Words by Lily Mao //
This week’s Profile on Feminists highlights Tobago’s own Calypso Rose.
Currently living in Queens, Calypso Rose is quite literally the living Queen of Calypso. Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music characterized by highly rhythmic and harmonic vocals.
Rose wrote her first song “Glass Thief” after she watched a man steal glasses from a woman in the Tobago market. It is the first Calypso song denouncing inequality between the sexes.
Currently, Rose has compiled over 800 songs and 20 albums. Her catalogue is a collection of sharp lyrics that describe the inequalities women face living in a male-dominated society.
Rose advocates for a woman’s right to have fun, get down, and to do so freely from scrutiny, judgment, or harassment from others—specifically men. Because, unfortunately, we know what it’s like to go out dancing with friends and to be harassed by a man on the dance floor.
Rose is using her platform to advocate this message: having fun doesn’t mean women consent to being physically or mentally harassed by men.
“It’s very important to open the eyes of the women who are being abused. It is very important for the men to know that they must not put their hands on women.”- Calypso Rose
Her song titles include “Leave Me Alone,” “No Mister,” “Love Me or Leave Me,” “What She Go Do,” and “Do Dem Back.” All aforementioned are feminist ballads that seriously BUMP.
Calypso Rose is a living legend. In 1978, she became the very first woman to win Trinidad’s Calypso King Competition. As a matter of fact, Rose won so many of the prestigious competitions that they had to rename it Calypso Monarch Competition, a gender-neutral title in honor of her.
At 77, Calypso Rose is still sharing her gifts with the world. Last year she released the album Far From Home, a collaborative album of calypso-based, Latin-modulated tracks with French singer Manu Chao.
The album was a massive success in Europe and earned Rose the Victoires de la Musique, France’s “Grammy Award,” for “World Music Album of the Year.” Far From Home featured the aforementioned jam “Leave Me Alone.”
“Boy don’t touch me
Like you’re goin’ crazy
Let go me hand”
Calypso Rose (Leave Me Alone)
Calypso Rose has been writing and performing feminist battle songs since 1955. Sixty-four years later, she hasn’t slowed down. Rose is a performer who believes in not only her power, but in the power of all women.
Calypso Rose embodies feminism and we salute her and her efforts towards a more equal society. Listen to award-winning song “Leave Me Alone” below: