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Calypso Rose

The mother of calypso

“They want me to retire” huffs Calypso Rose on the track “Warrior”. Believe it or not: It dates to 1978 – nearly four decades ago. Unfortunately, that says quite a lot about the resistance «Her Majesty» has met as female calypsonian.

When McCartha Lewis, the daughter of a preacher, realized that her faith was to create calypso – a genre closely tied to the carnival and as humorous as it is life-affirming – she was in fact told that this was the men’s domain. So even though Rose overtook the throne with her breakthrough album «Queen of the Calypso World» (1968), she did not appear on the cover, but rather a nameless West Indian beauty.

Fortunately great art comes into being when someone continues to swim against the current. Last year’s Manu Chao-produced full length «Far From Home» underlines the fact that Calypso Rose – even at the age of 76 – is an equally subtle and brilliant storyteller as ever. Meanwhile, with tracks such as «I Am African», it’s obvious that she has become increasingly interested in her African heritage.

After all, Calypso stems from all the slaves who were sent to Trinidad and Tobago, and originally it was allegedly the women – yes, really! – that had the highest status in this music. Thus you can safely say that Calypso Rose has brought calypso back to its roots. The rose is all flowers mother, she explains: «I see myself as the mother of all female calypso singers who have come after me».

Text: Kim Klev

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