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Aldwyn Roberts
Lord Kitchener
Feb. 11, 2000
Age 77 
Blood Disorder 
 
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   Legendary calypso artist Lord Kitchener dies at 77

  
 PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (Reuters) - Lord Kitchener, a legendary Caribbean calypso artist who carried the music of his native Trinidad and Tobago to international acclaim, died Friday at age 77, a hospital official said. 

 Kitchener, whose real name was Aldwyn Roberts, succumbed to a severe infection brought on by a blood disorder and organ failure, said Dr. Leslie Ann Roberts, assistant general manager at the Eric Williams Medical Complex on the outskirts of the Trinidad capital. 

 The son of a blacksmith in the eastern Trinidad town of Arima, Kitchener became an international star of calypso, Trinidad's native musical style. Calypso, which is related to reggae, often has satirical or political lyrics and features steel pan drums made of 55 gallon drums. 

 In Arima, Kitchener was first hired to sing calypso for 12 cents but he went on to performances in England after World War II with calypso artists Lion, Atilla and Growling Tiger. 

 His childhood friend, Clifford Danclare, 80, recalled how the budding star regularly led schoolboys in chanting rhymes when his school met opposing teams in sports matches. 

 ``I never saw Kitchener actually learning to play the guitar or the string bass,'' Danclare said. ``All Kitchener's pan melodies came from the blacksmith shop.'' 

 Nicknamed ``Stringbean'' for his lanky physique, Kitchener was a prolific writer and singer whose greatest hits included: ''Green Fig Man,'' ``Chinee never had a VJ day,'' ``The Beat of the Steelband,'' ``Tribute to Spree Simon'' and ``Pan in Harmony.'' 

 Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday told Parliament Friday he had made an offer to Lord Kitchener's relatives to arrange and pay for an official funeral for the ''departed genius,'' with flags flown at half-staff at government buildings. 

 ``Mr Speaker, were it not a breach of protocol, I would petition you, sir, to invite the honorable house to rise in salute to a son of the soil, a brother to us all whose life was lived in lifting the spirit of his people and of the world, for well beyond a half of the twentieth century,'' Panday said. 

 A few years ago fans demanded that Kitchener be honored with the highest award of his homeland, the Trinity Cross, for his contribution to culture. 

 Angry that he was given a lesser award, some fans raised money for a stone statue by now-deceased artist Pat Chu Foon.  The work, featuring the legendary calypso artist in his trademark jacket, tie and fedora, stands in the western township outside the Trinidad and Tobago capital, Port of Spain. 

 ``I hope we will now consider a Trinity Cross for him,'' said Finance Minister Brian Kuei Tung, a Kitchener fan. ``It's a pity he has not achieved the Bob Marley-type acclaim internationally. He is a true son of the soil.'' 

 Reuters/Variety 

    
   
 
 
 
NY TIMES
        
 Lord Kitchener, 77, Calypso Songwriter

          By JON PARELES 

          Lord Kitchener, whose sly wit and graceful melodies made him one 
          of Trinidad's most beloved calypso songwriters, died on Friday at a 
          hospital in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He was 77 and lived in Diego Martin, 
          just outside Port of Spain.  

          The cause was a severe infection brought on by a blood disorder, said 
          his manager, Isaac McLeod.  

          Lord Kitchener, whose real name was Aldwyn Roberts, wrote party 
          tunes and pointed political statements, risqué songs and reminders of 
          heritage and history, singing in a voice that always seemed to convey a 
          dapper wink. His songs were esteemed for their tunes as well as for their 
          humor. He linked calypso to Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz, and his tunes 
          were regularly arranged for steel bands, winning competitions as 
          instrumentals.  

          He carried calypso abroad, spreading its influence to Jamaica and Ghana 
          and establishing himself as a recording star in Britain. At Trinidad's annual 
          carnival contests his songs won the Road March award (for the song 
          played and sung most often by parading carnival groups) 10 times and 
          won the Panorama steel-drum orchestra competition 18 times, more than 
          any other songwriter. He had hits for five decades.  

          Aldwyn Roberts was born in Arima, Trinidad. His father, a blacksmith, 
          taught him the rudiments of guitar and calypso, then called kaiso, which 
          had taken hold in Trinidad in the 1920's. When Aldwyn was 14 the death 
          of his parents forced him to drop out of school. His first paying job was 
          to entertain the employees of the water company as they laid pipes.  

          Mr. Roberts had his first local hit, "Shops Close Too Early," in 1938, and 
          he was named calypso king of Arima in the local carnival competition 
          from 1938 to 1942, before he moved to Port of Spain. There he joined a 
          group called the Roving Brigade, which performed in movie houses 
          around the city. He was hired by the promoter for the Victory Tent, a 
          calypso performance club, where he made $1 a night working alongside 
          top calypsonians including Growling Tiger, Roaring Lion and Attila the 
          Hun.  

          His first major hit, in 1944, was "Green Fig," a husband's complaint that 
          his cheating wife would not even cook him a good meal. Growling Tiger 
          renamed him Lord Kitchener, after the English field marshal and war 
          secretary. He became a steady hit maker, entertaining American troops 
          as well as Trinidadians; he performed "Green Fig" for President Harry S. 
          Truman when he visited Trinidad in 1945. In 1947 he opened his own 
          calypso tent to feature what he called the Young Brigade, dedicated to 
          peppier, horn-driven, Latin-tinged calypso songs that played down 
          politics in favor of teasing double-entendres.  

          But after winning the carnival competition in 1947, Lord Kitchener left 
          Trinidad. He performed in Aruba and stayed for six months in Jamaica, 
          then moved to London, where he was a sensation. He sometimes 
          worked at three clubs in a night. Lord Kitchener recorded for the 
          Parlophone and Melodisc labels, and he sang for Princess Margaret at 
          the Chesterfield Club. Some of his songs, like "White and Black" and 
          "Africa My Home," protested the racism he met in Britain; others were 
          more playful.  

          He moved to Manchester in the north of England, and opened his own 
          club. He toured the United States in the mid-1950's, and even as an 
          expatriate he continued to have hits in Trinidad. When he toured in Africa 
          his music was embraced in Ghana, where calypso became an influence 
          on high-life music.  

          After 16 years abroad Lord Kitchener returned to Trinidad in 1963 and 
          won the Road March competition three years running, as well as in 1967 
          and 1968; he won five more Road Marches from 1970 to 1976. As 
          instrumentals his tunes won the Panorama contest in 1964 and every year 
          from 1967 to 1977, with three more Panorama winners in both the 
          1980's and the 1990's.  

          "His songs were structured for the steel band," said Ralston Charles, the 
          owner of Charlie's Records, who produced Lord Kitchener's 1978 hit 
          "Sugar Bum Bum," one of the first international hits in the modernized 
          calypso style called soca. "That's where he gathered all his fame."  

          He started the Calypso Revue tent in 1964, and with it he became a 
          mentor to leading calypsonians of the younger generations. When soca 
          sped up calypso and cut back on its lyrics, Lord Kitchener embraced it 
          as a legacy of what his Young Brigade had done decades earlier. He was 
          inducted into calypso's Sunshine Awards Hall of Fame in 1989.  

          Wearing his trademark suit, tie and fedora, he performed regularly into 
          the 1990's, including annual appearances at the Mother's Day and 
          Father's Day all-star calypso shows in New York City. "I've tried to 
          make calypso more intelligent and make soca more danceable," he said 
          in an interview with Billboard magazine.  

          In 1993 a petition drive urged the government of Trinidad and Tobago to 
          award Lord Kitchener its highest civilian honor, the Trinity Cross. When 
          the government chose instead to present him with a lesser award, he 
          turned it down.  

          He is survived by two sons and two daughters. One, Kernel Roberts, is a 
          singer who continues to perform Lord Kitchener's songs at the Calypso 
          Revue, his club in Port of Spain.  

          The Trinidad government offered to give Lord Kitchener an official 
          funeral. But his family rejected the ceremony, The Trinidad Express 
          reported on Saturday. "Kitch is a man of the people, and the ordinary 
          man must have the opportunity, if he doesn't have a suit, to come to the 
          funeral," Rose Janniere, a friend of the family, told the newspaper. 

           
      Master of Trinidadian music who introduced the calypso to Britain 

      Peter Mason 
      The Guardian 

      The arrival, in 1948 at Tilbury docks, of "Lord Kitchener", who has died 
      aged 77, is preserved on film. He had his guitar with him, and Kitchener, 
      one of the great calypsonians - and the trailblazer responsible for the 
      growth of Trinidadian music's popularity in Britain - appears as one of 
      those dignified representatives of first-generation Caribbean immigrants. 
      He was exotic, immaculately dressed and, as is the calypsonian's wont, 
      ready with a line in topical verse. 

      Kitchener arrived on the Empire Windrush, the vessel that brought the first 
      substantial group of postwar West Indian immigrants to Britain. He was one 
      of the few Trinidadians on the ship - the majority were Jamaican - and he 
      stayed for 14 years. 

      In 1951 he was on film again, leading the pitch invasion at Lords which 
      followed the West Indies cricket team's first victory over England. By 
      then, he was a chronicler of the Caribbean experience in Britain. There 
      were calypsos like I Can't Stand The Cold In Winter, If You're Brown, My 
      Landlady, and, more positively, London Is The Place For Me. 

      Calypso was shaped in Trinidad, where its blend of Latin American and 
      African rhythms has long been a hugely popular vehicle for social and 
      political commentary, witty insult, sexual innuendo and - as "the people's 
      newspaper" - a way of analysing topical events. 

      Kitchener's first weeks in England were spent singing to bemused audiences 
      in pubs, but within six months he had broken into the London nightclub 
      circuit with his own band. The key to his success was an ability to reach 
      beyond the Caribbean diaspora - indeed, Princess Margaret reputedly bought 
      100 copies of his Ah Bernice to send to friends. 

      With his earnings, he opened his own club in Manchester in 1958. But he 
      retained his links with home. Throughout his stay, he sent songs back to 
      Trinidad for its annual carnival; and, in London, he was part of the milieu 
      which gave birth to the Notting Hill carnival in the late 1960s. By the 
      time he moved back to Trinidad in late 1962 - after that country's 
      independence - he had become a revered link with the prewar calypsonian 
      tradition. He took his homeland by storm. 

      Aldwyn Roberts had taken the stage name "Kitchener" as a teenager. Born in 
      Arima, he had resolved that, despite a lifelong stammer, he was going to 
      make his fortune as a calypso singer. "Lord" was a title awarded by his 
      fans. 

      Back home after England, he won Trinidad's road march title - awarded to 
      the singer whose calypso is most played on the streets at each year's 
      carnival - a staggering 10 times between 1963 and 1976, more than anyone 
      else ever achieved. Crowned "Road March King of the World", he dominated 
      the carnival: "Somebody going to frighten bad/ Because Kitchener come back 
      to Trinidad." Thus wrote Tiny Terror in his Tribute To Kitchener calypso. 

      Mighty Sparrow was his only rival. In 1975, after Kitch won the carnival's 
      annual calypso monarch competition, he and Sparrow retired from the event 
      to open the field for other contenders. 

      Kitch recorded up to his death, performing with a vitality that put younger 
      calypsonians to shame. He ran his own calypso tent for more than 30 years 
      in Port of Spain, nurturing talent such as David Rudder and Black Stallion. 
      He also composed for steel bands, having loved the steel pan since its 
      emergence in the 1940s. 

      His style, concentrating on humour, double entendre and the quirks of 
      everyday life, was sometimes criticised for its frivolity. But he did 
      contribute to calypso's tradition of political commentary - speaking out 
      against the government when other calypsonians kept quiet during Trinidad's 
      1970 black-power revolution. He supported pan-Africanism with his song 
      Africa My Home (1957), and some of his early songs, including Yankee 
      Sufferers (1945), were banned by the British colonial authorities. 

      Twice married, Kitch only left Trinidad for occasional tours in later life, 
      cultivating a lifestyle that fitted his essential shyness. The people of 
      Trinidad loved him. Latterly, his face appeared on a postage stamp, and 
      there is a statue of him outside Port of Spain. He turned down a Chaconia 
      medal, insulted that he was not thought worthy of Trinidad's highest 
      honour, the Trinity Cross. 

      Kitch proclaimed himself the "grandmaster of calypso". He was. 

      Aldwyn Roberts, 'Lord Kitchener', calypsonian, born April 18 1922; died 
      February 11 2000

 
       
 

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All-Music Guide
 
 Born:April 18, 1922 in Arima, St. George, Trinidad
Died: February 11, 2000 
      
 Lord Kitchener (born Aldwyn Roberts) shares with Mighty Sparrow the title of the world's best known Calypso singer. He began his career in Trinidad and won his first Road March award for singing in 1946. In 1948, Kitch emigrated to England in the company of singer Lord Beginner and newsreel footage of the time shows him singing "London Is the Place for Me." In less than two years, he and Beginner were recording for EMI. Kitch enjoyed massive popularity in England, winning the support and affection of England's Princess Margaret. In the 1950s, he toured West Africa and enjoyed a big hit there with his single, "Nora." Like many calypsonians, Kitch drifted toward soca and in 1978 hit the charts with "Sugar Bum Bum." He is still well known for his hit single, "Give Me the Ting." -- Leon Jackson, All Music Guide
 
 
  
 
 

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