His first job as a singer was in 1936, when he was hired to serenade the employees of the Water Works. He got his first break in 1937 while he was performing in an old time bamboo calypso tent in Arima. In 1938, he ventured into the realm of big time calypso, and in 1939 he produced a hit called "Shops Close Too Early". In 1942, he joined the Roving Brigade, a traveling group of young calypsonians who appeared at cinema houses in different districts in T&T. Kitch was making one of these appearances when Johnny Khan, the manager of a calypso tent, spotted him and recruited Kitch for his first professional tent appearance. He appeared at the Victory Calypso Tent on Edward Street with some of the great calypsonians of the day, such as Tiger, Roaring Lion, Atilla the Hun, Destroyer, Pretender, Caressa and Iere. His song then was *Green Fig*. It became a hit. In those days, Kitch was paid a dollar per night. Kitch has been a major force in the world of calypso since then, destroying all challengers year after year with his incredible wit, humor, and lasting melody.
In 1938, Kitch won the first prize in a calypso competition organized by the Arima Borough Council. He held the title until 1942. At the outbreak of World War II, Carnival in T&T; was stopped until 1944 but the calypso tents were kept opened. It was around 1944 that a friend, Alric Farrell, better known as Pretender, reportedly persuaded Kitch to turn professional and join the great calypsonians of those days --- Beginner, Destroyer, Growling Tiger, Attilla the Hun, Executor, Invader, Growler, and Roaring Lion --- in Port of Spain. Apparently, Kitch followed Pretender's advice. He came to Port of Spain, and sang a calypso he called "Mary, I am Tired and Disgusted," before the critical and exacting calypso lovers of Port of Spain. That calypso took Port of Spain by storm. Realizing the talent of the young calypsonian, The Growling Tiger christened the "Bean" "Lord Kitchener." In 1945, Kitch scored again in Port of Spain with "I am a Worrier."
However, it was not until 1946 that he had his first big success. He had a hat trick consisting of "Tie Tongue Mopsy," "Chinese Never Had a VJ Day," and "Jump In the Line." By then, he had achieved enough stature as a calypsonian to open his own tent. The first full year of the tent was 1947. Kitch called it the "Young Brigade." Some of the calypsonians in the tent were Lord Zigfield, Melody, Mighty Killer, Sir Galba, Spoiler, and Viking. Their only competition was another tent, organized by the Roaring Lion and Attilla, staffed with some of the Calypso giants of those days. This is how Kitchener remembered the opening night:
"It was 8:00 p.m. The first opening night of both tents. We were all nervous, fearing that we may begin with an emptytent, but it was just the opposite. Lion and Attilla's tent was empty, and we were sold out."
In 1947, Kitch was proclaimed the best calypsonian of the year. His big tunes for that year were "Scandal in St. Ann's," "Mount Olga," and "Tie Tongue Mopsy." Soon after the success of 1947, Kitch left T&T; for Aruba, then on to Jamaica, where he lived for six months, teaching calypso and playing to packed audiences. After Jamaica, the next stop was London. Kitch arrived on a boat, the M.V. Windrush, at the port city of Tilbury on June 21, 1948. One of the other passengers on that M.V. Windrush was Egbert Moore (Lord Beginner). Kitch got an immediate booking at the only West Indian club in London, following his debut on the BBC. Six months later, Kitch was appearing in three clubs nightly, and his popularity extended beyond the West Indian and African night club audiences, to include music hall and variety show audiences.
The days in London were very good days for Kitch. He had everything he wanted. Lots of money, fan mail from all over the world, clothes, fancy hats and shoes, and lots of lady friends. But the night life was getting the better of Kitch. Therefore, he decided to slow down, leave London, and move to Manchester in the north of England. There, he met, and in 1953, married his English wife, Marjorie. He has a son by this marriage. Kitch also started writing calypsoes again in 1953, and in that year he wrote "Africa My Home," "Beware Tokyo," and "If You Not White, You Considered Black." Soon, Kitch opened his own club in Manchester, and also received a six month contract to tour the U.S. where he appeared in New York, Washington D.C., and other cities on the East Coast. Kitch returned to England, and in 1958 he made his first of several recordings for the Melodisc record label. The days in Manchester were even more successful for Kitch than his days in London. He became the proprietor of a two-apartment building, expanded his club, and formed a dance band. Even during the 17 years Kitch was away from T&T;, he sent back great calypso tunes which became very popular. Tunes like "Mama Look The Band Passing," "Nora, Nora, Nora," "Trouble In Arima," belong to this period.
Thus, when fellow calypsonians were tempted to relax, feeling that Kitchener's success abroad, combined with his involvement in clubs, business, and real estate, had removed Kitch from the scene, they soon discovered the error of their thinking. Kitch made sure that even while he was abroad, he had revelers in T&T jumping with one after another of his creations on carnival days, leaving the "stay at homes" in the wilderness.
Andrew Marcano, Calypsonian Brother Superior, once observed that every one in T&T; grew up listening to Kitch. But Kitch is more than a T&T; hero. He is indeed a Caribbean institution and genius who uses wry, saucy lyrics to describe events, personal problems, human frailties and political issues, with equal irony and wit. Over the years, his genius has appealed to commoners and royalty alike. US President Harry S. Truman himself led the applause for Kitchener's "Green Fig," and Princess Margaret reportedly purchased no less than 100 copies of the immortal 1952 release:
Kitch, come go to bed I've a small comb to scratch your head Kitch, don't make me cry You know I love you, you're playing shy.
In 1963, when word came that Kitch was returning to T&T; for the 1963 carnival season, many of the highflying "modern" calypsonians began trembling in their shoes, and rightly so. Kitch, as usual, had something "hot" for the road and the tents. Although some of his detractors felt that Kitch "done old already," he won the road march tune honors that year:
The road made to walk on carnival day, Any steelband man......
Kitch has been living in T&T; since his return to the island for the 1963 carnival season, with occasional travels out of the island to perform in the U.S. and other Caribbean islands, and a brief return to England in 1965. At this time, Kitch lives in a well-apportioned home, *Rain-O-Rama*, (the title of his 1973 hit) in Diego Martin, just outside of Port of Spain. Because Kitch has won the Road March honors more often than anyone else, most people associate Lord Kitchener's name with Road March tunes - that is, the tune played by a majority of the revelers on Carnival Monday and Tuesday as they pass certain preannounced spots in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He won the title in:
Kitch has also been identified as the greatest composer of tunes for pan (the steel drum). His compositions have won many Panorama titles:
Here, I beg to digress. In 1996, some 20 years after *Pan in Harmony* was released, I received this mail:
"My name is Andy Nelson. I's a Trini guitarist and computer consultant from the New York City area. Recently, another guitarist and myself embarked on figuring out the music from Kitchener and Sparrow classic calypsoes. We got the Kitchener 3rd CD, put out by ICE Records and went to wuk.
"We wuked on Pan in Harmony, and I believe this is one of the best constructed calypsoes I have ever heard or played. The lyrics certainly tell the story of carnival.
The chorus goes:
C maj7 C6 C maj7 C6
When the steelband play, on Carnival Day
C maj7 C Dim
Hear the rhythm, lovely rhythm
D min G13
Make you feel to jump up
D min A aug
So you start to sway
D min A aug
Then you break away
It's a feeling, so exciting
When you start, you can't stop
Ding ling, ling etc...
"The next two chords, with major going to minor (F maj/F min) is one of the Kitchener trademarks where he weaves in and out of keys with those sweet melodies that flow like they were created in heaven.
F maj F min7 C maj7
We wave our hands and we jump with glee
A min7 D min7 G7 C maj9
Singing merrily, Pan in Harmony
"I had to share my enthusiasm for the genius and artistry of the man with someone. Kitch is beyond a composer. He is actually a Griot in the true African sense of the word. He records history using his amazing talents.
Dre' "Andy" Nelson, New York."
Need I say more? Now, we continue.
Incidentally, the observation should be made that all the winning Road March and Panorama tunes by Kitch over the years can be tied together in one short story:
Many years after "67", when MARGIE and MISS TOURIST hit THE ROAD, yessir MAMA DIS IS MAS. It was better than MAS IN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. And when the FLAG WOMAN joined us to pay TRIBUTE TO SPREE SIMON down in ST. THOMAS, thank God it aint have no RAIN-O-RAMA, and JERICHO aint dey either. So, we PLAY MAS.
But bacchanal start when THE WRECKER hit the winer girl on she sugar bum bum with THE BULL pistol. All de PAN IN HARMONY stopped one time. Ah fella we does call CRAWFORD say it feel like ah PAN EXPLOSION. But me, all ah hearing was SWEET PAN, and more PAN NIGHT AND DAY. Another fella we does call IRON MAN say he hearing a MYSTERY BAND. What mystery band he talkin bout ah doh know. He mus have jus come from high up ah mountain top where he disturb a hive of killer bees and loss he GUITAR PAN.
Kitch has composed calypsoes that cover every imaginable human experience, and social and political events. Kitch is a brilliant expressionist. On stage, his gestures, innuendoes, his control of voice and his capability to paint a picture with his voice clear enough for the very last person in the audience to "see," and understand, what Kitch is talking about, has made him one of the great personalities in the highly competitive business of authentic calypso singing. Dr. Hollis Liverpool, Calypsonian Chalkdust, once observed that "one of Kitchener's many strengths is his ability to present clean smut' in a way that even a priest would want to listen."
The best way, but certainly not the only way, to appreciate Kitchener's talents is to visit the Calypso Revue, also known as Kitchener's Tent and watch Kitch and the other calypsonians perform.The Calypso Revue is no ordinary calypso tent. It was opened in 1964 at the Strand Cinema by Leslie ucky-Samaroo, a movie house proprietor. In its first year, the Calypso Revue had a brilliant cast. It produced four Calypso Monarch finalists - Kitch, Nap Hepburn, Bomber, and Blakie. Kitch won the Road March, and Bomber won the crown. The tent also had a good season in 1965. It produced Sniper, who won the Calypso Monarch title with "Portrait of Trinidad." (The tune earned Sniper the honor of having his photograph on a T&T postage stamp). But following a disagreement with Samaroo, Kitch left the Calypso Revue, and signed on with Sparrow's Original Young Brigade, only to break that contract and return to England.
Over the years, the Calypso Revue has been located in several venues in Port of Spain. In 1966, the cast performed at the Caravan, Brother Superior's tent. In 1967, Calypso Revue was reorganized with Kitch as the lead calypsonian, under Lord Melody's management, and was housed at The Legion Hall, just south of what is now known as Lara Promenade on Independence Square. Melody left the tent after the 1968 season, and the management of the tent was taken over by Jazzy Pantin and his assistant Sonny Woodley. They are still in charge today. Except for a strike by Revue calypsonians in 1970, the year of Black Power revolution in T&T;, the Revue has been described as a tent characterized by a family atmosphere. Other venues used by the Revue over the years are The Princes Building on Upper Frederick Street, the NUGFW building, a union hall on Henry Street located across the street from the Spektakular Forum, another Calypso Tent, and currently at what for many years was the venue for Sparrow's Original Young Brigade, the SWWTU Hall, on Wrightson Road. Kitchener's Tent has to be the longest running Calypso Tent (in the world?).
The tent has been credited with grooming several young calypsonians who have since moved to greater heights, such as Composer, Explainer, Iwer George, Merchant, Organizer, Penguin, Relator, Scrunter, Sniper, Stalin, Valentino. At the Revue, musical tutelage is seen as the duty of Lord Kitchener. He has been known to assist young calypsonians in composing their music, writing their lyrics, giving an opinion here, adding a chorus there, teaching them how to render a song, or, if they couldn't write, compose one for them.
Kitch has many admirers in T&T;. But he also has a few detractors. For example, in 1993, a large number of citizens signed petitions urging the government of T&T; to award Kitch the highest civilian award, The Trinity Cross, in recognition of his accomplishments. For some reason, the Awards Committee denied the petitions for The Trinity Cross, and decided to give Kitch a lesser award. After consultation with his advisors and fans, Kitch decided not to accept the lesser award.
On the other hand, on Saturday September 21, 1996, Trinidad & Tobago took some time out to pay tribute to Kitch. "The Musical Magic of Kitch," was an Honour Performance staged by the Patrons of Queen's Hall, St. Ann's, in recognition of the creativity and excellence of the work of Lord Kitchener, the Grandmaster. The production, directed by Rawle Gibbons and Noble Douglas, was an assembly of orchestras which, through a variety of performing styles, explored the complexities of Kitchener's music.
Gillian Ballantulo and June Nathaniel, the musical directors of the production, used various musical forms of Kitchener's compositions. The programme opened with a young, a-capella trio, Black Mayl, singing "Trouble In Arima" and "Love In The Cemetery." Syl Dopson and his Calypso Band followed with a nostalgic medley of songs which included "Nora, Nora, Nora," "Trinidad Time" and "Miss Tourist."
Calypsonian Relator (Willard Harris), earned the first genuine cheers of the night for his classy interpretations of
"Battymamselle," "Mysterious Letter," "Take Your Meat Out Mih Rice" and "My Brother, Your Sister." The Marionettes
Chorale, under its musical director, Gretta Taylor, followed with their versions of "Carnival '73," "Pan In Harmony," as well as
"Symphony In G," in which Terri Roxborough soloed.
The Samaroo Jets Steel Ensemble, a replacement for Amoco Renegades Steel Orchestra, injected the distinctive style of the musicianship of their leader, Jit Samaroo, concededly the most accomplished interpreter of Kitchener's music on the steeldrum, with scintillating versions of "Mango Tree," "Two To Go" and "Bees Melody."
In the second segment, Arranger-Keyboardist Leston Paul held the audience spellbound with his classical interpretation on the synthesizer of "Pan In A Minor." Mungal Patasar and Pantar, featuring Clive Zanda on piano, added a new dimension to the magic of Kitch with their interpretations of "Old Lady Walk A Mile And A Half," "Margie" and "Iron Man."
Kurt Allen brought back memories of "Bad Impression" and "Mama Have, Papa Have." Juliet Eckel added her particular slant with "The Carnival Is Over," and the Police Band, under the direction of Superintendent Roderick Urquhart, did a Prelude and Fantasia of *A KITCHENER FANTASY IN FOUR MOVEMENTS,* using "Don't Come Back Again," "Sugar Bum Bum," "Best Things In Life Are Free" and "No Wuk For Carnival."
Kitch was unable to satisfy his many fans with a performance that night, because he was not feeling well. Nevertheless, when Lord Relator brought the performance to a rousing climax with his "Tribute To Kitch" and Kitchener's "Drink a Rum," Kitch got on the stage with the other performers. He was accompanied by hundreds of bottles and spoons in the hands of patrons, creating what a T&T Guardian newspaper reporter described as "a cacophony of sound in fitting tribute to a man who has mesmerized the world with an array of beautiful melodies that have left other musicians in awe." As Kitch was presented with a certificate of commendation by T&T President Noor Hassanali and his wife Zalayhar, under whose patronage the Fourth Honour Performance was staged, Kitch received a well deserved lengthy, standing, ovation.
Carnival '97 was another banner season for Kitch. Kitchener's tent was very successful. Several calypsonians from his tent qualified for both the semifinals and the finals of the Calypso Monarch Competition. But the reigning Monarch, Cro Cro from Kitchener's tent, was defeated at the final competition by Gypsy, who was attached to Kitchener's tent several years ago. Kitchener's CD for 1997 contains a couple of tunes which were popular during Carnival '97. "Guitar Pan" was performed by the Amoco Renegades Steel Orchestra, under the leadership of Jit Samaroo, to win the Panorama Championship for 1997. "Ash Wednesday Mas" was the tune of choice at several beach gatherings in T&T on Ash Wednesday, and "They Turn Back The Clock" which deals with Daylight Saving Time in the US, continues the ever present man-woman relationship as seen through the eyes of Kitchener.
Fast forward to the year 2000. The first day of Black History Month, February 1, there were rumours that Kitch had died. We later learned that he had not died, but had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the best hospital in T&T. However, on February 11, the hospital issued this press release:
The Central Regional Health Authority wishes to announce that Mr Aldwyn Roberts, Lord Kitchener died at 10.45 am this morning. Yesterday, his condition began to deteriorate, and this morning despite antibiotics and resuscitative measures he succumbed due to severe infection related to his disease.
Despite the best efforts of our doctors he passed away this morning. The entire CRHA staff joins the family and nation in mourning the loss of this national treasure.
Dr Lesley Ann Roberts, Ag General Manager, Secondary and Tertiary Health Care
One must note that in the year of his death, and for the first time in many years, no steelband group has chosen to play a Kitchener tune during Panorama. The major reason being that Kitchener released his tunes too late to be considered. However, all the Panorama tunes bear shades of Kitchener's fingerprints. In addition the majority of the finalists for the 2000 Calypso Monarch competition are attached to Kitchener Calypso Revue. What a fitting tribute!
This page is dedicated to Aldwyn Roberts, also known as Lord Kitchener, Kitch, theGrandmaster, as we remember his great calypsoes which deal with Kitch as a griot, a storyteller and moralist, and Kitch singing about himself, the Caribbean, events in T&T; politics, the Mighty Sparrow, racial issues, women, steelband music, "clean smut," and various other subjects.
HE SHALL BE MISSED. MAY HIS SOUL