIS RELEASE TO MIKE HINDLE, CHARLIE REGGAE, IAN CAUSER, PHIL ETGART & LOL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY, RICHARD NOBLETT, RON GEESIN AND THOSE INVOLVED IN THE BOOGU YAGGA GAL CD RELEASE FOR INSPIRATION, DAN NEELY & ALL MUSICAL ENTHUSIASTS EVERYWHERE, TO JAMAICA, & TO THE ORIGINAL ARTISTES AND PRODUCERS OF THESE SONGS, TO ALL FAMILY BUT MOST ESPECIALLY TO MY DAD BARRY MURPHY WHO ONCE RECORDED AND COMPILED AN LP FOR FOLKWAYS RECORDS & INSPIRED MANY MUSICALLY THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE.’
– THANKS ALL’
There is so much you can learn from just one object, one step in your collecting and accumulation. This sleeve is just one such object. (Pictured Below), it was very kindly sent to me by a seller on eBay, gratis, thanks Phil, you know who you are!
Tab Smith and the Duke
To begin with; it came with a 78rpm single of Tab Smith’s ‘My Mother’s Eyes’ on Down Beat in it. This tune was Duke Reid’s sign on tune for his Treasure Isle Time radio show in Jamaica in the early days of Jamaica’s self-produced musical excursions, it is also on an interesting record label – Down Beat.
Down Beat was the label owned by Dada Tewari a wealthy immigrant to Jamaica of Indian extraction. He owned this label and the Caribou label; which alongside a staple diet of Mento and Calypso featured some of the earliest self-produced Jamaican Shuffle Blues, Boogie and Ska productions, notably those featuring Cuban Laurel Aitken, later to be the Skinheads Reggae and Ska artiste of choice.
Down Beat as far as I am aware exclusively licensed and released U.S. music, mainly American Shuffle Blues, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues, the Tab Smith tune, being an example of this. The records were as far as I am aware, pressed in Jamaica.
Motta and MRS
Stanley Motta was Jamaica’s first producer to release a record recorded in Jamaica, in Jamaica. By that I mean, the song was both recorded in a studio in Jamaica and then given release there, up until this release. ‘DAN WILLIAMS AND HIS ORCHESTRA – VOCAL LORD FLY MEDLY OF JAMAICAN MENTO on MRS SSS.2033X / 01A released 1952 (probably recorded late ’51) nothing recorded in the actual country had been released there as far as is known. There are some people, notably Ernest Ranglin, who claim that Jamaican Mento was recorded in New York, sometime before this ’52 release and of course there were people recording in Jamaica, like Ken Khouri around this time, just that they had not at this point actually released anything commercially. The sleeve you see contained one of the single 78rpm discs produced by Motta and his company.
Further useful information can be gleaned as to exactly where his operation was located and what songs had up to the point of this sleeve’s printing, been released from the sleeve.
One small simple and rather tattered object can tell you so much about musical history.
For those Mento mad amongst you here are some details that I hope you will find of interest. Click on the images for larger versions of the files, and in the case of the rear cover, readable text, though I will include that text here for all to see. The sleeve notes are unusually well written and include descriptions of the songs and their background history in some cases.
LP MRS VARIOUS ARTISTES CALYPSO DATE LOML 503 SMOL 105 1B STANLEY MOTTA JAMAICA 1950s
(anyone out there have a date of release, if so please contact me here at Musical Traces)
The most remarkable feature of this album is its variety. Here is represented the whole broad gamut of Jamaica’s music, the sly, ironic humour, the warm spontaneity, the carefree and gay attitude towards life that is so much part of Jamaica. This music is bred of the brilliant colour and contrasts that inspire the Jamaican troubadour; and out of it flows the endless, subdued excitement that life in one of the world’s most beautiful islands inspires.
In this album are Calypsos and Mentos. The Calypso is the generic ballad of the Caribbean, the song that is inspired by the life of the community – the young girl who lives gaily but not wisely; the house with the leaking roof. These are the creations of Calypsonians who vie with each other to create songs of humour, of double meaning, of perceptive wit. The Mento is the music of Jamaica, the solid, thumping rhythm of music that in its beat and texture is subtly Jamaican, as distinguishable to the tuned ear as is the difference between the Merengue of Haiti and the Samba of Brazil. And there are the other ageless songs, those that are chanted by workmen as they bend their muscles to rhythmic work saved from monotony by song, or the gay song of welcome when the pretty young girl comes to visit.
These are the songs and the sounds of Jamaica, ever exciting and interesting, that will become familiar and beloved as you listen to them. This is the music of a beautiful land, inspired by its ageless hills and white sand beaches, its gay, laughing people and the rhythm of its sun-bright days. This is the music for you on your Jamaican date.
Linstead Market – The ackee is an attractive fruit of red, yellow and black, and when combined with salted cod makes one of the most popular native dishes. This song tells the sad tale of a higgler in the famous market of Linstead, on the road to Ocho Rios, who fails to find customers to buy her ackees at Saturday market.
The Naughty Little Flea – The humble flea occurs in the songs of many countries. If you listen carefully to the lyrics you’ll chuckle at the rather unique situation in which the little insect found itself.
Hill and Gully Ride – A rousing shout song that is used by Jamaican workmen. It follows the pattern of many rhythmic work songs in its responsive form, and is a folk song of rather more antiquity than the calypso which has been popular recently.
Matilda (and) Gal-A-Gully – The first is a Jamaican adaptation of a Trinidad song, one in which a hardworking young man is deceived by a scheming young miss who lifts his money and takes off for Venezuela. The second is Jamaican, the plaintive comment of a granny who asks her grandaughter just why she is going to the gully…’A Whey you-a go a-gully fa’.
This Long Time Gal A Never See You – A happy song of welcome, the lyrics of which are self-explanatory.
The Little Fly – Anyone who has had to clean a mirror can appreciate some of the more irritating habits of the fly. This song is one man’s comment.
Take Her To Jamaica – This song has become a standard in Jamaica. It is sung by calypsonians on all occasions and gives very good advice indeed.
Kitch – Lord Kitchener is one of the finest of the Trinidad calypsonians, and this song recounts his experiences with a rather insistent young lady.
Dry Weather House – It seldom rains heavily in Jamaica, but when it does all the defects of a house that is suited to dry weather show up.
Healin’ In De Balm Yard – The balm yard in Jamaica is the gathering place of members of a primitive evangelical sect. To balm yard gatherings they bring their troubles and woes where these can be banished.
Limbo – One of the most exciting dances, the limbo is done to a repetitious song that is almost hypnotic in its appeal. Some of the excitement and verve of this African ritual is caught in this song.
Brown Skin Gal – A young lady is told to take life more seriously. Rather than spend so much time living the high life, she is told to ‘Stay home and mind baby’.
Fabulous double cd charts the tunes that influenced and gave rise to so much Jamaican musical output.
Just been turned on to a double cd out this year (2011) from Sunrise records, which collects mainly U.S. Pop and R&B tunes that were charting just as Jamaica’s own recording industry was developing into the world dominating force it would become.
Though Jamaica released its first home produced and recorded single 78rpm in 1952, it was the era of Ska music during and post independence that popularised Jamaican music worldwide. In the meantime homegrown sound systems were playing American Pop and R&B hits, interspersed with some homegrown talent & Jazz.
This double cd aims to collect some of those tunes together, many which were the blueprint for future Ska instrumentals, early and later Reggae vocal outpourings and whose influence are still being felt today.
Though of course the sleeve notes suffer from being legible only to mice or studious men with thick prescription lenses, such as they are contained within a cd booklet, they are however extensive and an education in themselves. Those that are behind this release have most certainly not skimped on effort!
It’s one of very few places (and the cheapest by far) that you will find ‘Tabu’ by Cyril Diaz, the prototype for the Gaylads and then of course Dennis Brown’s ‘Africa’.
And if you want to get a flavour for the music that turned Jamaicans on at the end of the 1950s this is a great place to start, and sure beats trying to pick up and pay for US R&B 78s from the USA.
Respect goes to Musical Traces friend Phil Etgart who advised on the project and is quite obviously from the sleeve notes responsible for a good deal of the knowledge contained within them.
Here’s a track list:
HARRY BELAFONTE WITH ROB GORMAN’S ORCHESTRA ISLAND IN THE SUN
LORD TANAMO SWEET DREAMING
GENE & EUNICE VOW, THE
RAYS, THE SILHOUETTES
BOBETTES, THE WITH THE REGGIE OBRECHT ORCHESTRA MR LEE
LARRY WILLIAMS & HIS BAND HIGH SCHOOL DANCE
SAM COOKE WITH THE BUMPS BLACKWELL ORCHESTRA YOU SEND ME
LAUREL AITKEN NIGHTFALL IN ZION (AKA ROLL RIVER JORDAN)
CLYDE McPHATTER WITH ORCHESTRA & CHORUS ROCK & CRY
ERNIE FREEMAN DUMPLIN’S
JIMMY McCRACKLIN & HIS BAND WALK, THE
MILSON LUCE WITH THE JOHNNY WALLACE SEXTET DON’T BREAK YOUR PROMISE
LOUIS PRIMA WITH SAM BUTERA & THE WITNESSES BUONA SERA
PLATTERS, THE TWILIGHT TIME
BILL DOGETT HONKY TONK, PART 1
FATS DOMINO SICK & TIRED
CHUCK WILLIS WITH THE JESSE STONE ORCHESTRA C.C. RIDER
NAT ‘KING’ COLE & THE FOUR KNIGHTS WITH DAVE CAVANAUGH’S MUSIC LOOKING BACK
HUEY (PIANO) SMITH & THE CLOWNS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
CYRIL X. DIAZ & HIS ORCHESTRA TABU
LOUIS JORDAN & HIS TYMPANY FIVE SHOW ME HOW (YOU MILK THE COW)
IMPERIALS, THE TEARS ON MY PILLOW
PEREZ PRADO & HIS ORCHESTRA GUAGLIONE
LITTLE WILLIE JOHN FEVER
EARL GRANT WITH ORCHESTRA CONDUCTED BY CHARLES ‘BUD’ DANT END, THE
LAUREL AITKEN SWEET CHARIOT
COUNT OWEN & HIS CALYPSONIANS FEATURING EUTON GAYLE AND HIS BANJO HOOL-A-HOOP CALYPSO
JIMMY CLANTON & HIS ROCKETS JUST A DREAM
LLOYD PRICE WITH DON COSTA AND HIS ORCHESTRA STAGGER LEE
COUNT OWEN & HIS CALYPSONIANS FEATURING EUTON GAYLE AND HIS BANJO ISLAND IN THE SUN
PLATTERS, THE SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES
FRANKIE FORD WITH HUEY (PIANO) SMITH & HIS ORCHESTRA SEA CRUISE
EARL GRANT EVENING RAIN
HUEY (PIANO) SMITH & THE CLOWNS LITTLE CHICKEE WHA WHA
COASTERS, THE CHARLIE BROWN
THREE PLAYMATES, THE SUGAH WOOGA
WADE FLEMONS & THE NEWCOMERS HERE I STAND
OSCAR McLOLLIE & ANNETTE BAKER WITH GOOGIE RENE & HIS ORCHESTRA HEY GIRL – HEY BOY
LLOYD PRICE WITH DON COSTA & HIS ORCHESTRA PERSONALITY
JACKIE WILSON THAT’S WHY (I LOVE YOU SO)
BILLY HOPE & THE BAD MEN RIDING WEST
LITTLE JIMMY SCOTT I MAY NEVER (SEE MY BABY ANYMORE)
ERNIE FREEMAN & HIS COMBO LIVE IT UP (AKA BEARDMAN SHUFFLE)
MIGHTY SPARROW, THE DEAR SPARROW
LEE ANDREWS & THE HEARTS IT’S ME (AKA WHAP WHAP)
WILBERT HARRISON KANSAS CITY
PROFESSOR LONGHAIR NO BUTS, NO MAYBES
ROSCO GORDON NO MORE DOGGIN’
DRIFTERS, THE THERE GOES MY BABY
JOHNNY & THE HURRICANES RED RIVER ROCK
LAUREL AITKEN & THE BOOGIE CATS BOOGIE ROCK
LOUIS JORDAN & HIS TYMPANY FIVE G.I. JIVE
FATS DOMINO BE MY GUEST
HAL PAIGE & THE WHALERS GOING BACK TO MY HOMTOWN
HAWKS, THE I-YI
LAUREL AITKEN COME BACK JEANNIE
TERRY & JERRY PEOPLE ARE DOING IT EVERYDAY
GONE ALL STARS, THE 7-11 (AKA MAMBO NO5)
FITZ-VAUGHAN BRYAN’S ORCHESTRA WITH VOCALS BY KENTRICK PATRICK EVENING NEWS
DAN WILLIAMS AND HIS ORCHESTRA – VOCAL LORD FLY MEDLEY OF JAMAICAN MENTO – MRS SSS.2033X / 01A
Much dispute arises from the question ‘who was the first producer of Jamaican music on the Island’ but it is now fairly certain that the first commercially available recording to be created by Jamaicans in Jamaica and then to be made available for purchase on the Island was DAN WILLIAMS AND HIS ORCHESTRA – VOCAL LORD FLY MEDLEY OF JAMAICAN MENTO – FAN ME SOLJA MAN FAN ME, ONE SOLJA MAN, YUH NO YEARY MRS SSS.2033X / 01A, this disc was originally released in December of 1950, though discographies record a later date of 1952. (source – ‘Calling all Singers, Musicians and Speechmakers’ 2010 – copyright Daniel T Neely).
Stanley Motta the producer had recorded the songs and then had the records pressed in the UK, possibly by Decca or a Decca subsidiary, records of exactly who manufactured them are unfortunately not forthcoming. Lord Fly the vocalist was known as an upmarket band leader and the songs and the sophisticated arrangements are those favoured by tourists visiting the Island and staying at any one of many luxury hotels there. Motta’s productions are generally recognised as sounding more upmarket, sophisticated and aimed at the visiting tourist than the rougher edged Mento productions of Ivan Chin, or in some cases Kalypso’s Ken Khouri. Khouri, who may have been the first to record on the Island, but not the first to release a commercial recording later developed Federal Records which went on to become the ‘One Stop Shop’ for the Jamaican music industry, offering as it did both as Federal and Dynamic, mastering and pressing facilities as well as recording studios and it’s own productions.
Motta also holds the honour of being the first to licence a recording produced in Jamaica for release in the UK on a UK label, namely Melodisc’s release of The Ticklers ‘Glamour Gal’.
(Thanks to Dan Neely for his help getting the details right!)