Brother Valentino

Brother Valentino: Life is a stage

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Staff Article
Interview Recorded: June 12, 2005
Posted: July 07, 2005

The American influence was strong

From left: Lord Beginner, Atilla the Hun and Growling Tiger, 1935.
From left: Lord Beginner, Atilla the Hun and Growling Tiger, 1935.
When you trace like 'Atilla the Hun' also known as Raymond Quevedo, he was something else... and he was a member of parliament too. Then you have men like 'Roaring Lion', 'Tiger' and 'Beginner'. 'Kitchener' came after these guys. Those guys were historians. When those fellas and them lay it on you, it was something else. That is why Calypso was so internationally known in those guys' days. It was nothing like put your hand in the air and wine and jam, which is now giving the world the impression that that is what Calypso is all about. Those guys used to deal with heavy lyrics and issues that people could have related to nationally as well as internationally. Some of those guys like 'Odini' and them used to make their names in Harlem. A lot of them started pioneering in Harlem, which is where Calypso really started to become internationally known.

There was a white guy by the name of 'Molly Amsterdam' who came down to Trinidad back in the old days. After he heard 'Lord Invader's 'Rum and Cocoa Cola' song, he fell in love with it.

"Rum and Coco Cola
Going down Point Cumana
Both mother and daughter
Working for the Yankee dollar"

At that time, the American influence was strong. This guy immediately got caught up with the song, and he went back to America. He gave it to the 'Andrew Sisters'. They sang the song and they made a super hit. The song 'Rum and Cocoa Cola' is still popular up to now. At the time it sold seven million copies.

That was a serious case back then because the people got sued. They didn't just hand them it just so. They had to go to court with the case, because it was a serious matter. 'Lord Invader' got a hundred and fifty thousand US dollars, and in those days to get a hundred and fifty thousand US dollars was plenty money. To add insult to injury, 'Lord Invader' had only composed the lyrics, but the melody was done by a local Calypsonian, so he had to get a share in the spoil too. The artiste always had a special law: the copyright law. It was because of that copyright law, 'Lord Invader' came and ended up with a hundred and fifty thousand US dollars. He was a kind of a mas' man, and he had a ball. He died up in the States, and he probably did not even spend all of that money. The other guy eventually got his share too, but I really do not know what became of him.

That just goes to show you, that Calypso in that era was also international. Men like 'Robert Mitchum' and those people were into the Calypso. 'Fire Down Below' from the movie is a Calypso. Even 'Louis Farrakhan' the reverend; his Calypso name is 'The Mighty Charmer'. He was a lover of Calypso, and he has records out. In 1975 when he came down here on his first visit to Trinidad, they had a culture show at Queens Hall, and I had performed there for them too. That was the first time I met him, and he had shown me how he was into Calypso and that Calypso was part of his thing too.

I guess to this present time, we fellas still have that appreciation for Calypso. It is sad to know that it has reached this low, after it was taken to a high. Is the electronic media encouraging us? I think what they appreciate, or what they play, or even what they were told to play, is really not too conducive to the public ears, even in terms of education, or things uplifting, or even in terms of things that make sense. Anything that is making too much sense and is too constructively critical about the society and what is happening, you would not hear that stuff on the radio.


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