Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Aldwyn Roberts, 18 April 1922, Arima, Trinidad; d 11 February 2000) Calypso/soca singer and composer, aka 'Kitch', one of the all-time greatest. His father was a blacksmith; he performed as a calypsonian in Arima '38-41 and became known as the Arima Champion after winning the Arima Calypso King title. He moved to Port of Spain '42 and sang there with the Roving Brigade calypso tent switching to the Victory Tent '44 where he performed a national hit 'Green Fig' and was christened Lord Kitchener by Growling Tiger. He joined the House of Lords Tent '45, gaining notoriety for singing 'Yankee Sufferers' (banned by the police); returned to the Victory Tent '46 including newcomer Mighty Killer (Cephas Alexander; d '52), there launched his fame with hits 'Tie Tongue Mopsy' and unofficial Road March 'Chinese Never Had A VJ Day (Lai Fook Lee)'. He co-founded the influential Young Brigade tent '47 with Killer, cast including Mighty Spoiler, Lord Melody, Lord Pretender, others; they led a post-war drive towards new brass-accentuated melodic and rhythmic emphasis.

He went to the UK with Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore, 1904-80), arriving on the Empire Windrush on 21 June 1948, a ship that came to symbolize post-war West Indian emigration to the UK; a Pathé newsreel captured Kitch singing 'London Is The Place For Me'. First records in UK on Parlophone in January 1950 with Cyril Blake's Calypso Serenaders, session directed by Denis Preston, jazz enthusiast and pioneer of calypso recording in the UK. 'Nora' was released a month later and was a hit not only in the Caribbean but selling tens of thousands in West Africa. He toured Ghana (then Gold Coast) and is considered to have been an influence on the style called highlife. 'Nora' and the next release 'The Underground Train' were reissued on compilations Port Of Spain Shuffle Vol. 1 and Caribbean Connections Vol. 2 on Charly's New Cross label '87. Early performances in UK pubs led to various London clubs such as the Sunset, a West Indian club in Soho; sang at Chesterfield Club for Princess Margaret, who he says definitely enjoyed 'Kitch Come Go To Bed'; she was also said to have bought 100 copies of the record. During the '50s he kept a stream of records on Melodisc going back to Trinidad, returning there late '62 and winning the Road March '63 with 'The Road': he won twelve times including unofficial wins '46 and '54 (rivalled only by Mighty Sparrow, who has won eight times), earning the title 'Road March King of the World'. He made use of call-and-response patterns in his Road March compositions, allowing the chorus to carry a fair share. The National Panorama Competition began '63; the winning steel orchestra has played a Kitch song no fewer than 17 times to '95, leading to criticism that he benefited by getting records out early and giving music sheets to the orchestras.
He criticized what he saw as falling standards (in England in the 1950s he said that Sparrow's were not true calypsos, but 'calypsongs'; his 'No More Calypsongs' was included in Kitch '67 on RCA International, which also included the Road March winner '67'). He released an annual LP '71-5 on his own Trinidad Records label; 'Rainorama' was an international hit (included in We Walk 100 Miles With Kitch '73); he named his home in Diego Martin 'Rainorama Palace'. 'Tribute To ''Spree'' Simon' was an all-time record-breaker: it won Panorama, Brassorama (brass band) and Calypso Monarch competitions (together with 'Fever'; both included in Carnival Fever In Kitch '75), as well as the Road March. Having won the Calypso Monarchy for the first time he withdrew from competition. Home For Carnival '76 on KH included Road March winner 'Flag Woman'; he joined NYC-based Charlie's, owned by Trinidadian Rawlston Charles; the albums continued with Hot And Sweet '77. He had been critical of the new soca style, but adopted it (stating in the film documentary One Hand Clap '88 that he did so because he wanted to eat) and had the first international soca hit 'Sugar Bum Bum', issued as a 12-inch single and in the Charlie's LP Melody Of The 21st Century '78. Other albums included Spirit Of Carnival '79, Shooting With Kitch '80, Soca Jean '81, Authenticity '82, 200 Years Of Mas '83, The Roots Of Soca '84 (including hit 'Gee Me The Ting'); then The Master At Work '85 on Kalico (with crossover 'Breakdance') and Kitch On The Equator '86 on Ben Mac; a 12-inch single on Ben Mac that year soca-ized versions of old hits 'Trouble In Arima' '54, 'Love In The Cemetery' '63. He claimed to have composed more than 1,000 calypsos. The Grand Master '87 included hits 'Kaka Roach' and the masterpiece 'Pan In A Minor', latter adapted by many steel orchestras for Panorama. He issued 100% Kitch on B's '88 and appeared in an interview with Sparrow and Roaring Lion in BBC2's Arena presentation All On A Mardi Gras Day '88. He returned to Charlie's '89 for The Master And The Grandmaster.

In 1989 his Calypso Revue tent celebrated its 25th anniversary and was the season's most successful tent, featuring such hit-makers as: Cro Cro (Weston Rawlins: Calypso Monarch '88, '90 and '96, Young Kings '88, Stag/Vat 19 National Independence Calypso Monarch '87), Denyse Plummer (National Calypso Queen '88-91, Young Kings '90), Crazy (Edwin Ayoung: Road March winner '85, runner-up '89); Baron (Timothy Watkins) and Sugar Aloes (Michael Osuana); over the years Revue featured stars Mighty Shadow, Black Stalin, Merchant, Scrunter (Calypso Monarch '82), Melody, and Singing Diane. The T&T/Ghanaian video collaboration Crossing Over '89, co-directed by Christopher Laird (Banyan)/Wallace Bampoe-Addo (NAFTI), featured an encounter between Kitch and highlife master Konimo during the latter's visit to Trinidad.

His annual albums continued with A Musical Excursion '90 (including Panorama winning tune 'Iron Man'), Still #1 '91, The Honey In Kitch '92 (including 'Bee's Melody'), Longevity '93 (including the masterly Panorama winner 'Mystery Band'), Still Escalating '94 (with Road March contender 'No Wuk For Carnival') and Ah Have It Cork '95, all on JW Productions except the '92 release on MC Productions. He celebrated the 55th anniversary of his career '93, which marked the onset of numerous honours and tributes during that Carnival season and after, including the major Thank You Kitch show September '93, issue of a postage stamp, etc; he controversially refused the second highest government Chaconia Gold award '93, preferring to hold out for top Trinity Cross honour; a tribute bust was erected in his home town '94. Incredible Kitch '96 on JW Productions included 'The Power Of Music' which Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars steel orchestra took to fifth place in the Panorama final. He celebrated his 75th birthday year with Reflections Of A Legend on JW for the '97 season; three Panorama finalists interpreted 'Guitar Pan' including the record-breaking nine-time winners Amoco Renegades, who also became the first steel orchestra to score a hat-trick. Recommended collections: 16 Carnival Hits '92 compiles Sparrow's and his Road March winners '56-75; Klassic Kitchener Vols 1-3 '93-4 collects his classic calypsos '46-92, all in Ice's Caribbean Classic Series.