Pappy got a brand new bag … um, book

By Dave Douglas

Roy ‘Pappy’ Cape has turned to a new medium, starring in a book on his musical life.
Roy ‘Pappy’ Cape has turned to a new medium, starring in a book on his musical life.

A Trinidadian saxophonist and orchestra leader for more than 36 years, Roy ‘Pappy’ Cape has scored another hit. Only this time it’s a book about his journey as a bandleader, musician and performer called The Life on the Calypso and Soca Bandstand.

The author, Canadian-born Jocelyne Guilbault, is a professor of music at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Governing Sound: The Cultural Politics of Trinidad’s Carnival Musics and Zouk: World Music in the West Indies. Guilbault was introduced to Cape while on a visit to Trinidad. Three years later, she approached him with the idea for the book.

“2008 was the 50th year of his music career. I knew Roy from hearing him, from meeting him through friends and I wanted to work with him. At that stage there was no in-depth (ethnomusicological) work done on Trinidadian musicians,” says Guilbault in an article from the Trinidad Guardian.

In a recent interview with 96.1 FM Cape says, “I never had an intention to write a book but I know I had a story. I took up the challenge and we worked for four years. We worked in Toronto for three years. Every time I went up there, we would spend a week together. We also did work in Grenada, Tobago, Manzanilla and at my home.”

In the 60’s, dance halls on the twin islands were alive with the sounds of orchestra music, much to the delight of the local fans who refer to it as Band Music: Dutchy Brothers, Joey Lewis, Clarence Curvan, Boyie Lewis, Norman Tex Williams, Ron Berridge, Sparrow Troubadours, to name a few.

Today, there are two remaining bands in Trinidad that carry the names of their legendary leaders; Roy Cape All Stars and Joey Lewis Orchestra. The latter, also known as Pal Joey, is the senior of the two and is nearing 60 years as a bandleader while Pappy Cape has clocked 36 years and has found ways to adjust to the test of time, thereby remaining relevant.

“I came out in the Dance Hall, not the present-day Dance Hall. I played with Clarence Curvan from 1962 to 1964, from there I went on to Ron Berridge which was one of the greatest bands to come through Trinidad. Ron Berridge did the 1968 Sparrow album and he did the Kitchener album too.

“It was very rare in those days to have gotten one man to do both Kitch and Sparrow albums because the competition was so great, it was either or and Berridge was able to bridge that,” says Cape.

His take on the book is that it’s his story and he’s relating the life of a musician and obviously, the calypsonians will come into it because he has worked with them for the greater part of his life, but it’s mainly talking about musicians who have contributed but were not fortunate to have shared similar experiences.

Pappy Cape gave further insight into what to look forward to in his book “Yes! Every band that I played in; there’s pictures and the names of the guys. Every musician I’ve worked with before I became Roy Cape All Stars and even during Roy Cape All Stars time, we have a graph showing the years and the times of the performances.”

The Life on the Calypso and Soca Bandstand was launched in Trinidad Sept. 26 and internationally on Oct. 3 along with the album Roy Cape: A Calypso and Soca Anthology at Carib Woodbrook Playboyz Panyard, Tragarete Road, Newtown.

The book is published by Duke University in 10 languages and is advertised on Google by over 40 book companies.