Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


ROSE, Calypso

(b McCartha Sandy Lewis, 27 April '40, Bethel, Tobago) Calypsonian and soca artist. Father led his own Spriritual Baptist Church; she was sent to Trinidad to live with an aunt at age nine; her first calypso was called 'Glass Tief' (thief) and her first calypso name was Crusoe Kid when she was still in her teens. Her father and aunt opposed her wish to sing calypso, then still considered dishonourable and in any case completely dominated by male artists; she returned to Tobago at 16 because her aunt had gone to London. Joined Young Brigade calypso tent '58, which incl. legendary Mighty Spoiler; remained until his death '60. Promoters gave her the name Calypso Rose; she turned pro '63 with Lord Kitchener's calypso tent; won crowns for the Virgin Islands and Tobago with 'Co-operation', which she recorded. Moved to Mighty Sparrow's tent '67; 'Fire, Fire' '67 was a contender for the Road March: initially prevented by discrimination from recording it, but Sparrow heard it and made the appointment at the recording studio; it was one of her biggest hits. Early LPs incl. Calypso Queen Of The World, Sexy Hot Pants and Splish Splash. Won National Calypso Queen title on unprecedented five consecutive occasions '74--8 (contest inaugurated '72; first winner was Singing Francine; Rose's nearest rival is Denyse Plummer with four consecutive wins '88--91). Another Road March contender was 'Do Dem Back' '75 (it's said that she lost to Kitchener by only one point) and that year she won third prize in the Calypso Monarch contest: competition still for a Calypso King, but that year there were two other women (Singing Francine and Singing Diane) in the seven finalists. She won the Road March with 'More Tempo' '77 (on LP Action Is Tight); won triple crown '78 of Road March (with 'Soca Jam'), National Calypso Queen (after winning she announced her retirement from purely female contests) and Calypso Monarch ('Her Majesty' and 'I Thank Thee'), the first and only time a woman has won it (winning selections on Her Majesty). '79 LP was Mas Fever; became a regular in Mighty Shadow's tent ('Masters Den') '80, issued We Rocking For Carnival (last four LPs all on Charlie's). Ah Can't Wait '81 on 2000AD Records was made in Hollywood, not well received at home; Mass In California '82 on Straker's saw her back on form, incl. 'Balance Wheel'; Rose Goes Soca Unlimited '83, Trouble '84, Pan In Town '85, Stepping Out '86, Leh We Punta '87, On Top Of The World '88, Soca Explosion '89, Soul On Fire '90, Jump With Power '91 are all on Straker's; in '86--7 she led her own Rose's Superstar tent in Tobago. Appeared in film documentary One Hand Clap '88, dir. and co-prod. by Kavery Dutta, incl. footage shot during '86 Carnival season. Issued Breaking The Sound Barrier '93 on Kisskidee incl. single 'Jam We Right Here'. Made a strong comeback '94 with hit 'Ju Ju Warrior' from Soca Diva '94 on Ice; '95 selection 'African Rhythm' made less impact. Her '96 selections 'Ringbang Music' and 'Play Oh' both incl. on compilation Ringbang -- Carnival Special '96 on Ice. Didn't perform in a tent for '97 season, but a one-off show instead at Hotel Normandie; issued Tobago on Blue Wave late in the season. Having become a citizen of the USA (where she is based), she is automatically disqualified from entering T&T competitions; says she doesn't perform in a tent during Trinidad Carnival these days '...because my standard is above normal, I wanna take what I have and export it outside ... I have done my part in Trinidad' (interviewed in book Women In Calypso '92 by Rudolph Ottley). She took on the establishment in a male-dominated (and chauvinist) genre and made her mark, showing younger women that it can be done.