Born in 1940 on the island of Tobago, McCartha Linda Sandy-Lewis wrote her first song when she was just 15. Her father sang in a church choir, and yet the parents of the girl who would become Calypso Rose were opposed to their daughter singing during carnival. But Rose’s strong character was a formidable instrument.
Starting in the early 1960s, she travelled across the Caribbean to perform on stage. She won numerous competitions, including the St. Thomas Road March and saw her song Fire in Me Wire performed two years in a row at the Trinidad carnival. In the 1970s, she came out with a series of hits. The biggest ones included Constable Rose and Do Dem Back, her first gold record.
She was also the first woman to win the Trinidad Road March in 1977 with her song Gimme More Tempo. She repeated this exploit a year later with Come Leh We Jam, also winning the title of Calypso “King.” Since then, this award has been named Calypso Monarch to make it accessible to women and men alike.
In 1983, she decided to settle in New York but pledged to go often to Tobago and find her African roots. She recorded many songs in the 1980s and 1990s, remaining active and appreciated far beyond her island and her community.
Her latest CD, titled Calypso Rose, produced by Harmonia Mundi, marked a great comeback by the Tobago diva, with a voice like Aretha Franklin. Her resonant melodies, sometimes drawing upon jazz and reggae, give her an added dimension.
Calypso Rose has been a calypso icon for more than 40 years and she remains today a singer venerated by all lovers of Caribbean music.
In less than 10 years, Kobo Town has managed to move from an unknown project to a respected music group that is so widely travelled that fans may soon need a dedicated music alert or “app locator” to say “Where is Kobo Town?”
Lead by Toronto-based Trinidadian Drew Gonsalves, an accomplished singer, songwriter, musician, and producer, Kobo town had its humble beginnings in an obscure, local bar near Clinton and College in the city’s downtown core in 2004.
Kobo Town launched its first album Independence in 2007 which received warm reviews from the online version, Soul, Funk and World, in which the album was described as: “One of those rare records that you will encourage everyone in your vicinity to ge.t”
The second album Jumbie in the Jukebox was recorded in 2013. Gonsalves used the expertise of much-praised producer Ivan Duran (the Garifuna Collective) featuring 16 musicians and singers. “For me, the calypsonian is a singing newspaperman commenting on the events of the day, with an attitude halfway between court jester and griot (storyteller),” says Gonsalves.
Jumbie in the Jukebox, recorded in Belize, Montreal, Toronto and Trinidad, has won much acclaim. Also in 2013, Kobo Town embarked on an ambitious world tour which included many cities across Canada, Europe – mainly Germany – Switzerland and Holland and to jazz and music festivals in the U.S.
Get ready for this Toronto! On Saturday, the Small World Music Festival presents Calypso Rose and Kobo Town at 783 College Street. Doors open at 7 p.m. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets: $30 at www.smallworldmusic.com.