They might not have known much of his music, but the audience at the Tobago Jazz Experience on Friday evening left appreciating the craft and talent of 29-year-old American singer Miguel.
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Happy 60th David Rudder
Today, one of this country’s national treasures, calypsonian David Rudder turns 60. In a career spanning more than three decades, he has written many hits and helped to usher in a new era for calypso music.
Rudder started making a name for himself in the 70s as a frontline vocalist for Charlie’s Roots, one of the most popular bands of the time.
He had a string of hits with Roots, including those written as theme songs for Peter Minshall’s bands—River, Callaloo and Calabash.
In 1986, Rudder firmly established himself as a calypso icon when he scored with a trifecta of titles: Calypso Monarch, Young King and Road March. Charlie’s Roots’ 1986 album, The Hammer delivered hits like The Hammer (a tribute to Laventille panman Rudolph Charles) and Bahia Girl, which was derided by some for having a chorus with “no lyrics”.
The former Belmont Boys Secondary student once described calypso music in an interview as “amoeba music” because it consumes what’s around it.
In 1990, Rudder got the opportunity to sing with the Bahia girl—internationally acclaimed Brazilian singer Margareth Menezes, in Wild Orchid, a major Hollywood movie produced by Warner Brothers.
He has often been described as the Bob Marley of T&T.
Daisann McClane, American journalist and World Beat correspondent for Rolling Stone Magazine also wrote: “Almost overnight he became a national hero in the order of Marley in Jamaica, Fela in Nigeria and Springsteen in New Jersey.”
Jan Murray of the English newspaper, the Observer said: “Not since the early days of the Mighty Sparrow has a calypsonian been able to sell out his every performance in a country that is not prone to personality cults.”
Rudder names calypsonians like the Mighty Sparrow, Kitchener and Black Stalin as his mentors. And Rudder, especially in recent years, has also become a mentor.
He has collaborated with the current generation of soca stars like Destra Garcia, Fay Ann Lyons and Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano and Kees Dieffanthaller. His collaboration with Dieffanthaller, Live Yuh Life (Like Yuh Playing Mas), is one of this year’s more popular groovy soca hits.
Rudder now lives in Canada, but continues to be an exceptional ambassador for T&T when he performs all over the world.
Leroy Calliste aka the Black Stalin told T&T Guardian that whenever he worked with Rudder, the experience has always been a pleasant and educational one. “He is a beautiful brother, very talented. Very, very skillful. I hope a lot of the younger artistes can take a page out of his book if they want longevity in this thing we call calypso and soca music.”
Veteran writer and producer Pelham Goddard, says he longs for the day he can work with Rudder again as they did back in the good old days of Charlie’s Roots. “The last song we did together was Pan in d Mas in 2011. I really miss working with him and hope we get the opportunity to do so again soon.”
In a telephone interview, Goddard who composed songs like Jungle Fever, Calabash and Hammer with Rudder, described the singer as having foresight when it comes to world affairs. “The song 1990 was written before the attempted coup. It was like he foresaw what was going to happen,” said Goddard.
Debbie Jacob, T&T Guardian columnist and longtime commentator on Rudder’s work said in a Caribbean Beat magazine in 2004, “His popularity flowed from his obvious talent and from the radically different image he cultivated of himself as a singer.”
“He is the kind of artist who has the depth and charisma of someone like Marley. He can transcend a lot of boundaries. I've seen what he does to an American audience. He really mashes up the place,” Jazz musician and pannist Andy Narell told Caribbean Beat in 2004.