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Touching lives with humour
In a calypso career that spans 42 years, Trinidad Rio (Daniel Brown) has never made it to the semifinals of the Calypso Monarch, now called Calypso Fiesta, despite having hit, after hit, after hit. However, the trek to Skinner Park, San Fernando, no longer holds his interest, as he has moved his thinking to a “higher level.”
“It is really a blessing,” said Trinidad Rio, who operates in a difficult area of calypso (humour), and has this amazing way he blends lyrics with political and social commentary. He is truly unique. So when the WeBeat Committee (St James Community Improvement Committee) informed him he was to be honoured for his contribution to calypso, it came “as a light shining in a dark place.”
Last Friday night, Trinidad Rio, Denyse Plummer and Keith Simpson were honoured at the Lions Cultural Centre, Wrightson Road Extension, Port-of-Spain during a dinner and dance function put on by the WeBeat Committee. “It is really a great feeling when you are recognised for your work,” Trinidad Rio said.
Life for the calypsonian has been a rocky road, growing up in the Belmont Orphanage, where he learned joinery and playing several musical instruments. However, he cherishes that experience, which steeled him for the road ahead. Trinidad Rio said coming from a background of hardship, eating green figs and salt, has taught several life lessons, and how to turn “negatives into positives and blessings.”
He credits the calypsoes of Sparrow (Old Man And A Donkey), Kitchener (Mama Have, Papa Have) and Pretender (Never Ever Worry) as having a significant impact on his life. Composing calypsoes since a little boy,Trinidad Rio blossomed on the calypso scene in 1970 with his first song Young Calypsonians at the Victory Calypso Tent, having learned the craft from Melody, Christo and Composer. Since then it has been no looking back.
In the tradition of Spoiler, a master of humourous calypso, Trinidad Rio has carved out his own space with what he calls “authentic calypso.” Songs like Big Shot Party; Body Parts; No Drawers; Back To Basics; Free Show King; Big Word Man; Soca Go Kill Somebody; Looking For Cups; Waiting Game; Food For Thought and, my favourite, Travelling Man are among his double entendre classics. Each song has a story, especially Travelling Man on which his children, Sharon and Davy, sang the chorus at the Master Den Calypso Tent. Rio, himself, is a bundle of stories that could fill a book.
Trinidad Rio said Travelling Man came about when he got some stiff picong from a colleague about the fact that he wasn’t going overseas like other bards. “I turned that negative into a positive, and wrote Travelling Man,” he recalled. One of his fond memories was going to the Lutheran University in Seattle, USA, where his work was used to teach students involved in the Carnival Arts.
“I write songs for the world,” Trinidad Rio said. “My aim is to touch lives.” Trinidad Rio, who has now left the calypso tent unhappy with the direction of the art form, is happy working with colleagues, Funny and Luta and other upcoming singers in an enterprise called Kalypso As It Was. He is now in the studio polishing another calypso gem which would be out in a few weeks, living the tradition of the humourous art of calypso and simply touching lives.
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