The Mighty Chalkdust - Keeping the artform alive

However, it was at Teacher’s Training College he knew calypso was in his blood. There he met Roy Augustus and Ramesh Deosaran and many other connections.

He recalls his first public show which was the People’s National Movement’s Buy Local Calypso Competition in the 1960s, which he went on to win eight times. He described the feeling of hearing the cheers from the audience like “no other”.

In 1968, he got the opportunity to “touch savannah grass” as a young man at his first ever Dimanche Gras show, singing with the masters such as the Mighty Duke and Lord Blakie. He fondly remembers that was a big deal in those days, because it was only the top six who qualified to perform on the savannah stage and you had to be good.

How the Artform Has Changed Acceptance of the calypso is the biggest change, Liverpool says.

Long ago calypso was accepted on all platforms: social, political etc. He explained that the emphasis was on good melodies and strong lyrics that made sense, yet still maintaining the element of entertainment.

He continues firmly, “In so doing, you don’t put audiences to sleep with big words and big ideas…the more seasoned calypsonians knew how to sing on interesting themes and still maintain the Trinbagonian touch.” He explains that the tradition was to sing your own compositions.

Today there are calypsonians who sing, but don’t compose and vice versa. In spite of this, if you disregard the ones that compose, but don’t sing you would have lost some good calypsos.

The key he says, is remaining consistent every year. He acknowledges talented artistes such as Kurt Allen, Pink Panther, Devon Seales, Michelle Henry and Lady Tallish as well as Sugar Aloes who he taught at Nelson Street Boys.

Uniting the world with calypso From the borders of Russia to Finland, Sweden, Norway, London, North America and the Caribbean, calypso music has taken the Mighty Chalkdust to stages on almost every corner of the world. However, the most memorable performance was in the 1970s in Jamaica where he shared a stage with Jimmy Cliff for CARIFEST A at the National Stadium. “I looked out to the audience and there were thousands of Jamaicans applauding calypso! Jamaica just went crazy as they embraced our culture wholeheartedly.” He shares that second to this was Norway, simply because of the composition of the audience which was predominantly European. Third, was Fasching’s Jazz Club in Stockholm, Sweden where Lord Nelson once sang. “Only the rich and famous were present and there was Trinidad singing calypso!” Toronto was another memorable occasion where he captivated an eager audience with his music sung with guitar in hand.

Academics Some may know that the Mighty Chalkdust is also a great scholar.

In 1973 he won the best undergraduate thesis of all three campuses in History and Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies. This was later published in a book — From the Horses Mouth.

He was the first UWI student to graduate with a Master’s degree in History.

Based on this, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue his PhD in History and Ethnomusicology at The University of Michigan.

He completed his PhD with the second fastest record (three years, eight months) in the history of the university, which ranks in the top 20 schools globally.

While there he also worked playing steelpan at the Hugh Borde Orchestra.

After many years of teaching at the primary and secondary school levels, Liverpool lectured at the University of the Virgin Islands for eight years and is now the Programme Professor at the University of Trinidad & Tobago where he lecturers on Carnival Studies — the only Master’s programme of its kind in the world, now in its fourth cohort.

Advice to young calypsonians Liverpool advises calypsonians to stick to the original rhythm patterns: 2/2 beat, four verses, 16 bars in the verses and 16 bars in the chorus. He says you must understand the artform, as well as your role which is to inform the public on societal issues.

“Sing for the right reasons, not for fame or to make money. It is not about singing about the moon and the stars, but singing about the moon and the stars in a way that is Trinbagonian.” Liverpool recommends that there is a need for training in the fundamentals, for calypsonians by TUCO and other bodies. Through the Ministry of Culture, his mentoring workshops in past years have produced top calypsonians such as Shawn Daniel, Bodyguard, Twiggy and Stinger. He wishes to see more of this in the future.


"The Mighty Chalkdust – Keeping the artform alive"

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