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Roaring Lion's "Jail Dem"

Of all the great old-time calypsonians, few could match Trinidad and Tobago’s Roaring Lion for witty wordplay and mellifluous melodies. With his rapid-fire delivery, he could easily out-duel contemporaries like Tiger, Atilla the Hun and Lord Executor with wickedly sharp metaphors, alliteration and insults. And he didn’t shy away from tackling the most risqué subjects. One of Roaring Lion’s most famous recorded songs, “Netty Netty,” about a prostitute who leaves town to have an abortion, was banned in parts of the Caribbean. “Dorothy Went to Bathe” tells of a girl who lost her virginity to a catfish, while “The Lost Watch (Tik, Tik, Tik)” deals with a woman who steals a watch and hi...
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Drew Gonsalves: Calypso's Crown Prince

On a wintery night at Toronto’s plush Koerner Hall, inside the city’s stately Royal Conservatory of Music, two generations of calypso stars are busy heating up the audience. Onstage in the foreground is the reigning queen, Trinidad & Tobago’s Calypso Rose. Just behind her is the crown prince, Drew Gonsalves, whose Canadian band Kobo Town has opened the show and is now backing the headliner. As the cheeky Rose sings and shimmies through her set to the crowd’s delight, the bearded, bespectacled, guitar-strumming Gonsalves is visibly beaming: he co-wrote and arranged many of the songs Rose is performing, all taken from her award-winning comeback album, Far From Home. And now he and the sept...
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Music Feature: Roaring Lion - At 87, he's still king of Calypso

He's the grand old man of calypso, the historian and upholder of Trinidad's legendary musical tradition. He's also a living legend himself, the gentleman with the ever-present cane whose saucy double-entendres have delighted royalty, popes and presidents the world over.But Roaring Lion is not about to sit back and rest on his considerable laurels. Although he turns 88 on June 15, the Lion, born Raphael de Leon, is currently enjoying a sparkling career revival that is the envy of soca stars 60 years his junior.His song 'Papa Chunks' is currently the number one hit throughout much of the Caribbean. And this Sunday, he headlines Caribbean Musical Expo '95 at the Metro Convention Centre, a mammo...
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Feature Article: Kobo Town and the roots of calypso

Drew Gonsalves laughs about how he had to leave Trinidad to discover the rich calypso tradition of his birthplace. As a teenager, he was far more interested in rock and heavy metal music than the songs of Roaring Lion or the Mighty Sparrow. The legendary Lord Kitchener even lived up the street from his family home in Diego Martin, a suburb of Port-of-Spain, but he remained unimpressed.“I was very typical of a middle-class Trinidadian boy in that I had a taste for all things foreign,” admits Gonsalves, “which is something that (novelist) V.S. Naipaul wrote so scathingly about in the 1960s. Calypso was always in the air, but I just wasn’t interested.”That all changed when Gonsalves’ mother, fl...
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