The warm color and exotic spell of the West Indies conjure up a multitude of pleasures for even the most seasoned world-traveler. There is hardly another scenic region order the sun that has preen flattered with no many romantic phrases! All are eminently deserved, for this is “the land of the tropical moon,” ”the glorious climate of romance.” “the home of rhythmic music,” “the American Mediterranean,” et cetera.
The main islands of the West Indies arc; of course, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas –each suggesting glamorous associations of its cross, and earls presenting a stunning variety of natural beauties. The luxuriant tropical foliage, the winds rustling through the palms, the special quality of the sunlight, the perfumed air, anti the lavish specialites of foods and drinks are perhaps tire most memorable features of this ideal holiday playground.
While the beauty of nature in tire West. Indies is a heart-warming joy, the history of civilization on tire islands is a fascinating study, including the Spanish conquest, and the fabulous adventures of pirates and colonists.
Most of all, the Went Indies represent a world of exotic music and exciting rhythms. In this recording we present a Carnival of Calypsos, the native music of Trinidad, a West Indies island just a few miles off the coast of Venezuela. Although Calypso music has a remote origin, it did not begin to attract attention in America until the 1930’s, when it was heard by way of records with strange titles, strange melodies, and even more strangely accented syllables. The Calypso singer particularly delighted in using gaudy words to embellish topical subjects; he loved to mingle such abstract ideas as Love, Hunger, Death, and Pleasure with such daily doings as lime-cooking, tire arrival of celebrities, the problems of married life, casual killings, and carefree irresponsibility.
The singers were accompanied by a small band — usually three or four instruments and a rhythm section which included a couple of Afro–American implements — and these bands gave out with a lively beat which was partly Latin and partly pure African.
The words and music caught on and became increasingly popular. Calypso songs may differ in themes and musical details, but all have the original touch and what someone has called the “thistleburr” rhythm, a rhythm which sticks in the mind. All Calypso singers have special names, and practically all Calypso songs arc extemporized. Frequently the singers have a “war,” in which the participants sake the platform and challenge each other. They “debate” in song, and the accepted tent of superiority is tire singer’s ability to improvise on the spur of the moment on any subject which comes to hand.
Someone has said that the Calypso is to the West Indian what the Spiritual is to the American Negro. This is possibly too large a claim, but there is no doubt that the rhythmic pulsations, the curious subjects, and the surprising lyrics intake them different from any other music of its kind.
Among the most noted, as well as the most expert exponents of Calypso-singing are such veterans as Wilmoth Houdini, an original singer and composer of West Indian melody, who was born in. Brooklyn, but moved to Trinidad when only two years old; “Lord Beginner,” the veteran Calypsonian whose real name is Egbert Moore, “Lord Kitchener,” the young, Alwyn Roberts, whose recordings have brought hurt world-wide renown; “The Lion,” Rafael de Leon, whose great career in the United States stretches back to the 1930’s, and “The Iron Duke,” or Brylo Ford, who, at 73, is an old-time Trinidadian with a deep love for the old songs he on well remembers.