Del Crary Park will be dancing to the infectious sounds of old and new Caribbean music when Calypso Rose and Kobo Town perform at Peterborough Musicfest on Wednesday, July 8th at 8 p.m.
For those not familiar with calypso, it’s a rhythmic and vocal style of Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 20th century, drawing upon African and French influences. It includes a range of genres and has heavily influenced more modern styles like reggae and ska.
Calypso Rose was born McArtha Lewis in 1940 on Tobago, a tiny island in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies. She grew up in a two-bedroom house with her parents and 10 siblings until she was nine years old, when she moved to the neighboring island of Trinidad to live with to live with her aunt and uncle.
At the age of 15, she composed her first calypso song and began singing in calypso contests that happen during Carnival — the festive season that occurs immediately before Lent and is an important annual cultural event throughout the Caribbean islands. At the age of 24, she started performing professionally in a largely male-dominated genre and she was soon dubbed “Calypso Rose.”
In 1966, she wrote the song “Fire in Meh Wire”, which has become an international calypso anthem. She went on to win the title of “Calypso Queen” every year from 1972 to 1976 and, in 1977, she became the first woman to win the title of “Calypso King” (renamed “Calypso Monarch” after her win). She’s also had major international calypso hits with her tunes “Constable Rose” and “Do Dem Back.”
During her career, Calypso Rose has written more than 800 songs and recorded more than 20 albums. She has received more honours and medals that any other living calypso singer, and has shared the stage with Miriam Makeba, Tito Puente, Mahalia Jackson, Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Bob Marley, and more. A feature-length documentary called Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle, which tells her story through interviews and live concert footage, was released at Cannes Film Festival in 2011.
Now 75 years old, Calypso Rose shows no signs of slowing down, despite a battle with breast cancer which she won in 1996. She remains an icon in her native Trinidad and Tobago, where she’s revered as one of the greatest calypso singers ever and is a key figure in bringing the music of the Caribbean to the wider world.
“Fire Fire” – Calypso Rose performing with Kobo Town
Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle Trailer
Kobo TownOn tour with Calypso Rose is the Canadian Caribbean music group Kobo Town, led by singer-songwriter Drew Gonsalves.
Gonsalves, who was born to a Trinidadian father and a Québécois mother and grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, returned with his mother to live in Ottawa when he was 13 years old. As a teenager in Canada, he wrote music and poetry as a way to deal with his sense of dislocation and exile.
In the early 2000s, he moved to Toronto and formed Kobo Town in 2004. The band is named after a historic neighbourhood in Port-of-Spain, the capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago where calypso was born.
Unlike Calypso Rose, Kobo Town doesn’t perform traditional calypso, but a modern interpretation of traditional Caribbean sounds. The band blends calypso with a diverse mix of Caribbean musical styles and other influences, including ska, reggae, dub, rapso, zouk, and hip hop.
“I’m not sure I should call it calypso,” Gonsalves says. “It is calypso inspired and derived, but it’s a conscious departure from the way it developed back home. For me, the calypsonian is a singing newspaperman commenting on the events of the day, with an attitude halfway between court jester and griot.”
“Mr. Monday” – Kobo Town
“Jumbie in the Jukebox” EPK – Kobo Town