Rudder and Skiffle in Concert
On July 28th Naparima Bowl will be the venue of a concert that will remind us of the power of Calypso music to touch our soul, through one of its master composers David Rudder. The "Rudder in South" concert will also feature guest artiste and second place winner of the National Panorama finals 2018 - Caribbean Airlines Skiffle. Guests can expect Rudder to make several stops on a musical journey that has defined us, with our warts and wondrousness.
Somewhere over in Belmont
Many years ago
A man had a guitar
Used to strum it to and fro.
So much so, that the students at St. Francois Girls School used to look out for him singing to himself in the gallery of the family’s apartment and the neighbors in the “plannings” came to know that Miss Elsie’s son was at it again. That man was singer songwriter, David Michael Rudder and from those humble beginnings, he crafted his artform. Through a career that has spanned over fifty years, he has taken us all on a journey and shared it with the world.
To truly understand that journey we must look at where it began.
Born in 1953, David’s formative years saw him influenced by the vibrance of Port of Spain...people, food, pan, mas’, copper crafting, cricket in the oval, horse races in the Savannah, art and music. For others, they were the components of the Trinidadian culture, for David and the rest of us, it was life.
Beyond our shores, it was a time of marches, protests, civil rights, black power, federation, independence, and the emergence of rhythm and blues as the music of the people. A keen student of history, he committed to memory everything that was going on around him and later used it as fodder for his lyrics.
David began singing and touring through the Caribbean on weekends and holidays, at the tender age of 11. Following his days at Belmont Secondary, he worked as an understudy to the great copper artist and carnival bandleader, Ken Morris. From there, he moved on to a job in the accounting department of PTSC, all the while, moonlighting as a performer in Lord Kitchener’s Revue and as a background vocalist in Trinidad’s bubbling recording studios.
Although joining the popular band Charlie’s Roots at the age of 28, in 1981, it wasn’t until his meteoric rise to the forefront of the local music scene in 1986, that Rudder became a part of our collective consciousness.
The Hammer, a song written as a tribute to the life of pan man Rudolph Charles, became synonymous with the celebration of, what Sly and the Family Stone referred to as, “Everyday People.” The recognition of these everyday people became a common thread in Rudder’s music. Although his characters were both real and fictional, his lyrics painted vivid pictures in our minds…the Indian from Belmont, they call Carruth, Enid the jammette, Ebenezer, the stiff waist man, the ranting Madman, Gas Station Gene (Miles), Mahal, and Cornhusk Mary from Madness were among ‘the sturdy people who could still smile a mile of love into their pain’. Rudder carried them with him…from the calypso tents and the grounds of Soca Village, Lyons, St. John’s, and Holiday Inn Carpark, to the international music festivals of Glastonbury, MIDEM, WOMAD and the concert halls of Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Apollo Theatre, and the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts. His music has been studied, discussed and debated in the lecture theatres of the University of the West Indies, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Toronto to name a few.
Over the years, Rudder’s work with the legendary, Peter Minshall remain etched in our memories. Never was the marriage between mas’ and music more apparent than in Minshall’s 1996 winning presentation of Song of the Earth. His song, “The Sun Still Rises”, called on the masqueraders to “Hear the Earth Sing a melody. Every heart, every soul is a drum”.
David’s passion for cricket and the West Indies lead to the creation of “Rally Round the West Indies” a song written as a supporter and adopted by the region as an anthem. His music has been featured in plays, television shows and Hollywood movies.
For David Rudder, the awards and accolades have been many, a Hummingbird Silver award, Numerous Sunshine, NAFEITA music, and CACIQUE awards, appointment as a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, the UWI Benefit Gala’s Vice Chairman award, and most recently, an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies for his body of work and contribution to Caribbean culture. In May of this year, Rudder received the keys to the City of Port of Spain.
His travels have taken him throughout North and South America, to Africa, India, Europe, and Japan. He has been in the company of politicians, priests, and royalty, but his outreach here at home has been
amongst the most personally gratifying. His many visits to our schools, drug rehabilitation centers, and even the prisons of Port of Spain, Carrera and Golden Grove have kept him connected to the everyday people of our country.
David Rudder has made a life’s work of observing, and as calypsonians do, commenting on what he sees around him. In an age of selfies and social media, he holds on to our culture in ways we are leaving behind, often reminding us of who we should be, not who we have become. Today we celebrate him, his music, and all that he given us.
Guest performance will be the 2018 National Panorama second place winners CAL Skiffle who toured Europe with Mr. Rudder in 1986 and who accompanied him for several concerts in Trinidad and Tobago.
Rudder in South takes place at Naparima Bowl on Saturday, July 28th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are: $100 (Amphitheatre) & $200 (Auditorium)