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King David

‘Bouncing on the laughter of a melody’
Published: 
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Calypso icon, David Rudder. PICTURE DION ROACH

It was 1962, and a nine-year-old boy decided to take part in a singing competition at his primary school in Belmont.

Having suffered from polio at the age of one, which left one of his legs damaged, the boy limped toward the stage at Belmont Boys' RC school.

"When they called my name, the transition as I stepped on the stage was a powerful kind of experience, I said 'I like this'."

The name they called that day was "David Rudder."

It is a name that has become a household one in T&T and other parts of the world now.

Next Sunday, Rudder will be celebrating his 65th birthday.

On Saturday, the night before his birthday, Rudder will have a concert at the Hotel Normandie to celebrate his life's journey with his fans.

That concert is aptly titled Rudder 6.5.

"This will be a celebration not just of my life but the people's journey through the life with my music as the soundtrack," Rudder said.

Rudder's journey has been a fantastic one.

He sat down with the Sunday Guardian for an one-on-one interview on Friday to discuss it.

After making his debut on that Belmont Boys' RC stage, Rudder's musical adventure began.

"I then joined a little group called The Solutions, the In Larks was actually the first name, and that was it, we started to do little gigs around the town and we used to make $5 a gig," Rudder said.

Rudder was the lead singer of the four-member boy band that sang soul music and R&B.

"We used to go across the island performing in different areas and even sometimes go to Barbados and come back," he said.

Eventually, however, the band disbanded as some of the other members migrated.

"But then I started to write my own songs and I would go around with my guitar. I liked folk music and the folk music was big at that time, so I listened to how they were singing their stories like Calypso," Rudder said.

Rudder said in the late 1960s he wrote and sang songs about the National Union of Freedom Fighters (Nuff) who rebelled and went to live in the Northern Range.

"So I used to write songs about these guys in the hills and actually the first songs I recorded but I was a little boy then and some important person wanted a tape to record and the engineer in the studio took my tape and recorded over it," Rudder said.

Rudder's big break eventually came when Christopher "Tambu" Herbert the lead singer of the band Charlie's Roots lost his voice.

"So they asked me if I would step in and that is how it started," Rudder said.

Rudder had previously gained a reputation as a back-up singer in the calypso tent run by Aldwyn "Lord Kitchener" Roberts.

In 1986 Rudder achieved a feat that now more than 30 years later still has not been emulated.

Rudder's song “The Hammer” won him the Calypso Monarch title, the Road March, and the Young Kings title.

It was also the song that helped Trinidad All Stars win the Panorama competition that year.

His second song "Bahia Girl" also came second in the Road March.

As Rudder performed The Hammer" and "Bahia Girl" at the Calypso Monarch there were detractors questioning if what he was singing actually qualified to be called calypso.

"There was such a great amount of noise about 'if that is Calypso?' and I wondered 'why are these people so afraid?'," Rudder said.

"I was actually very calm (when I took the stage), that is what I remember. I just went out and executed and said 'whatever happens, it happens'," he said.

When Rudder won the Calypso Monarch title he was then crowned "King David" by Slinger "Mighty Sparrow" Francisco.

"The old calypsonians would name the younger ones, they would kiss you on your left temple and name you. It was a ritual," Rudder said.

So after claiming the Calypso Monarch title, Sparrow did the honours.

Rudder described the year 1986 as "mad".

"Imagine going into a school like Holy Name Convent and as I entered the main hall the level of screaming that took place and girls fainting and teachers fanning them and trying to revive them. That was the moment when I said this thing was bigger than anything," Rudder said.

Rudder has released several iconic songs since then.

His song "Rally round the West Indies" is the de facto anthem for the regional cricket team. Its lyrics is still pertinent to the current team.

Rudder said he was currently in the process of writing his autobiography which he is contemplating naming "Bouncing on the laughter of a melody."

That line comes from his hit song "Calypso Music".

That was the song he entered the 1987 Calypso Monarch competition with as he tried to defend his title.

He eventually came second to Leroy "Black Stalin" Calliste's "Bun Dem".

CHANGING OF THE GUARDS

Rudder said his show on May 5 will be a sort of a "changing of the guard" as he features Marge Blackman and Trevon Turner.

Blackman is the daughter of Garfield 'Ras Shorty I" Blackman.

Rudder has described Turner's voice as "magical".

"You don’t get a voice like that every day," Rudder said.

On June 6 Rudder 6.5 will take place at the Sony Centre in Canada.

 

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