Keeping Calypso Alive in Canada

Keeping Calypso Alive in Canada

By Henry “King Cosmos” Gomez

Macomere Fifi

For many years, Trinidad, now Trinidad and Tobago, has been know as the land of steelpan and calypso. Justifiably so, since this is where the steelpan, the only new acoustical musical instrument of the 20th century, was invented in the 1940s. Calypso, or Kaiso, has a much longer history that goes back to the last decade of the eighteenth century, when it was sung in French patois. Gros Jean, an enslaved African in the service of Begorrat, an estate owner in Diego Martin, was first to be named Mait Caiso or Master of Calypso.

In the nineteenth century, as British influence grew and more people began speaking English, calypsonians began singing in patois and English, then finally switched almost completely to the new tongue. Calypso has not remained unique to Trinidad and Tobago though. Since its inception, it has spread to other Caribbean countries, and today it has an international profile, especially in countries where there is a Trinidad and Tobago style carnival.

Here in Canada, for the past forty years, Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes (OCPA) has been building on the Canadian calypso tradition by providing a platform for calypsonians and staging competitions for the artistes to establish and maintain their profiles.


The first calypso competition in Toronto, and possibly Canada, was held in 1969 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. It was produced by the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), the founders of the Caribana Festival, and was won by Trinidadian Dave De Castro aka De Bandit. The second competition of note was produced by private parties, and was held in 1980 at Cutty’s Hideaway at 538 Danforth Avenue, where Lord Smokey was crowned King. Subsequently, in 1981 Selwyn Woods of Magic Productions produced the calypso competition that gave birth to OCPA, calypso tents in Toronto and competitions over the years.

This 1981 competition was held at the Masonic Temple, 888 Yonge Street at Davenport, and was won by Trinidadian, Young Beginner (real name Michael Moore), whose calypso pedigree includes Egbert Moore aka Beginner. In 1981, the Caribbean Cultural Committee also produced a smaller competition at Varsity Stadium and it was won by Michael Leggerton (Protector). Henry Gomez, know as Lord Cosmos at the time, placed second.

From 1981 to the present, OCPA (originally, Calypso Association of Canada) has been the body producing the Canadian Calypso Monarch competition which has produced many monarchs. They include Young Beginner, Jayson, Structure, Macomere Fifi, King Cosmos, Skippy, Pan Man Pat, Lady Pearl, Tracey Ann Anthony, Luv Bug, Victorio, Guney and Red Man.

OCPA looks forward to keeping the Canadian calypso and carnival tradition alive by producing competitions and other calypso events.