Few people think of calypso as anything but the harmless, seasons-in-the-sun music of yearning and sailing over the ocean that Harry Belafonte popularized in the Fifties. He was being rather selective in his interpretation, apparently, since this record shows how calypso music has had a long and vibrant tradition as a music of protest, social documentation, parody, and political commentary. There are no banana boats on this record. This is a document of a people asserting a voice and speaking their mind, not simply providing "entertainment." It is an act of witness, not bemusement.
What drew me to it at first was actually not the genre or the topical concerns on the record, but the striking list of pseudonyms used by the singers: Atilla the Hun; The Caresser; The Executor; The Growler; King Radio; Lord Beginner. I was reminded of the pseudonyms adopted by everyone from punk rockers to gangster rappers, and decided to take a listen. Inside, as it turned out, was quite a story. Read more