Aldwyn Roberts, better known as Lord Kitchener, or simply “Kitch”, was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1922. Following his love of music, he played locally as a teenager before moving to the capital city, Port of Spain. He performed with many other local musicians for lots of different audiences, including US Army troops stationed on the islands during World War II.
After touring in Jamaica, Roberts moved to England. He travelled on a ship called the Empire Windrush, arriving in London in 1948. Roberts, a pioneering calypsonian, performed London is the Place for Me as he disembarked the ship at Tilbury docks. His enthusiasm for life in London did not go unscathed by the racist treatment that greeted him and others of the Windrush generation. See further resources below that outline the story of the Windrush generation and subsequent political scandal.
Calypso music has long been used as a form of social commentary, with local, national and international events used as inspiration. Stories, criticisms and news events were all relayed through the medium of calypso, linking it stylistically to the chiming of Big Ben’s bells. Other forms of calypso were used to make audiences laugh, but the genre took on a more serious topic when it was brought to the UK. Using music as a way of commenting on British imperial involvement in the Caribbean and the racist abuse faced by immigrants in Britain.
Calypso has a long connection to the history of slavery and empire, as it grew out of African slave traditions. Enslaved people who were forcibly brought to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago to work on sugar plantations developed many oral and musical traditions to help deal with the pain of being taken from their homes and cut off from their cultures. Story-tellers and singers kept cultural links alive, preserving elements of oral tradition that would go on to form the basis of calypso music. We will never know how many traditional stories were lost to the violence of slavery, but it is safe to say that many more disappeared than were able to be saved.
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