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Combining life-writing with poetic prose, Anthony Joseph gets to the heart of the man behind the music and the myth, reaching behind the sobriquet to present a holistic portrait of the calypso icon Lord Kitchener.


Anthony Joseph
Biography, Fiction, Novels, Ebook and print
Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom
Date published
21 Jun 2018

The poet and musician Anthony Joseph met and spoke to Lord Kitchener just once, in 1984, when he found the calypso icon standing alone for a moment in the heat of Port of Spain’s Queen’s Park Savannah, one Carnival Monday afternoon. It was a pivotal meeting in which the great calypsonian, outlined his musical vision, an event which forms a moving epilogue to Kitch, Joseph’s unique biography of the Grandmaster.


Like Kitchener, Anthony Joseph also left Trinidad for London in his mid twenties. He has always felt a powerful connection to the calypsonian, seeing similarities in their role as diasporic artists, and also since his introduction into the world of poetic language came from listening to calypsonians such as Kitchener on local radio.


Lord Kitchener (1922 - 2000) was one of the most iconic and prolific calypso artists of the 20th century. He was one of calypso’s most loved exponents, an always elegantly dressed troubadour with old time male charisma and the ability to tap into the musical and cultural consciousness of the Caribbean experience. Born into colonial Trinidad in 1922, he emerged in the 1950s, at the forefront of multicultural Britain, acting as an intermediary between the growing Caribbean community, the islands they had left behind, and the often hostile conditions of life in post War Britain. In the process Kitch, as he was affectionally called, single handedly popularised the calypso in Britain, with recordings such as ‘London is the Place for Me’, ‘The Underground Train’ and ‘Ghana’. These recordings were exported to West Africa, influencing the emerging sounds of Nigerian hi-life and Congolese rumba. In the UK, Kitch become a ubiquitous presence in the underground clubs of Notting Hill or Moss Side, Manchester, either singing calypsos at The Mayfair Club, or playing upright bass alongside Caribbean Jazz musicians such as Joe Harriott, Shake Keane and Russell Henderson. In the mid to late ‘50s married and moved to Manchester where he worked alongside the black activist Ras Makonnen in Manchester, and experienced first hand the difficulties of being involved in an interracial relationship in an intolerant time.  

Kitch represents the first biographical study of Aldwyn Roberts, according to calypso lore, christened Lord Kitchener, because of his stature and enthusiasm for the art form. Utilising an innovative, polyvocal style which combines life-writing with poetic prose, the narrative alternates between first person anecdotes by Kitchener’s fellow calypsonians, musicians, lovers and rivals, and lyrically rich fictionalised passages. Beginning with his move from the Trinidadian countryside into the decadent but vibrant red light district of La Cour Harpe in eastern Port of Spain, this fictionalised biography then charts Kitchener’s development as an artist during a period when battles for Caribbean identity and belonging were being raged in the diaspora. Kitchener’s arrival onboard the Empire Windrush has become an iconic emblem of post war immigration into Britain, and his fourteen years in London and Manchester form an integral middle section of Kitch, in which his life as recording artist, touring musician, husband and quintessential Caribbean persona are intimately explored. His triumphant but eventful return to newly independent Trinidad in the early 1960s, is set against the dissolution of his marriage and one of the less palatable rivalries in calypso history. By focussing equally on Kitchener’s music as on his hitherto undocumented private and political life, Joseph gets to the heart of the man behind the music and the myth, reaching behind the sobriquet, to present a holistic portrait of the calypso icon. 

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Anthony Joseph

Anthony Joseph is a musician and writer. He is the author of four poetry collections: Desafinado, Teragaton, Bird Head Son and Rubber Orchestras, and a novel, The African Origins of UFOs.

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