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Kaiso! Kaiso!

Harps of Gold: A tribute to the Mighty Duke

The Mighty Duke and his wife, Rebecca
The Mighty Duke and his wife, Rebecca Reporters
Event Date: October 24, 2007
Posted: October 26, 2007

"Duke has sung and mastered every genre of the Calypso art: smut, commentary, humour, Road March, Pan songs and philosophy. His measured lines, beautiful melodies and well-chosen lyrics have served to establish him as one of the all time greats in Calypso."

These sentiments, printed on the programme, captured the outpouring of accolades expressed to Duke as the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), in conjunction with the Network Community Organization, hosted a tribute to the Mighty Duke titled "Harps of Gold" at the Central Bank Auditorium on Wednesday 24th October, 2007. In the audience were acclaimed artist Leroy Clarke, UTT President Ken Julien, Express Newspaper Editor Keith Smith, ESC Chairman Khafra Kambon, High Court Judge Malcolm Holdip and Makandal Daaga, Liselli Daaga and Anum Bankole of NJAC. Also coming out to show their support and appreciation for Duke were fellow Calypsonians the 'Mighty Striker', 'Rootsman', Karega Mandela, 'Brother Valentino', 'Sister Ava', 'M'Ba', 'Versatile', 'Twiggy', Abbi Blackman, 'Lingo', 'De Fosto', 'Diamond', 'Cardinal', 'Luta', Denyse Plummer, 'Crazy', Dwayne O'Connor, 'Contender', 'Bally', 'Brother Superior' and 'Santa'.

Lutalo 'Brother Resistance' Masimba
Lutalo 'Brother Resistance' Masimba

'Brother Resistance', representing the Network Community Organisation, shared that back in 1983 his organization organized a Calypso lecture series involving the 'Mighty Duke' and other veteran Calypsonians such as the late 'Pretender' and the 'Roaring Lion'. He expressed that it is time that Calypso is looked at as the engine towards a new direction in our education system and called for the public to look at the issues raised by Calypsonians.

Master of Ceremonies Dr. Hollis 'Chalkdust' Liverpool explained that "Harps of Gold" was the name of Duke's 1990 album and thus it was thought an appropriate name for the tribute event. 'Chalkdust' stated that the purpose of the event was to facilitate greater understanding of Duke's contribution to national development as he invited the audience to bask in the beauty of Duke's lyrics and drink from the honey of melodies. 'Chalkdust', who was both eloquent and humourous, had the audience roaring with laughter with his humourous anecdotes.

Hollis 'Chalkdust' Liverpool
Hollis 'Chalkdust' Liverpool

The tribute was organized in different sections to highlight the versatile contributions of Duke to social development. These sections were Duke - The Conscious Black Artiste, Woman Bachannal, Duke - Panman/Road March Artist, Duke the Composer, Duke the Documentalist and Duke the Competitor. Duke, accompanied by his wife Rebecca, sat in the front row and smiled gracefully as the accolades continued to flow throughout the evening.

Fellow Calypsonian Brother Valentino kicked off the Duke - The Conscious Black Artiste segment with a rendition of Duke's "Black is Beautiful" as the audience sang along enthusiastically to the refrain "Black is Beautiful". Valentino, commonly referred to as the people's Calypsonian, was graceful and smooth in presenting this Duke classic that explores the importance of Black identity.

Regeneration Now
Regeneration Now

'Regeneration Now' who have been singing since the 1950's came to the stage to sing Duke's "ManChild of a Slave". Dressed in matching blood red suits this duo gave a solid performance of this Duke classic that explores African identity and the debilitating psychological impact of colonialism.

The third performer, Denyse Plummer, remarked that sometimes the sweetness of the Calypso melody distracts from the lyrics as a preface to her oral presentation of Duke's "Martin Luther King Day" and "Calypso Music". 'Explainer' performed the last item in the Black Consciousness section as he performed Duke's classic "Teach the Children", a song that extols Africa's contribution to world civilization as the audience clapped, sang along and shouted "Kaiso Kaiso".

Keith Smith
Keith Smith

Keith Smith expressed that Duke added another dimension to Calypso categories with his Woman Bachannal songs. Saying that performers in this category did not come, he humourously resisted calls from the audience to sing. Hezekiah Benjamin eventually came to the stage to render "One Foot Visina". He was followed by 2007 National Calypso finalist Dwayne O'Connor who sang his tribute song to Duke titled "Sartorial Elegance".

Calypsonian Versatile started the Duke Panman / Road March Artiste segment as he came to the stage to render Duke's massive hit "Thunder", a Road March winner in 1987. Backed by the professional Kelly Greene Band which featured ace musician Pelham Goddard, Versatile gave a energetic and spirited performance of Duke's "Thunder" which had the audience singing along and dancing in their seats.

Edwin 'Crazy' Ayoung 
Edwin 'Crazy' Ayoung 
Crazy came next to the stage and described Duke as one of the greatest Calypsonians of all time as he proceeded to sing Duke's 1980 party song "Work it Up for Me".

The fourth segment highlighted Duke - The Composer and firstly featured two time National Calypso Monarch 'Luta' singing a couple of Duke's songs: "Calypso Music" and "Freakin Streakin" to rapturous applause from the audience.

He was followed by 'M'ba' whose name, presenter Winston Maynard revealed means "Maestro Born Again". 'M'ba' sang the Duke tribute song "Duke from South".

Winston Maynard remarked that Duke took up the mantle to struggle against Eurocentric behaviors as he introduced 'Chalkdust' to sing Duke's Fanon-inspired "Black Skin, White Man", an epic song about African identity and the struggle against Eurocentric ideologies.

'Bally' came on stage to sing "Mih Lover"; the song, though sung by Lord Nelson, was composed by Duke. This groovy Calypso track had the audience singing along - a nice way to finish the segment.

Ken Ramchand
Ken Ramchand

UTT professor Ken Ramchand presented the fifth segment: Duke - the Documentalist. Ramchand stated Calypso captures outstanding events in the world and in the nation and observed that many of Duke's songs have become important as documents in understanding the social reality. He said that part of his greatness lies in his being an excellent judge of what was crucial amidst all the things that were happening so bewildering around him. Delving in the year 1960, Ramchand noted that for Eric Williams, the US Military base in Chaguaramas was an offensive symbol of the new imperialism and the old colonialism which led to his call for a ritual protest march on the lead up to the nation's independence. "The Mighty Duke keeps the occasion burning with his 'Memories of 1960'," he said, as he called 'Chalkdust' to the stage to render the song, "T'was a day of all days to remember when we marched in the rain with our Premier".

Cardinal continued the documentalist theme as he gave a spirited performance of Duke's "Monkey Know What Tree to Climb". Following his performance, Chalkdust returned to sing Duke's "Memories of 1970" which highlighted the essence of the 1970 Black Power confrontation. 'De Fosto' sang Duke's famous anti-Apartheid song "How Many More Must Die" changing the lyrics to ask how many must die for there to be respect for the Calypso fraternity, receiving a thunderous ovation from the audience.

Aldwin Albino
Aldwin Albino

Veteran pianist Aldwin Albino gave a tremendous piano medley of Duke's songs receiving appreciation from the audience.

The final performance of the night was by 'Diamond' who sang Duke's "Mathematical Formula for Peace". Although 'Diamond' forgot some of the lines of the song, he refused to give up, and soldiered on by reading the forgotten lines from a paper he pulled from his pocket.

RIGHT: 'Brother Resistance', 'Mighty Duke', his wife Rebecca and three sons
RIGHT: 'Brother Resistance', 'Mighty Duke', his wife Rebecca and three sons

This tribute to Duke concert was a tremendous success as it underscored Duke's reputation as a multi-faceted genius whose humour and strong expressions of social issues and Black consciousness makes him undoubtedly one of the all time greats of the Calypso arena. It was a creative way of documenting and honouring Duke's contributions to national development.

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