Wednesday, 2 December 2009

London is The Place For Me Calypso

Enid Blyton's towns full of gollies represent one response to West Indian immigration. So hearing about things from a West Indian point of view is an antidote. When the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury in 1948, TV cameras were waiting for an immigrant from Trinidad called Lord Kitchener. A reporter with the plummy BBC accent of the time asks him "I am told you are the King of Calypso". And Kitch promptly bursts into song ! Here's the full song complete with trumpet backing and the chimes of Big Ben.

One of the regular readers here, the guy with masses of West African LPs, suggested the 4 CD set from Honest Jon's Records in 2003, "London is the Place for Me". (can also be downloaded on amazon). Lord Kitchener is there, Lord Beginner and King Timothy, The West African Rhythm Brothers, Ambrose Adeloya Campbell. Such lively, inventive creative music, so vivacious and so irrepressible - what a heady mix it was. There are songs like "I was there at the Coronation", and Cricket Victory, with its amazing chorus "those little pals of mine, Ramadhin and Valentine" (cricketers, 1950), and funnies like the song about a guy cheating on his wife whose girlfriend steals the wife's nightie! Songs about jazz subcultures like "Gerrard Street" (100 club not Chinatown). These guys are sharp, too and deal straight out with issues like race prejudice, poverty, tough landladies, mixed marriage. Here is Lord Beginner on the General Election (1950)

One song is a kind of social document. After a long grey winter, Carnival would be a good thing, but there's no carnival in Britain in those days. The story goes that some guys were playing for themselves and for some reason started walking along playing in the streets. Crowds followed. Notting Hill was born!

There were already colonies of Africans in London, and there was cross-fusion that way, too. On the later CDs in the set many songs aren't in English but apparently just as witty if you understand Yoruba or Asante. Great music ! Click HERE for more music, including Kitch's tribute to Ghana Freedom song. "Ghana is the name, we wish to proclaim ! We will be jolly, merry and gay, the 6th of March, Independence Day". It sounds more hi-life than calypso but that's fine!

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