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Other Dimensions in Music featuring Fay Victor
Kaiso Stories

Cat. No.: SHCD158

Personnel:
Roy Campbell  trumpet, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn, flute, pipes, bells
Daniel Carter  alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, trumpet, clarinet
William Parker  double bass, gembri, bass duduk, trombonium
Charles Downs  drums, percussion
Fay Victor  voice

Track Listing:
1. Maryanne Revisited   13:33
2. Three Friends Advised   15:24
3. Kitch Goes Home   7:36
4. Saltfish Refried   10:46
5. John Gilman Wants Tobacco   1:57
6. An Open Letter   10:02
7. De Night A De Wake   6:45
8. We Is We Trini   8:24

Total time: 74:27
 
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Liner Notes

KaisoA  music of western African derivation and Spanish colonial influence.  The precursor to the modern Calypso, narrative in form and often has a cleverly concealed political subtext. Kaiso probably has its origins in the Hausa language, where it’s used to exclaim approval such as "Bravo!"

Many of my childhood summers were spent at my grandmother's house in Belmont, Port of Spain - the capital of the tiny sister republic of Trinidad & Tobago - the southernmost Caribbean Islands. This yearly cycle of me leaving the Greater New York area for the summer and heading to Port of Spain started after kindergarten and continued until my early teens. Trinidad, the island where my Mom was born and raised, and my Dad grew up as well, was my cultural home. Going there immersed me in another world I felt drawn to and a part of: the food, the patois, the humor, the melodic cadence in the speech, the sun, the fruits, the sea; the music, like school-girl songs such as “London Bridge is Falling Down” and “Brown Girl in the Ring” that my sister and I used to sing and play patty-cake to.  Calypso music was a steady soundtrack in the background of island life. I saw my Aunt Mary and her friends 'wine down' at parties and we kids were encouraged to do the same, we were meant to dance this way.  When my Aunt cleaned the house on rainy days, she’d pull out old Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener records and sing the songs out loud as she dusted. Sometimes she'd stop in the middle and dance, and we'd dance with her, break out in laughter and resume cleaning again.

This music followed me to family parties in New York, New Jersey and Toronto.  Classic Calypso was played everywhere my family staked claim, even though my Mom preferred the Commodores and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes to anything the Mighty Sparrow had to say. Yet if there was a party, Calypsos were omnipresent. After my years in college away from my family, I moved back to Brooklyn, and my Aunt, now also Brooklyn based, took me out to parties, calypso tents, parades, boat-rides and concerts, immersing me head first in the NYC Trinidadian scene.  It was a great period in my life because I reconnected to that part of my culture again as an adult, mostly through music, realizing then how much it meant to me. 

In 2009, Silkheart Records’s Lars Gustavsson visited the Vision Festival and suggested the idea of making a record with the original Other Dimensions in Music, made up of trumpeter Roy Campbell, reedist Daniel Carter, bassist William Parker and drummer Charles Downs. I liked the idea immediately - but what kind of vocal project would work for a free jazz outfit?

Lars granted me the time to figure this out, for which I was grateful, because it allowed me to unearth something buried deep for so long - a Caribbean project.  This had been on my mind for years, but I didn’t have an idea strong enough to move forward with, and thus it languished on my ‘to do’ list of projects, hopefully to come to fruition sometime before I die.

KAISO STORIES is a free-jazz project with classic calypso lyrics. The lyrics I chose cover subjects such as politics, humor, being an immigrant and wanting to return home, speaking out against Trinidad's first prime-minister Dr. Eric Williams, stepping into the darkness of Shango Baptism, identity and what can happen at a wake. This hardly covers the cultural richness of Calypso lyrics; in my research for this project I encountered incredible stories such as elaborate scenarios to win back a jilted lover, lengthy discourse on government, strong pleas for a better economy or employment, or the value of taking care of your cat. Calypso lyrics tell the story of living life in Trinidad and calypsos were the newspaper of the people, the one place where the people could hear the issues of the day free from media-tampering by the Powers that Be. The story needs a messenger in the Calypso singer or ‘Calypsonian’, to tell the truth as he sees it and tell it good, otherwise the audience will let him have it. The importance of the message wasn’t lost on the government and censorship boards were set up to monitor calypsos, especially around Carnival - the annual celebration held before Lent of which Calypsos are an integral part. So Calypsonians devised clever strategies such as double-entendre to get their message across to the audiences it was intended for.  This makes Calypso lyrics some of the most beautiful and imaginative I've ever heard in any genre.

Two days before going into the studio to record what is now in your hands, we performed at the Local 269 on the Lower East Side, as part of the weekly Evolving Voice & Music Series. It was our first performance together and from the first moment, I knew this music would be about connection- about a long running group like Other Dimensions in Music connecting to me and the ideas I wanted to try and, about me reconnecting with a musical friend I've had since birth, reconfigured for the person I've become, and most of all, about all of us together connecting to the audience whom became part of a secret treasure trove of great Calypso stories, and gleefully so.  It was a great meeting and a tremendous experience. Thanks for taking the time to try it.

Special thanks to William Parker, Roy Campbell, Charles Downs and Daniel Carter for a spiritual connection to a music and time in my life when most things were simple and sunny, to Lars Gustavsson at Silkheart Records for coming up with the collaboration and recording the project! To Mary Lewis, my aunt who played the soundtrack and who was a wealth of knowledge for this project, and my husband Jochem, for his warm photos for always being my constant support and rock. Lastly, to the sister islands of Trinidad & Tobago for providing me with a fantastic culture with many riches and shades and for reminding me again how 'We is We'.

Fay Victor
Brooklyn, NY, October 2010
 
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