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Meet Aldwyn “Kitchener” Roberts - The Grand Master of Calypso - UpClose!

UpClose with Lord Kitchener 

In a heartfelt and thoughtful sit-down interview, Aldwyn Roberts the late great legendary calypsonian, composer and musician [simply known to the world as “Kitch” of “Kitchener"] shares his vision for the art forms of Pan and Calypso. Moreover, he presents a vivid historical and forward-thinking assessment of what’s been done, what should have been done, and what must be done in the future by artists like himself with the support of the government to ensure the continued existence and growth of the culture. The uncommon brilliance and genius of “Kitch” leave you shaking your head and wondering where Pan and Calypso would be if they had listened to him. Furthermore, where can we be in the future if his blueprint is adopted now, today, even at this late date.

Kitch on Pan:

“1942-1943... I happened to be living in a panyard around 1942 - 1943, the predecessor to Renegades - a place called LaCou Harpe. The boys use to be practicing pan all the time. Now in those days pan didn’t really play any type of notes - maybe two or three notes, that’s all...  I had a - inspiration - my thought was this thing will go far - I thought pan will go far - so I composed a song saying that the pan is playing first-class music. 

“I had like a dream that the pan was going to be something great.  And I composed a song saying that pan is playing this beautiful music. But it wasn’t so at that time. I just had that belief. That song was composed in 1944 – “The beat of ah Steelband.”  That is first-ever calypso on steelband. First ever in the history of steelband music: “The beat of ah Steelband.”

“When I composed that song - I composed the song to suit the time. So the melody was very simple.  And the bars was just about a 12-bar verse and about a 8-bar chorus. That was to suit the time.  Then I continued concentrating on pan.  And then I thought well - since I said that pan would be playing high-class beautiful music - I started to compose high-class tunes.  

“So instead of composing 12-bar verse by 8-bar chorus, I went to 16-bars verse and 16-bars chorus. When I thought that the pan could do better, I started composing 32-bars verse and 32-bars chorus. And up to today that’s what everybody’s using. 32-bars verse and 32-bars chorus.”

On what Kitch would consider his greatest pan tune?

“Well I’ve done so many beautiful pan tunes. Now I’ll call some tunes that I liked while I was composing; these tunes: “Pan In Harmony,” “Pan Here To Stay,” “Pan In ‘A’ Minor…””

On what was different about “Pan in ‘A’ Minor”?

“Well I’ll tell you something. All the pan tunes that I composed were composed in major chords. I thought I must make a change. I decided to compose a piece of music in minor. And that is when I decided to make “Pan In ‘A’ Minor.” It wasn’t easy. It took me a long time to compose the verse because I didn’t just want ah ordinary minor tune like the minor they sing in calypso.  I wanted a different type of minor tune and it took me a long time but I succeeded. And I think it is a wonderful piece of music – “Pan In ‘A’ Minor…”” 

Kitch concerns and thoughts:

“I would very like to do something better for the youngsters - that is to really teach the youngsters - the right way of really going about the art. But I really don’t have the opportunity because I thought the authorities or government would assist with this... We don’t want the art form to die.”

“If we are able to teach the youngsters you’ll find more young calypsonians will be more professional… Instead of singing songs that are given to them they will be able to compose their own songs.”

“Kitch” said that he felt that Calypsonians of his caliber should be asked to teach the young people as a means of keeping the art form alive. 

“I thought the authorities should call us to do this work. - A Calypsonian can be taught… I am positively sure that if we are given that break to teach these youngsters in a few years we will have more and better calypsonians. That is something that is on my mind all the time. As a matter of fact four or five years ago I wanted to build a building for this purpose  to teach about everything that concerned Calypso.-- I went to the government but it fell through... I became broken-hearted.  I couldn’t continue any longer...  We haven’t got a home… Without these facilities they are not able to do justice.”

According to “Kitch” - a calypso singer is one who sings a song given to him. A calypsonian like himself is one who composes and sings his own tunes. 

“If you sing another person’s composition and you win the King you are the King of Calypso but you cannot compose a calypso - that is not right, it doesn’t sound nice.

“The seasoned calypsonian is able to bring good lyrics with good music... Since in the days of “Growler” when he sang “Bungalow” [‘I Want to Rent a Bungalow’] - we calypso was making a change for the better - he implemented swing in Calypso... since 1941. It is through “Growler” that I started “bouncing” - I took up the Road March style.”

Kitchener says that his “Mount Olga” is still considered the greatest ‘double-entendre’ calypso in the history of calypso. 

Listen to complete interview

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