King Selewa & his Calypsonians
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King Selewa & his Calypsonians

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"EUCD2231 (Back to mi home)"

The second release since African-born King Selewa came under the spell of calypso, Back to Mi Home revisits calypso's heyday with newsy lyrics, thick rhythmic layers and largely acoustic instrumentation. The percussion on the album is rich, sewing together a trans-Atlantic tapestry of Afro-Caribbean and African influences ? check out the heavy Afrobeat drumming on "Reverend Jones," for instance, or the Cuban feel to "Ikun Bodola." Tracks like the ludic, biographical "Selewa," a tune cast in the kaiso carnival tent mould, and "Congo War" tap into the life vein of vintage calypso. And even though a reggae-ified cover of Gershwin's "Summertime" doesn't seem like a good idea, Selewa and band stamp out an original version. Likewise, the reworked version of the Paragons' "Ridin' on a High and Windy Day" is the album's standout track.
- Exclaim (Canada)

"King Selewa"

Though originally from Africa, calypso hitmaker King Selewa found his way to Trinidad after some time, taking up residence amidst the roots of the music he had come to stand for. Interestingly, while much of modern calypso has grown more closely attuned with other Caribbean genres (soca, steel band, reggae), Selewa takes much of his form from the classic format. He acts as troubadour, composing songs around notable figures and news items while maintaining an upbeat musical style. The result can be lifting, as cultural values are listed out in musical form. It can also be a bit disconcerting, as when the subject matter is darker while the music remains light (as it is on "Congo War," where Selewa breaks out such classic lines as "Human bodies widout dem heads/Found in di river bed/Di wata foreva red" to a catchy dance beat). Selewa also touches briefly on ska (with the Paragons' "Ridin' on a High and Windy Day") along the way, but his focus is best kept on the calypso that he reels off with such aplomb. Fans of the more modern Caribbean traditions may be a bit surprised by Selewa's more traditional style of calypso, but they should also be pleased with that surprise.
- All Music

"EUCD2076 (Calypso Invasion)"

I know. I never heard of this King Selewa guy before either. But with the arrival of Calypso Invasion in my household, the fact of his existence and of his melodic gifts are now well established, never to be questioned.
The album’s liner notes (which, happily, the ARC label always uses to establish proper context and assign full credits) draw our attention to King Selewa’s rich musical background: born and raised in Africa; later a member of a band that played calypso, ska and reggae around Europe; finally leader of his own band dedicated to the music of Trinidad. And fortunately for all of us who wish to listen, proof of those influences abound practically anywhere your laser beam may settle on this generously endowed disc.
First we have the brisk but looping rhythms of the title track itself. Next comes the bright calypso brass of “Osine o Dé” with a strong hint of ska in the rhythm. “Mami Watta” is a gentle reggae-flavoured and African-textured delight; that approach then extends into the following track and its return-to-Africa lyrics. “Jumbie Jamboree” initially seduces us with a slow intro but soon explodes into a joyous calypso romp.
We’re now a third of the way through the album, and the stage for the rest has been truly set. It’s a setting where the loose arrangement and relaxed nyahbinghi-inspired drumming of “Congo Bara” can give way effortlessly to a lovely acoustic guitar ballad, which in turn can yield to the lightly galomping beat of “Down da Road.” It’s therefore no real surprise late in the album when the satirical “Exploiting” ends with a slow, exquisite Latin arrangement.
The influences are as the liner notes claim, but what they didn’t mention is how well those elements are balanced and how inspired the songwriting is. With only a few exceptions, these songs were either written or arranged by King Selewa, so it seems that the highly melodic sense that pervades the album is pretty much his. Not that he acted alone by any means; the wide open musical sensibilities and crisp production are also key elements, so a number of other folks can take some credit too. And I have to mention the nicely complementary backup vocals by Mina, who sounds like an ingenuous little girl.
There. That should help explain who this King Selewa guy is. He’s the main force behind the boisterous spirit, infectious tunes, swooping lead vocals and propulsive Caribbean/African rhythms of Calypso Invasion. Now you know.

- Jahworks (USA)





Born in Africa in 1968, King Selewa got into music through Jamaican 60s’ calypso, ska, rock-steady and early reggae music which he and his elder brother, Lord Skalipsoul, then performed live all over Europe from 1995, with great headliners such as the Skatalites, Laurel Aitken, The Gladiators... King Selewa and Chico, his guitar player, soon formed their own band of experienced musicians - their “Calypsonians”, in order to go deeper into the roots of Caribbean music that is to say Calypso. King Selewa’s passion for the authenticity of this folk music led him directly to the original land of calypso: Trinidad and its masters of calypso!

As Lord Invader said: “Calypso is folklore of Trinidad, a style of poetry recounting current events in song.” Calypso is the heir of two traditions: one is European (waltz, mazurka, quadrille, polka...) but it is undoubtedly the West African tradition that attracted King Selewa. It reminded him of all the music he listened to while he was a child: shango, calinda, rada and their rituals (such as voodoo). He then realized, through calypso, the deep influence of African traditions (just like the African griot, the calypsonian is a newsmonger), and many great Trinidadian calypsonians assumed these traditions: The Lion, Lord Caresser, The Tiger, Attila the Hun (these songsters adopted names of power as their sobriquets due to the indissociable influence of Carnival and masquerade.) In their songwriting King Selewa & his Calypsonians were influenced by different styles: Caribbean calypso (Back to mi Home, Caroline, Leon Morgan...), Reggae (Summertime), Afro-Cuban (Ode to Compay, Ikun Bodola, A Time to...), a touch of Orient (Serendipity). Chico, the guitar player on their previous CD "Calypso Invasion", appears here on Reverend Jones to emphasise the Afrobeat sounds and rhythm of this song...