Quick Note from WFR – Barbados

If I marked this correctly we put almost 200 miles a day behind us by taking shifts at the wheel and pressing hard. A good crew, favorable winds and great captain got us out and back on a great boat.

I have been doing a little traveling…serious traveling over the past few days. I left Saint Lucia sailing for Barbados and evidently we took a wrong turn. We spent eight days at sea. No, it wasn’t an accident, John and Jill just wanted to do some “real” sailing. So, we did. We sailed out into the Atlantic to 14 28 40N 53 00 41W and then sailed northwest to the tiny island of Tintamar where weanchored for one evening in the North Curve and then headed SSW skirting the islands back to Barbados where we sit anchored today watching the clouds blowing overhead. In all we sailed well over 1000 miles to make our 100 mile trip to Bridgetown. We are about to head ashore to gather supplies, dine on the local fare, sip a beer or two and purchase rum to stock our depleted on-board bar.
I promise an update of my recent travels and that story about my first journey as a traveler in the next few days. You know it is difficult to stop the carnival of life long enough to pen a few lines when the world is slipping by so quickly.
WFR…on island time in paradise.

Quick Note from WFR – Barbados

 

I will be moving on at sunrise tomorrow.  The weather is beautiful today with fairly strong easterly winds that will provide headwinds for us as we travel to Barbados tomorrow.  The island lies a little over 100 miles to our east south east and there is a a good chance we will be sailing into some fairly strong rain and thunderstorms.  Welcome to the tropics…

I love this life.
WFR…on island time in paradise.

On Island Time in Paradise with WFR – St Lucia

May 13, 2012

Today is Mothers Day and I want to start by saying happy Mother’s Day
to moms everywhere.  This is a special day for you because you make
every day special for your families.

This was a great week to be in Saint Lucia.  Without knowing it I
landed here in the middle of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival.  I didn’t
even know it was happening but happening it has been doing.  It has
been a great week of music here in this island paradise.  The line-up
of stars has been a great one. Since April 30th the island has been
celebrating the music of Toni Braxton, Fay Ann Lyons,  Bunji Garlin
and even Dianna Ross but my favorite of the bunch Ziggy Marley
performed the other night.  I have enjoyed the week of music and all
of the celebrations that surround this huge event on the small
tropical island.  The festival ends here today though I won’t be
going, but It has been a great experience and a real celebration.

My time here has been spent dodging rain showers, walking and biking
the roads that network the many small towns, villages and farms on
this island together like a spider’s web.  I have spent time on the
beaches north, south, east and west on this gem of an island and it is
difficult to claim a favorite.  Once you move away from the cruise
ship ports you find the real Saint Lucia experience.  One day, when
you come here, allow enough time to see the real island.  Meet the
people and experience the culture that has grown here through hundreds
of years on this small mountainous island.  Granted the “mountains
would be considered more like hills in parts of the world, but when
you find yourself a couple of hours down a trail, alone with nothing
but the birds singing as you walk aimlessly you will realize that
these are mountains enough to find yourself and discover a portion of
nature that few seldom see.

During this entire visit, the island has been under the threat of
rain, but that hasn’t dampened my visit to this paradise.  It has
probably made it more wonderful. I have been able to meet people in
small villages whom I would have n ever met, as they offered me
shelter and a meal when the showers were at times torrential.  But,
between the showers I walked in the tropical sun and enjoyed the
humidity that wraps you like “warm velvet”.  Those are not my words,
but the person who originally said them, and  I can’t remember who it
was, was absolutely right.  There is a comfort in the warmth that
surrounds you here.

I know I am bound to leave this paradise and move on to another port
and another island, but memories that I have made here, like those on
so many other islands, will stay with me as long as I am graced by
this life I live.  My thoughts today have taken me to thousands of
miles north of here and my childhood.  I think of how the wanderlust
that was a part of my mother’s unfulfilled dreams has been a huge part
of my drive to see and live as much of life as I can.  Thanks to my
mom, and my dad too for that matter, it is from them that I learned to
live with a purpose and enjoy every day for the special value it has.
A good friend of mine once said that this life is not a dress
rehearsal and he was right.  It is important to understand the time we
have is limited.  The people we meet should be cherished as friends
and, everyplace we travel is a paradise to someone.  My paradise
happens to fall in the islands, but from time to time, I have also
found paradise in the mountains of Tennessee and Idaho and Nevada and
even on the streets of San Francisco and New Orleans.  I try to make
the best of wherever I am and find wisdom in the people I come in
contact with.

Last week I was interviewed by Dennis King at WBWC in Cleveland, Ohio
and I really enjoyed talking with a kindred spirit.  They have made me
think a lot about how special my life really is.  I have done a lot of
thinking during my walks and my meditation on the beaches.  I have
thought about my earliest wanderings and decided that in the next few
weeks I will share my first solo adventure.  It was a trip to New
Orleans.  I hitch hiked there and stayed for a couple of days all
alone in a city that is as full of mystery and adventure as any in the
western hemisphere.  Anyway, I intend to share that journey with you
in upcoming blogs.

As I said earlier, I am bound to keep traveling and soon I will be
leaving this paradise for another one.  I am trying to decide whether
to head north to Martinique or Southwest to Barbados.  Bridgetown is
calling me but so is Fort-de-France.  I know I will be traveling
soon, but for now, I am enjoying this paradise, right here, right now.

William Fair Roberts…on island time in paradise

The Roots of Trop Rock – Calypso Music

Photo: Calypso

Photo Credits: STEPHEN CHERNIN

 

Calypso developed during the 19th century with roots in Trinidad’s Carnival. It grew out of the various styles of Carnival music, including ribald songs, traditional drumming and stick-fighting songs, first sung in French Creole and by the turn of the century sung in English.

These tunes were originally sung by chantwells, singers who led carnival masquerade bands in call and response in tents in the weeks leading up to Carnival and on the streets during Carnival itself. In the 1920s, calypso was transformed into a more ballad style of political and social commentary. The singers no longer led the masquerade bands performed in the tents as shows rather than rehearsals for the street carnival. A strong crop of calypso singers emerged in this period all taking on warrior like pseudonyms including Roaring Lion, Atilla the Hun, Lord Beginner, Growling Tiger, King Radio and Executor. These calypsonians wrote and sang sophisticated songs and performed in competing tents during the Carnival season of the ’30s.

Although a few calypsos were recorded in the first two decades of the 20th century, the major break came with the 1934 recording trip to New York after Carnival by Roaring Lion and Atilla the Hun. Their recording brought international notice to calypso and won respect at home. In addition to the recordings, Lion and Atilla were taken under the wing of Rudy Valle, who brought them important exposure at his New York nightclub and on his Saturday night radio broadcast. That session yielded two classics: Lion’s “Ugly Woman,” which was later featured in a Hollywood musical and rewritten into a rhythm-and-blues hit, and Atilla’s “Graf Zepplin,” a celebration of the airship coming to Trinidad in the fall of 1933, a song still sung today.

For the rest of the decade, calypsonians went to New York each year to record and numerous field trips were made to Trinidad. By 1938, Time proclaimed a calypso boom in the United States. However, it didn’t really seem to happen until the Andrews Sisters’ version of Lord Invaders’ “Rum and Coca Cola” became popular during World War II: Despite being banned from the radio, it was one of the best-selling records of the war era. This song was a watered-down version of a sharp commentary on the ill effects of the American presence in Trinidad during the war. Still, it provided enormous exposure to calypso and sparked even more interest that led to an increase of recordings in the United States and England as well as the increased travel of calypsonians to both locations.

In 1957, the Calypso album by Harry Belafonte sparked a short-term calypso craze in the United States and to a lesser extent around the world despite the fact that most of the album was not calypso. For six months, the American entertainment industry rushed out dozens of singles and albums and three movies were produced with calypso themes. A craze for calypso dancing was born and it caused many nightclubs to change their décor and seek out any calypsonians they could find. The craze fizzled out quickly but not before calypso had entered the music conscious of many people around the world.

In 1956 a young Trinidadian singer named the Mighty Sparrow declared, “Yankee gone, Sparrow take over now” in his hit song “Jean and Dinah,” referencing the declining presence of U.S. servicemen in the country after WWII. Sparrow all but took over calypso from leading lights like Lord Melody (with whom he had a delightful duel in song) and the comic genius Spoiler. He created a new sound and style, one that was more melodic and brought a new excitement to the calypso tents with memorable albums of great songs that were heard throughout the Caribbean.

The other great calypsonian of the time was Lord Kitchener who had gone to England in 1948 and was a major force during the Fifties with his recordings of calypsos were popular throughout the Caribbean and in Africa. With Independence, Lord Kitchener returned and the two led competing tents of great singers during a golden era of calypso in the ’60s and ’70s with other masters of the art form: Duke, Stalin, Cristo, Cypher, Chalkdust and others. In the late ’70s, a whole new style, soca, was created by Lord Shorty (aka Ras Shorty I), Shadow and others. These artists brought a range of influences, from Indian music to R&B, and melded them into a more dance-driven, less-lyric-oriented style that has since evolved quite a bit apart from calypso. More recently artists like David Rudder have created a unique style merging elements of calypso and soca, and new forms like rapso exert a strong influence.

In the last decade Extempo competitions have emerged, where calypsonians are asked to compose and sing on the spot on any subject. A master calypsonian like Gypsy has made this art form his own. Until the 1960s, there were few women singing calypsos but with pioneers like Calypso Rose and Singing Francine and current masters like Singing Sandra, the situation has changed and women sing many of the strongest calypsos.

In Trinidad the crowds at calypso tents are older and not as well attended as the large and younger-leaning soca fetes. Yet there are more calypso tents than ever, and they go on the road all over the country during the Carnival season. There are more competitions, and companies continue to have their own calypso contests. There are ongoing efforts to involve young people in singing calypso with youth tents, school events and competitions. Throughout the Caribbean, calypso is a major part of Carnival celebrations in Barbados, Antigua, St. Vincent and the Virgin Islands, while calypsos are sung each year at Carnivals outside the Caribbean, as in Caribana in Toronto and Notting Hill in England. —Ray Funk

 

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