Orin: Rudder is the best of T&T; I know my favourite song—what’s yours?

“[…] In musical terms, T&T punches well above its geographic and demographic weight. Many artistes have brought great poetic, musical and lyrical richness to the global table—but none of them brings the feels like David Rudder.

“[…] You’ll not find more deftly written words to describe a particular sexy woman walk than Rudder’s in Bacchanal Lady: ‘sweet scandal when she walk’. No need to overstate things. You can see it…”

The following guest column on iconic calypsonian David Rudder was submitted to Wired868 by Orin Gordon, a media and business consultant who can be reached at orin@oringordon.com:

Trinidad and Tobago calypso legend David Rudder.

The tributes to David Rudder have been beautiful, deep and heartfelt. We said goodbye to the stage, which thankfully was never in danger of sounding like a goodbye to the man. It was the love-in that King David deserved.

Vaneisa Baksh captured Rudder perfectly in her column this past Saturday.

“He had given us a collective consciousness of what it meant to be Trini and without being preachy, had provided a moral compass that helped us to keep checking ourselves,” Vaneisa wrote.

On Rudder, a Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean national treasure, I’m going to stay in my lane. There are people in these two islands better qualified to give deep and scholarly dives into his oeuvre.

I’m going to tell you, as a Guyanese/Caribbean man, how he lit up my consciousness alongside Bob Marley, Sparrow, Eddy Grant and others.

Former Calypso Monarch, Road March champion and Young King, David Rudder.

Vaneisa again: “The simultaneous complexity and simplicity with which he rendered our portraits gave us a sense of our value, our uniqueness, our foibles and our madness.”

The complexity and simplicity were evident in The Hammer in the 1980s, which introduced those of us who lived outside these islands to David Rudder. It was a different fare. Clever, poetic and deep. Everywhere, we sat up and took notice.

The more we heard of Rudder, the more we appreciated his gift. Calypso Music was the cultural vibe that was “rooted deep within my Caribbean belly”, as he described it.

In the absence of an anthem for the independent Caribbean countries that make up the Caribbean Community (Caricom), West Indies cricketers adopted: Rally Round the West Indies.

West Indies’ St Lucian captain Darren Sammy lifted the 2016 T20 cricket World Cup on the back of heroics by Barbadian Carlos Brathwaite and Jamaican Marlon Samuels. For those of us at home enjoying the moments following Ian Bishop’s memorable bellow, “remember the name” after Brathwaite’s final blow, Rally was the only fitting song.

In musical terms, T&T punches well above its geographic and demographic weight. Many artistes have brought great poetic, musical and lyrical richness to the global table—but none of them brings the feels like Rudder.

In the Hammer, the great pan man Rudolph Charles had died. Rudder, on Charles’ final, spiritual journey…

“[…] as we gather round that day, ah hear sister Sheila say

how last night she see a sign, she see de hammer and it doin’ fine

same time thunder roll she bawl out you see?

he done start to tune a pan areddy…”

You’ll not find more deftly written words to describe a particular sexy woman walk than Rudder’s in Bacchanal Lady: “sweet scandal when she walk”. No need to overstate things. You can see it. And this, the sung start, is something…

A reveller enjoys herself in Yuma during the 2018 Carnival.
(Copyright Analisa Caruth/Wired868)

“[…] she’s everything you think she’s all about

and everything you dream she’ll be…”

Talking about your favourite Rudder, Marley or Sparrow song is like a mother talking about her favourite child. How can you have one? Nevertheless, I have a number one and a number two. Let’s start with my second favourite.

Engine Room captures both the bloodstream and heartbeat centrality of pan to the carnival experience, as well as the enduring groupie appeal of the pan man.

“The engine room… is down there where does cause the bacchanal.

The pan is the body but the rhythm is the heart of the thing”

Calypsonian David Rudder performs at the Hyatt Hotel on 4 February 2015.
(Copyright Maria Nunes/ Wired868)

“The engine room…is down there where does start up everything.

Them boys did damn well say if your iron good you is king”

Rudder could be as lyrically devilish as anyone else, but he’s more skillful with it. It takes something to be simultaneously poetically dense and vivid. His songwriting is next level.

My favourite Rudder is the beautiful, playful Bahia Girl. Like many great songs, it builds in intensity. To the soca beat, the beautiful Afro-Brazilian lady put a samba swing, and when she rings the bell at 2:02, she cues a rhythm – “bim bi lay bim bay bi bi bam bam” – that remains as sweet and pore-raising today as when we first heard it.

There are Rudder songs that go deeper. There are songs that better demonstrate his songwriting gift. But this is the one for me. Tell me what yours is. Rudderology is a deep subject, and best left to experts. This is simply a musical love story.

The Honourable David Michael Rudder OCC addresses the audience after being conferred with the Order of the Caribbean Community at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Trinidad on 10 August 2022.
(via Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs)

Our Rudder love-in and appreciation couldn’t have come at a better time. The nation is reeling from increasingly brazen acts of violent crime that have seen 208 murders to date for 2023.

Monday’s Express frontpage juxtaposition of two contrasting messages from Rudder and another T&T national hero, Brian Lara, was striking.

Lara, on Indian Premier League coaching duties in Hyderabad with the Sunrisers, was moved to express his “shock and dismay” at the murder of a friend back in Santa Cruz while watching an American basketball playoff game one week ago.

“Feuds within the village or with other neighboring villages were settled on the field of play, the only battles I knew about,” Lara wrote in a press statement.

Cantaro United players celebrate with supporters after their thrilling 3-2 win over Malabar Young Stars in the NLCL U-19 Community Cup at the Brian Lara Recreation Ground, Santa Cruz on 26 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Violent crime dominates conversation at social events. We can’t stop talking about it. There’s fear, wariness and resignation. There’s frustration at the authorities.

In times like this, it’s good to have Rudder-type upliftment. We recalled the best of David, who has himself demonstrated the finer qualities of this nation.

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