Born Linda McCartha Monica Sandy-Lewis in Bethel Village, Tobago, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to a religious, fisherman father and a stay-at-home mother, the legendary Calypso Rose first started writing her own songs when she was 13. In the 1960s, the Mother of Calypso emerged as the epitome of Caribbean music: Her first commercial successes included 1966’s “Fire In Me Wire,” which she performed with Bob Marley & The Wailers in New York the following year.
Throughout her lengthy almost 60-year music career, the Mother of Calypso has written more than 1,000 songs and recorded over the 20 songs — all while being the first major female calypso star. Her lyrics frequently tackle issues like racism and sexism: in fact, her towering influence on calypso forced the renaming of the Calypso King competition to the Calypso Monarch, which she won in 1978.
Since 2015’s Far From Home, which featured multiple collaborations with Manu Chao, Calypso Rose’s career has seen a resurgence — with booming attention internationally. She has been busy spreading calypso around the world, playing around 200 shows in a four year span including sets at Les Vielles Charrues, We Love Green, and WOMAD festivals, as well as Paris‘ Olympia Hall. In 2019, the calypso legend played at Coachella, becoming the oldest artist to ever play the festival.
Throughout her career, the calypso legend’s work is rooted in a remarkable and infectious optimism: While she continues to tackle issues like feminism, sexism, racism and the fight for a better, fairer world for individuals and for everyone, her work has always seen her bring up hedonistic subjects like partying, sex, the energy of youth and the like with a playful, knowing sense of wisdom and humor, which continues on her forthcoming album Forever, which is slated for a an August 26, 2022 release through Because Music.
Forever‘s material in particular conveys strong messages about the status of women in the various neighborhoods across the world she’s come to know well and love: Jamaica, Queens, NYC; her homeland of Trinidad and Tobago; Paris; and Belize. Each of these places have influenced and nourished her work — and in each, was where portions of the album were recorded. Unsurprisingly, the global spanning nature of its recording, allowed for so many difference influences on its overall sound: The material draws from across the Caribbean Diaspora, including rocksteady, soca, ska, mento — and of course, calypso.
The album sees the calypso legend presenting original material with a distinctly modern approach and revisiting some of her greatest classics. The end result is an album that attempts to speak to everyone — and to transcend all ages. Forever sees the Mother of Calypso collaborating with a diverse and eclectic cast of artists new and old throughout it’s 14 tracks, including Manu Chao, soca king Machel Montano, Jamaican dancehall icon Mr. Vegas, Toulouse, France-based emcee Oli, electronic duo Synapson and a lengthy list of others.
Forever‘s first single, the shuffling, genre-defying “Watina” which sees the Queen of Calypso collaborating with Belize’s The Garifuna Collective and the legendary Carlos Santana, who contributes some fiery and lysergic guitar licks effortlessly meshes dancehall, ska, soca and calypso in a crowd-pleasing, accessible and celebratory fashion — while telling a larger story of the ills of colonialism and slavery that’s familiar throughout the region.
With “Watina” in particular, Calypso Rose and company pay homage to the Garifuna, a Caribbean people scarred by slavery, excluded from history and memory but whose population is spread across the US, as well as the coasts of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Calypso Rose’s beloved Belize, which has been a part of her life in some fashion for over 40 years. “Watina” was originally a local hit for The Garifuna Collective, founded and led by Andy Palacio until his death in 2008.
Interestingly, “Watina” was produced by Calypso Rose’s longtime, Belizean-born producer Ivan Duran. Duran worked with Palacio and The Garifuna Collective and according to Duran, the legend was the only person, who could recapture the frenzy and impact of the song while respecting Palacio’s legacy.
By recording and re-imagining the song with many of the same casts of musicians sees the Trinidadian legend reaffirming her ties to Belize while continuing to exploit the dichotomy between the song’s upbeat, festive spirit and its social — and historical — message.
Directed by Andrés Arochi Tinajero, the gorgeously cinematic, accompanying video was shot in Hopkins Village, Belize. The video lovingly captures Black and Afro-Latino joy, dedication and love in a way that makes my heart sing — and is infectious.