ROY CAPE: A musical giant who is lifting as he climbs

AMBASSADOR 5™ Cover Page Roy Cape 03.11.15

 OUR AMBASSADOR5™ SERIES SHOWCASES 5 QUESTIONS/FACTS WITH A  CULTURAL AMBASSADOR  WHO IS ACTIVELY PROMOTING CARIBBEAN CULTURE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.

By Marissa Williams

You know those horns at the end of Road March hit Like a Boss….the horns that had you holding your head in pure ecstacy on the stage during Carnival season in Trinbago? Yeah, you can thank Roy Cape All Stars for that. Actually, if you’ve seen a live stage performance of any high profile soca or calypso artiste, chances are you have unknowingly encountered the musical genius of the Roy Cape All Stars band. The band has worked with the likes of Black Stalin , Sparrow Troubadors, Kerwin Du Bois, Destra, Denise Belfon, Olatunji, Ricardo Drue and most recently Blaxx to name but a few. Roy Cape (otherwise known as Pappi, Dr Cape, Mr Cape or simply Roy), is most well recognized for his skills on the saxophone although his versatility expands to other instruments such as the clarinet & steel pan.  However, what very few know or acknowledge is that in an industry that normally directs all of its accolades to the front stage artistes, Roy Cape has managed to build a sustainable brand that has raised the profile of supporting musicians throughout the Caribbean.

As I sat down to chat with Uncle Roy admiring his trademark white locks (that he has been growing since the 1970’s), his piercing eyes struck me. It was the eyes of a man who could see much deeper than what you wanted to show on the surface. He speaks carefully and quietly and has the calm disposition of a man who has seen it all, probably done it all and who is now fazed by very little. As he dropped gem after gem of knowledge with his subtle dry humour, I noted that it was his gentle & down to earth style that took center stage more so than  the multitude of successes that has followed him throughout his career. From his humble beginnings at the St. Dominics Home for Boys where he nurtured his musical passion, he has risen through the ranks and taken soca music to all corners of the globe throughout the Caribbean, Europe and United States playing music for many soca artistes .

Yet, what stands out the most to me with Uncle Roy, is that in a time where there is a noticeable gap in leadership and mentorship in the Caribbean cultural community, he has stood up and walked the walk. He has taken many artistes under his wing and continues to seek ways to stretch the talent of hungry young musicians. He leads by example and by lifting as he climbs, and, for that, I give him the loudest applause.

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Roy Cape Speaking

About the musical influences that shaped his career:

Roy Cape has worked with the best in the Caribbean music industry including Clarence Curvan, Sparrow Troubadors and Selwyn Wheeler to name a few.

He credits his versatility and skills as a musician to his ability to learn from his life experiences. He believes his success comes from being around good people, having an open mind and being willing to listen.

Through his own determination to play with the best and surround himself with the best he has continued to grow and evolve into who he has become today.

Listen to full interview below

 

About the changes in the global reaction to soca & calypso:

ROY CAPE AND STALIN
Roy Cape & Black Stalin (Credits: Trinidad Guardian)

He remembers his first trip in 1961 with noted calypsonians Lord Superior & Lord Bryner (Trinidad & Tobago’s first independent Calypso Kings). In those days it was tough sometimes sleeping on the floor or not having a place to stay but he was young and so focused on music that those inconveniences were inconsequential. Roy Cape cites working with decorated Calypso King the Mighty Sparrow from the 1960’s into the 70’s as the highlight of his career. During his early career working with Sparrow, he and a few band mates spent time reasoning with their then boss on the true meaning of their and name i.e. the Troubadors  which per the dictionary was ‘ a band of roaming musicians’. That conversation was the beginning of his role as a musical ambassador for the Caribbean. He did a lot of island hopping with the Troubadors through Grenada, St Lucia, Bermuda, St. Croix and St. Martin to name a few. He then stretched his wings to North America in places like (Toronto & New York) and to Europe (Sweden, Germany, Denmark ). He played at the landmark calypso tent known as Spectacular. He credits his friend, Black Stalin for the birth of his band name Roy Cape Kaiso All Stars,and, for exposing his music and his brand to the public. He always felt welcome abroad, especially in places like Toronto where he visited for sixteen (16) years for Caribana activities.

He did note, however, that the life of a musician is a hard life. It’s not a life of big money and the little that they do make has to stretch across many hands. Unfortunately the musicians are also lost to the audience- another contributor to less income.

He laments the fact that horns seems to be a dying art despite one time being a vital part of the music, but, he hopes that song’s like this year’s Road March hit ‘Like Ah Boss,’ can help revamp the profile for musicians in the industry.

Listen to full interview below

About sustaining his brand in the difficult music industry:

Roy-There are a few characteristics that have served Roy Cape well in an industry that has eaten lesser men alive. For him, surrounding himself with the best, having perseverance, determination, courage, commitment and having faith in what he was doing propelled him on the path to success.

He also firmly believes that education is very important. He references the many sports players who ensured that they also had a university degree because they understood that their life in sports had a time table. For him its simple….’Musicians are humble people.  To play in a band of ten people, for the sound to be right, everything has to be in coordination. In music there must be unity and camradrie among the players to give a wonderful sound.’

Listen to full interview below

 

How do we sustain the success for local music on the global stage?

Roy Cape All StarsAs we talked about the performances of calypsonian Lion performing in the Waldorf, Astoria and Ellie Mannett the famous pan tuner who received awards in North America, it became clear that global recognition of calypso and soca is not new. So the question became what do we need to do differently to sustain this attention? Uncle Roy acknowledges that, no one person has the solution but to him artistes and musicians still need a little more love from local audiences. Despite that fact, there are many promising things to look forward to in the industry such as female musicians performing in several bands like police and army bands.

He also mentions the work he doing with the Ministry of Culture along with other icons such as Errol Lynch, Leston Paul and Pelham Goddard as a mentor. He hopes his story can inspire others because he has made something of himself with little to no sponsorship. Now he focuses his attention on being a mentor, helping  young people to explore their full potential in organizations like the  Youth Training Center, St Michael’s School for Boys, St. Mary’s Home and St. Dominic’s Home to name a few.

The love I get in this country is overwhelming. It makes me feel satisfied. I didn’t make much money but I feel like a rich man. You will work your whole life to get the love from the people. When you getting that love you cannot be arrogant.

He is hopeful for the future of music as he sees more young people taking it up as a hobby. In his mind, despite the problems in the country we have to find a way to deal with the young people because right now he believes they feel isolated.

Listen to full interview below

How do we get the younger artistes to stay focused?

2010-04-16-1-2b_ROY_CAPE-50TH_ANNI_(7)
Roy Cape, Rita Jones, Blaxx, Olatunji (Credits: Newsday Newspaper)

His answer is simple-through communication. He remembers that as a young man he wasn’t necessarily the most pliable and willing to listen but he was never violent. From his perspective, any country where people are over rich and some people are under poor needs to assess itself. Trinidad has its problems and needs to get to the root cause. He believes, that can only happen through communication.

He believes wholeheartedly in the power of music. He mentions that despite the country’s problems there were still 25,000 people at the concert ‘ Machel Monday’ during Carnival season. To him it was a reminder that ‘when you are great, the reason you get great is because you don’t tolerate second hand production. You are as only as good as your last performance. I am here, I am willing to do whatever I can. ‘

Listen to full interview below

Author’s Note:

Roy Cape BookA book entitled ‘A Life on the Calypso and Soca Bandstand’ was written on the work of life of Dr. Roy Cape by Professor Joycelyn Guilbault (an ethnomusicologist who lectures at Berkley University in California). It is available at various bookstores throughout Trinidad and Tobago including the Paper Based Workshop, The Book Specialists, Metropolitan Book Suppliers, Ltd, R.I.K. Bookstores, Crosby’s Music Center and the M Store . It is also available online at Amazon  and Barnes & Nobles http://www.amazon.com/Roy-Cape-Life-Calypso-Bandstand/dp/0822357747/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426298703&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Life+on+the+Calypso+and+Soca+Bandstand.  Come and Get it!!

All pictures acquired through Google Search-no copyright infringement intended. 

Video Credits: Remy Rembunction & Bronson Blair

https://youtu.be/VwYETzOpAhU

 

4 Comments

  • ROY CAPE Reply

    March 16, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    marrissa i am enjoying your interview we must let as much people know about our project i am impress bless

     
     
    Summary
    • ROY CAPE Reply

      March 24, 2015 at 2:08 am

      can you get the video of the Trinidad interview and the W R F G 89. 3 INTERVIEW AND THE WRITTEN INTERVIEW IT HAS BEEN DONE WITH LOVE AND CARE I AM VERY IMPRESS WITH YOUR WORK MUCH LOVE rOY

       
       
      Summary
    • BiraBiro Reply

      April 1, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Thank You Uncle Roy for your kind words…and for everything you do to keep our culture alive. It is much appreciated!!

       
       
      Summary
  • Peter Minshall, Calypso Rose & Roy Cape win Trinbago Carnival 2016 Reply

    February 21, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    […] Stalin) to defray the cost of some of his medical expenses. In 2016,  Ambassador 5TM alumnus, Dr. Roy Cape, was the beneficiary of this event. The concert was a melodious treat for anyone who loves […]

     
     
    Summary

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