Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Growling Tiger : Knockdown Calypsos

Growling Tiger - Money Is King (1979) (buy)

Growling Tiger - The Train Blow (1979) (buy)

First of all, I am deeply sorry for not posting those past weeks, I was too much busy with the Acclaimed music poll, which is now over.

Just after submitting my list of favorite albums, I found this gem, that I would heve included if I could. I knew one track already, the first one I posted, the delicious "Money Is King", on a great box set called Musica Negra In the Americas.

The album is a great surprise, even if "Money Is King" remains, IMO, the highlight of the lot. Neville Marcano, aka The Growling Tiger (1915-1993) was a calypsonian from Trinidad, an ex-boxer who became a star in the 1930s, when calypsonians started exporting their music overseas, and big names emerged like Lord Kitchener, Lord Invader or Roaring Lion (I don't know which one of Roaring Lion or Growling Tiger earnt his nickname first).

Check ou his bio here (Wikipedia) and here (

After a semi retirement, Growling Tiger was recorded by Alan Lomax in Trinidad in 1962 with an acoustic band, playing a traditional form of Calypso and even older styles. You can find these recordings on the Alan Lomax Series under the name The Growling Tiger Of Calypso.
Then 15 years later American enthousiast Steve Shapiro rediscovered a 64 year-old Tiger and recorded him again, this time with a more "modern" band featuring horns. These sessions gave birth to Knock Down Calypsos.

It is difficult to resist the Tiger's charms. His music, a sum of various influences from French, Spanish, English and African traditions, ranges from old-school minor-key calypso ("Money Is king") to derivations from more ancient styles like kalinda (a stick-fighting dance popular in Trinidad carnivals) or songs with a strong African heritage like "Youruba Shango".

A common trait in calypso, the lyrics and the singer's personality are very important. The singer must forge himself a strong identity in order to outshine the competition. Growling Tiger, with his deep barytone voice, was famous for his political and social lyrics, and never ceased to mock the rulers and the system, in pure carnaval tradition.

"Money Is King", both funny and serious, is a great example of his consciousness. The album also features bawdy songs like "The Train Blow". I couldn't understand the whole thing but it looks like the story of a romance on a passenger train. If somebody could help me with the lyrics exact meaning, that would be great (same goes for "Money is King") !

As Robert Leaver says, "A master of improvisation (extempo) and the competitive Calypsonian duel, Tiger could rhyme on diverse subjects with intelligence and wit. Rappers take heed -- Growling Tiger could school you".


Ramone666 said...

Sweet... merci!

Anonymous said...

If a man has money today/
People do not care if he has cocobé [leprosy/
If a man has money today/
People do not care if he has cocobé
/He can commit murder and get off free/
And live in the governor's company
/But if you are poor, people will tell you shoo!
/And a dog is better than you
If you have money to buy in a store
The boss will shake your hands at the door
Call them clerks to take down everything
Whiskey, cloth, earring and diamond ring
He may send them to your house on a motorbike
You can pay the bills whenever you like
Not a soul will ask you a thing
They know very well that money is king
A man with a collar and tie and waistcoat
Ask the Chineeman to trust him accra and float
[to extend credit for food]
"Me no trus' am," bawl out de Chineeman
"And you better move on from me frying pan
You college man, me no know ABC
You wantum accra, gie am penny!"
De worm start to jump in de man's belly
And he cried out, "A dog is better than me"
A dog can walk about and take up bone
Fowl head, stale bread, fish tail and pone
If it's a good breed and not too wild
Some people will take it and mind as a child
But when a hungry man goes out to beg
They will set a bulldog behind his leg
Forty policemen may chalk him down too
You see where a dog is better than you
If you have money and things going nice
Any woman will call you honey and spice
If you can't give her a dress, one new pair of shoe
She'll say she have no uses for you
When you try to caress her, she will tell you, "Stop!
I can't carry love in the Chinee shop"
I'm sure most of you will agree that it's true
If you haven't money, dog is better than you

Nicolas said...

A thousand thanks to you mon !!!!

kamagra said...

It is one of the best kinds of music, I think that the Growling Tiger is one of the prime singer in the world, I would like to have one of his albums!! thanks for the info!!

cheap viagra said...

Nice, this guy have good music, he perform sometimes in new york and I went to dance with my wife salsa, something that latin people like to dance, it's very cool.

Drugstore said...

Excellent thanks a lot, i like this music very much is nice for environment of a bar or house.