Calypso queen

From 1939 until 1977, the winner of the annual Trinidad calypso competition was crowned the Calypso King. In 1978 Calypso Rose won the title, so they had to change the name.

Calypso Rose
Jean-Pierre Jeannin, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Calypso is a genre of music that has always tackled political and social issues head on. The first winner of the Calypso King competition, back in 1939, sung about trade unionism; in 1941 Mighty Destroyer won the title with a few choice words about Adolf Hitler:

Napoleon Bonaparte had a better start,
But the crossing of the channel broke his heart.
1636 the Spaniards tried their tricks,
But they also retreated with plenty licks.
You Austrian jail-bird,
These are things in history you’ve never heard.
So I must remind you,
The whole world respects the red, white, and blue.

Mighty Destroyer

Some calypso singers even made the transition to public office, like 1946 and 1947 winner Atilla the Hun. (Yup, that was his real stage name. Don’t get me started on five-time winner Black Stalin.)

For nearly forty years at the annual Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, the singer of the best song on a contemporary subject was crowned the Calypso King. However, in 1978 the contest was won by one of the most influential calypsonians of the decade, Calypso Rose:

Now, the competition could have gone with a solution favoured by certain historical female monarchs and kept the “king” part of the title. (Nothing in the rulebook says the king has to be male!) But instead, the contest was renamed the Calypso Monarch to celebrate Calypso Rose’s victory, and to account for all future winners regardless of gender. Pretty progressive for the 1970s.

Leave a Reply