Calypso Rose Profile
Photo: Richard Holder
- Born: 1940
- Related Artists: Kobo Town, Mighty Sparrow
- Related Countries: Trinidad and Tobago
- Related Genres: Calypso
A legendary figure in the Caribbean, the septuagenarian singer Calypso Rose has had a remarkable 40-year long career and is still going strong
Feisty singer, winding storyteller, feminist pioneer and Caribbean cultural icon, Calypso Rose was first crowned Trinidad’s calypso queen 40 years ago when her song 'Come Leh We Jam' won the annual carnival contest in 1978. She had to fight against fierce male prejudice and jealousy for her title: until her rise to the top, there were only ever ‘calypso kings’. She went on to win the crown for the next five successive years.
Having made her point, she then moved New York City, where there is a large Trinidadian population, although she returns to Port of Spain every year for the annual carnival.
Rose was born McArtha Linda Sandy-Lewis on the island of Tobago in 1940, she had to battle her own family’s prejudice to become a singer, too – her father, a Baptist minister, told her calypso music 'belonged to the devil'. However, she drew moral support and inspiration from her great grandmother who had come from Guinea as a slave: as a young girl she remembered the old woman kneeling at sunset towards the sea and praying to her African ancestors.
By the age of 15 she had written her first hit song, 'Glass Thief', which denounced inequality between the sexes, which at the time was unheard of in a calypso.
Combining the uninhibited exuberance of dance music with stinging social commentary, in later years she incorporated elements of soca into her calypsos and she recorded one of the most successful albums of her career at the age of 75 with 2016’s Far From Home, co-produced by Ivan Duran and Manu Chao.