Music And History At Etienne Charles’ Road March Concert

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By Essiba Small

You probably know the song Valerie Valera, or at least heard it. But did you know it was the 1955 Road March of T&T? Its formal name is The Happy Wanderer and it’s a German pop song.

These nuggets and more were shared by renowned musician Etienne Charles at his The Road March in Concert,held at the Queen’s Hall, St. Ann’s, last Thursday.

The concert was an excellent, well thought out production that not only entertained, but educated. More than that, it also featured veteran artistes with their rendition of past Road March winners, like former Byron Lee and the Dragonnaires frontliner Lima Calbio, who delivered a powerful version of Rose’s Tempo, and then paddled in and paddled the heck out of Sanelle Dempster’s River.

Then there was Vaughnette Bigford , who put a sultry jazz handle on The Mighty Duke’s (Kelvin Pope’s) Thunder, arranged by Charles, and a groovy spin on Shadow’s Stranger.  Kernal Roberts, son of 11 time Road March winner the late Lord Kitchener, and himself the producer of five road march titles, channelled his father – onstage antics and all – in the delivery of My  Pussin and Rainorama.

Charles encouraged patrons to sing along to the songs performed that night and even surprised many when, between his playing of the congas and the trumpet, he grabbed the mic and sang a few. 

The appearance of David Rudder on stage was met with deafening cheers that enveloped the entire Hall, another surprise that Charles pulled out of hi bag that night. Rudder sang Bahia Girl, his 1986 Road March, and the audience sang right along with him, word for word.

It was also a night when music producer  Pelham Goddard , who has the distinct pleasure of arranging 13 Road March song, was honoured  for his invaluable  contribution to the art form over the years.

In what was a sobering part of the show, Charles brought on Critical Mas, a team of formerly incarcerated young men and women, who shared their stories in song and spoken word, as part of the Link Up initiative, a rehabilitative program.

The experience of the Calbio, Roger George and Nigel Lewis, former front line singers of some of the biggest soca bands in T&T back in the day,  certainly showed that night.

Surprise number three came in the form of newly crowned Young King, Mical Teja who got patrons out of their seats as he belted out his Road March contender DNA. Teja seemed genuinely touched when, after singing DNA, the audience chanted ‘Road March, Road March, Road March,’ in the way he sings  home , home, home, on the song.

The audience was already on its feet and in a dancing mood, from Teja’s performance, by the time  Maximus Dan arrived. He closed the show with Full Extreme, his  Road March hit song with the Ultimate Rejects, with the full participation from a satisfied audience.

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