The Singing Of The Road March
The Grand Master.
known in the calypso world as,
Kitchener, described as the Grandmaster of Calypso and the Road March King, has sung calypsoes in all categories of the artform. This includes political, social as well as humorous.
He started singing calypso as a boy and got his first break in 1937 in a calypso tent in Arima, singing for 12 cents. He is His tent is called the Revue, where he continued to perform every year. Long after forsaking stage competition, Kitchener continued to give the young turks trouble with such compositions as "Don't Ask Me to Wuk for Carnival", "Twelve Bar Joan" and "Bees Melody".
In 1994, a seven-foot-tall Pat Chiu Foon sculpture of Kitchener was unveiled in St James. He described the adulation he enjoyed that year as "better than the Trinity Cross"p;which he has never received.
Before the release of his 1997 album, he teased, "They can try but they can't stop Kitch. The older I get, the wickeder I getting." And he tipped his fedora and said goodbye.
In an interview, six years ago, Kitchener told TUCO marketing manager Rudolph Ottley: "My greatest happiness will be something built for calypso, a building, a hall, a theatre, built especially for calypso, that is my greatest dream right now.
Somebody, the government, build a theatre for calypso and just see that the name calypso is up on that building. That is what I would like to see, because we deserve it; the art deserves it."
Kitchener was also adamant when he refused to accept the Chaconia Gold Medal, in preference for a Trinity Cross. About his trophy shelves at his Rainorama Palace home being void of the Trinity Cross, Kitchener said: "Well, the whole world feel I should receive a Trinity Cross; it's not only in Trinidad.
"I personally, I sing for the love of singing, I sing for the people. I am not really concerned about receiving the Trinity Cross, but the people are behind me with that, so I with the people. But on my own, I will not say that I must receive it; it's the people who are saying that, so I accept the people's view."
Through a career spanning about six decades, Kitchener won the coveted Road March title on 13 occasions, the most times an individual has worn that crown. He was appropriately hailed at home and abroad as the Road March King of the World.
Born in Arima, Kitchener's 78th birthday will be on April 18. Having never learned music formally, Kitchener always took pride in regarding himself as a "born artiste and composer."
Unsuccessful in attempts to migrate to the United States, Kitchener opted for England instead where he made a name for himself. From London, he sent calypsoes every Carnival, and returned home in 1963, winning that year's Road March with the ditty aptly titled "The Road." He also placed second in the calypso monarch final, behind his main rival in the art form, Sparrow.
Kitchener went on to win the Road March title the following year ("Mama Dis is Mas"), repeating the feat in 1965 ("My Pussin'"), although he was in England.
Kitchener composed the first "pan calypso" ("The Beat of the Steelband") in 1944 and formed an extremely close allegiance and affinity with pan and the steelband movement. It is safe to say that Kitchener's compositions has had the most influence on the musical direction of the Panorama competition, with him contributing at least one song each year to the competition.
Amoco Renegades has been the steel orchestra Kitchener is most readily associated with. This relationship dates back to the founding of Renegades when Kitchener resided in La Cou Harpe, almost inside the panyard.
As Kitchener remained faithful to pan, so did Renegades to the Grandmaster. The Charlotte Street band, joint holder of the most national Panorama wins, captured almost every victory with a Kitchener selection, arranged by Jit Samaroo.
Kitchener's pan compositions helped elevate a number of steel orchestras as through the 37-year history of Panorama, 18 national titled have been copped by bands playing his calypsoes.
Beside ruling the road and Panorama, Kitchener was also a formidable opponent in the calypso monarch arena. Two years after his 1944 debut, Kitchener had the great Atilla the Hun pulling out all stops to hold on to the title. Kitch placed second, ahead of Pretender. Singing "Fever" and "Spree Simon" in 1975, Kitchener emerged a popular national monarch.
A true Calypso Pioneer and staunch advocate for the retention of traditional, pure calypso, and a strong objector to the hybrid soca, it was ironic that Kitchener's first attempt at recording a soca selection, "Sugar Bum Bum," would become his most successful single in terms of sales.
Despite his protestations over soca and "calypso singers," Kitchener eventually tried his hands at fusing authentic calypso with other genres of music. His adventure into jazz with "12-Bar Joan" also proved, as well as his colourful but brief courtship with disco music, in "Break Dancing."
Successive governments may have denied Kitchener the nation's highest award, but he enjoyed the highest respect and admiration from the people of this twin-island nation.
The Lord Kitchener died February 11, 2000!