David Rudder is one of the most influential calypsonians ever to come out of Trinidad.
The 64-year-old entertainer was born in Belmont, Port of Spain, and has been spreading his unique brand since his childhood.
One of nine children, Rudder spent much of his early life with his grandmother, a devout Baptist. He began singing with a calypso band early on and in his teens sang backup vocals in a calypso tent run by Lord Kitchener. It was a great apprenticeship because Rudder could develop his own style under the legendary Kitchener.
In 1977, Rudder joined Charlie's Roots, a leading band in Trinidad and Tobago, and spent many years as one of the band's vocalists. In 1986, he came to prominence on Andy Narell's album The Hammer, which produced two big hits: ‘The Hammer’ (a tribute to the late pannist Rudolph Charles) and ‘Bahia Girl’. The following year ‘Calypso Music’ captured the public’s imagination. It is a brilliant encapsulation of the history of calypso. In 1988 Rudder released what is widely considered his best album to date, Haiti, which included the title track, a tribute to the glory and suffering of Haiti; ‘Engine Room’, which captured the energy of the steel band; and ‘Rally 'Round the West Indies’, which became the anthem of West Indies cricket. In 2008, Rudder did a soca collaboration with fellow Trinidadian Machel Montano, ‘Oil and Music’ on Machel's 2007 album Flame On.
Rudder is a strong advocate of Caribbean people. Without knowing their history, people can have no foundation.
“Europeans wrote their history, Africans passed it down orally, here in T&T we have combined the two through calypso,” he said recently. “If you listen to calypsos over the years, you can track the historical events that are taking place.” He should know, he has contributed to much of it.
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