The First Lady of Calypso gets the Manu Chao endorsement
From the opening, jump-up moments of ‘Abatina’, a crisp, smart updating of a famous traditional rhythm, ‘Kalenda March’, it is clear that Trinidad and Tobago’s musical matriarch is on tip-top form. The confident, infectious melodies plough onwards, through the carnival hit ‘I Am African’ into the first of three tracks featuring world music’s enfant terrible Manu Chao. ‘Leave Me Alone’ is at chugging pace, enhanced by strong horn work and an uncluttered sound.
Chao’s presence on Far From Home is a typically serendipitous story. While Rose was working on the tracks just before carnival with Belizean producer Ivan Duran, Chao popped up and offered to strum his charango (a small Latin American stringed instrument), and do a spot of warbling. Offer taken up, he choruses with typical verve at the end of ‘Leave Me Alone’, and solos on charango on the sparkling Marley-esqe anthem ‘Human Race’, a cultural rallying cry with multiple voices and powering bass over Rose’s astute reasoning.
The 76-year-old Calypso Rose is perhaps the most prominent ambassador for not only calypso music but the Trinidad and Tobago nation as a whole. Her work covers social and political commentary, dance music classics and gospel-tinged anthems. Far From Home updates traditional Caribbean music in a masterful way, giving her a now well-deserved global status.