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Calypso Rose talks gender equality

Trinidad and Tobago
Music
Equality
Calypso Rose
Calypso Rose. Photo: Richard Holder

Which of your songs means the most to you?

‘Fire In Me Wire’. I wrote that song in three islands. The first verse was in St Croix, the US Virgin Island; the second verse was in Barbados and the third verse was in Trinidad.

In St Croix, I was performing and went straight through the stage! The police took me straight to the hospital. I got some fractured ribs. In St Kitts, I was singing ‘Fire, fire in me wire’, and, when I flinged the mic between my feet, the cord hooked on my ankle and I sprained it. In Barbados, when I flinged the mic up, I couldn’t bring my hand down. I’d dislocated my shoulder! So, ‘Fire In Me Wire’ is a Calypso song I can never, never, never forget.

It has now been sung in nine different languages. The Japanese are the last to pick it up.

Who inspires you?

Bob Marley. We worked together in New York and then again in Miami, Florida. He was an entertainer. After he finished praying, he picked up his guitar and hit the stage. Dynamic!

What impresses you?

My fans. My fans are the ones who have kept me alive.

What’s your earliest memory?

My great-grandmother was kidnapped, bought and sold and ended up in Tobago. She never went back to [her home of] French Guinea. Every evening, she would sit by the seaside and would always shake her head and say ‘no man know their burial ground’. She also taught me ‘un, deux, trois, quatre’.*

You’ve fought injustice your whole life – what do you feel most passionate about now?

The situation still goes on. When I look at the television and I see the newscasters, the men have on a suit and a tie. Why is it that females, who are now working, [have to deal with] their bosses wanting to have sex with them? Why? It should not be!

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement was to receive the Victoire de la Musique from France. I was really, really surprised. You know I have a pacemaker? When I heard my name I thought that it was going to drop out of my body!

You live in New York now. What do you miss most about your home island of Tobago?

I miss the sea area a lot. I grew up by the seaside and my father was a fisherman who had two boats. Every evening we were down by the beach.

How do you relax?

Sometimes with my guitar and my keyboard next to me.

How did you react when Caribbean Airlines named an airplane after you?

It’s a different honour but it’s great to know that ‘Calypso’ is being flown all over the world now. We will soon be flying CR77. It’s the first time I will be flying that plane. I’ll put on my captain’s hat!

How will you be celebrating your birthday?

I never work on my birthday. I crawl into any church and thank the Lord I am alive and ask the Lord to give me strength to see the next year.

*Calypso Rose dedicated the song, ‘Back to Africa’, to her great-grandmother.

Calypso Rose was the first Caribbean entertainer to receive a Victoire de la musique for best international album for Far from Home (2016). In 2017, the album was awarded platinum sale status in France, a first for any artist from Trinidad and Tobago. For current tour dates click here.

Sian Griffiths is a former London-based BBC producer and reporter who now works as a writer and radio journalist in Ottawa, Canada. She has a special interest in social, humanitarian and indigenous issues.

New Internationalist issue 512 magazine cover This article is from the May 2018 issue of New Internationalist.
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