Eight-time Trinidad Calypso Monarch, Dr. Hollis Liverpool, better known as Chalkdust, had a rapt audience this morning at the 8th Annual African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference, as he – and his guitar – explored the history of Road Marches of the Caribbean.
Beginning with the kalenda music used to accompany the stick fighters of yore and risqu? jamette songs; to the more familiar tunes from modern day musicians, Liverpool reminded the audience of one constant – calypsonians write history and their style of sharing that history reaches people throughout the region and beyond.
Noting that Lord Kitchener of Trinidad coined the phrase ‘road march’ in 1946, Liverpool remarked that “these road marches show how our people think; they describe the voice of a people under duress. I call it the cry of the oppressed in the Caribbean.”
The calypsonian observed that “to understand road marches, you have to understand carnival… Many people in the Caribbean don’t understand carnival, they think it’s a big fete. They think it’s time to drink rum, they think it’s time to have sex…[but] African people brought their carnival here, their rhythm patterns here”.
The soca veteran entertained the conference delegates with renditions of calypsos and explained their connection to what the individual, community or country was experiencing at the time. He maintained that satire was the most valuable tool for a calypso practitioner, as it was essential for important issues of the day to be addressed without being labelled as libellous.
He assured the audience that this style was not new, as “the African enslaved brought all those things with them – They didn’t call it metaphor and simile and personification… They hid all the messages in calypso… That’s the art form”.
Among the many calypso songs referenced during his presentation, were Caruso’s 1959 tune Gunslingers, which highlighted the ???