Rudder: Food for the soul

By Dave Douglas
Photos by Peter Tang

At the TD Irie Music Festival third-annual concert at Celebration Square, Mississauga, more than 6,000 came out in support of all their favorite artists and performers on closing day.


Some were there for the music, while others simply to enjoy the excellent food provided by the various vendor booths. Many more were there just to embrace the great sunshine and the ambience.

Now for the foodies, we’re talking: seafood, curry dishes, boiled corn, gyros, jerk chicken, pelau and more. Yuh belly full now? I guess not. More like … getting hungry and it’s now Showtime!

On the count of four, the band began to play. Rudder came onstage dressed in a black and white tailored shirt and black pants and opened the set with his 1989 hit Song for a Lonely Soul and immediately the audience began to move forward, dancing and joining in a nostalgic sing-a-long to the familiar tune, “Soca music … take me … take me … take me back to my island.”

The eight-piece band led by keyboardist/Musical Director Jeremy Ledbetter was tight as usual – well-rehearsed! Guitarist Esteban Carvallo delivered some beautiful riffs and blues licks. The three-piece horn section – Jan Morgan, trumpet, Skel Redhead, saxophone and Terry Woode, trombone, was on fire.

Within minutes, they were laying down the groove like nobody’s business. The band’s horn-driven sound is unique and powerful, and the horn players have gained notoriety as a separate entity.

​Before the start of the second piece, Rudder paused and said, “Your chairs are your enemy!” prompting everyone to get ready and get off their behinds.


After a bit of anecdotal interaction reminding them of the coming winter in Toronto, he further stated, “Before the evening is over, you shall defy your chairs.” Then the drums started, the rhythm section joined in and Rudder began an improvised vocal of his famous scatting style for a couple of bars. The audience then took a queue from the king and began to chant to the hit Bahia Girl.

​With smiling faces, hands waving and bodies gyrating in every direction, the fans joyously responded to song, after song, after song from The Hammer, Dust In Your Face, This is Not a Fete and High Mass.IMGP7721_big

​In the end, Phil Vassell, co-producer of TD Irie Music Fest, came onstage and prompted the crowd to make some noise if they wanted to hear more. A loud roar filled the air, followed by chants of David! David!

​Rudder returned to the stage for an encore, this time slowing down the tempo with Rally around the West Indies, ending a superb performance and a wonderful evening.

A taste of the very best in Calypso music from the King himself, David Rudder.