I’ll Be King of Hearts: An Interview with Regis “Robbie” Calixte

 

In August of 2010 iandiyanola sat down with Robbie at his mother’s Grass Street home and we spoke about a range of things including his early days and his movements in music from his earliest days with Big Six and later on to his Calypso Career and his work with Reasons Orchestra. Enjoy.

Early Life

This is the house on Grass Street where Robbie spent some of his childhood years.

                                                               This is the Grass Street residence where Robbie
spent part of his childhood.

IandIyanola: So what I want you to do, just tell me your name, your given name as well as your calypso name and then we can take it from there… you know… when you were born…stuff like that and then your growing up

Robbie:Ok. Well my name is Regis Rob Calixte and my twin – I’m a twin – his name was Robbie so after he died two years six months my mom and dad start calling me Robbie. So this is why I choose my calypso name. Everybody used to call me Robbie, so I choose my Calypso name as Robbie.

IandIyanola: True. So when where you born?

Robbie: Well actually I was born in 1962… June the sixteenth 1962

IandIyanola: And if you could just give me a little background about …your know.. your growing up and then we can take it into how you got into the calypso and everything.

Robbie: Well my growing up, I grew up almost Waterworks Road with my mum, six of us – well my twin died two years six months, I grew up. I attended the R. C School. I did some extra courses and we grew up as a music family. When my mum used to kinda go out, we used to stay there, beat drums, my brother used to blow the brass, I used to always be the singer. We used to just make noise in the house. And then along there was (Augustin)“Pan” Andrew – that’s Buffalo father – he had Big Six3 . Well he had his bandroom lower down Water Works road and that’s the same place which I live(d). And there’s a young guy Gaylee(?) everyday he used to be in the bandroom. So I used to go there, sing with him, play the guitar, play the drums, sing … One time he say Big Six wanted a singer. So he tell Mr. Pan “Robbie could sing. That guy is a good singer”, then Mr. Pan took me and from that time I started singing, I played with Big Six. As a matter of .. we would go all the way to Dennery for ten dollars, all Piaye for ten dollars and that’s where I really start off with Big Six.

IandIyanola: But how old were you when you started with Big Six?

Robbie: When I started with Big Six, I must have…may be around seventeen years.

IandIyanola: Ok and then you said you had six of you. That’s inclusive of your twin brother?

Robbie: Seven. He would make seven.

IandIyanola: And then where were you in terms of age with regard to the others.

Robbie: Well i was the third. Third in my mothers.

IandIyanola: Boys and girls?

Robbie: Well my mum have two girls, four boys. In all she had five boys which was my twin. But six of us is alive. The four boys and the two girls is alive.

Regis Robbie Calixte

Regis Robbie Calixte

Starting Out In Music

IandIyanola: So you would have started singing long before you got into Calypso. What was y’all repertoire like with Pan Andrew and Big Six.

Robbie: Oh Pan Andrew… I used to sing a lot of Reggaes and Calypso. And one ting I remember Pan Andrew telling me. He always used to usually…”Oh man always monologue” like whilst the brass blowing “talk to the people””how you feeling, put your han’ in de air”…(inaudible- 12:09) And thats what..trust what make me who I am today. I love too – up to last night I work with my band, and I like to talk to the people “wave your hand” “how you doing?”. That instil in me. Monologuing, that was the name.

IandIyanola: Now, coming into the Calypso competitively. When did that happen for you?

Robbie: Well actually after Pan, Big six. I left Big six and I joined the Reasons Orchestra. Well I first sang my first year with Big Six. Pan Andrew wrote a song for me “But de PM like it so”5. That was my first year…that was around…1989….either 1989…No 1980 somewhere around the time there. Yeah and then after that then I moved to Reasons. Then backing up different bands, Calypso, Queen Shows, then I enter in the Calypso Arena. My first time was Jah-T(Trevor Anthony) wrote for me, “We doh want no Castles in the sky” and “I doh wanna be no hero”. That time I was singing with Reasons. And from that year, I started singing calypso until today.

IandIyanola: So you have always had a double side in a sense where you were singing the competitive but you also had another aspect of the music. Ok so it has been Big Six…

Robbie:Big Six and I transform into Reasons.

IandIyanola: When did you move to Reasons?

Robbie: As soon as I left Big Six, I move into Reasons one time.

IandIyanola: You did how long with Big Six really?

Robbie: I did maybe around four years with Big Six.

IandIyanola: And what other bands have you sang with since then?

Robbie: Well after Reasons. After I left Reasons, I moved to Magic Circle. Arthur Tisson. I sing with him for a while, we went to Jamaica for a while. Then I move, I went to England for six months. After I came back, his other band Raw Elements – the singer left and go on the ship, so he send me to sing with Raw Elements and up to a day like today I’m with Raw Elements.

IandIyanola: Now if you could just take me through your time, singing competitively – I know you took a break for some time. So if you could just go through that with me, as far as you can remember.

Robbie: Now I remember when I first joined Reasons. We moved to New York for the first time. A group of guys took us to New York for the first time. We went there and we record “We Rule de Party”. We record that song and “Ruff Neck party”1 — two songs there. And from that time, every year we used to go to New York. And after that since I joined Reasons, I was the one that get Reasons to blow off. After we record, everybody got to know that was a band to record with. We used to play Queen show, Calypso finals, Jouvè, everything we used to play. Then we got couple gigs going to England every year. We’ve been to Germany, (inaudible) Scotland, St. Croix – we used to be St. Croix like every week. Even Martinique.. – they had election, every weekend we would be in Martinique. And after that, Reasons, we travel all over and being with Reasons I decided well I’ll really take to the Calypso serious and then after  “Castles in the sky”, “No Heroes”, I came back the following year with “Dead Heroes society” and “Field of dreams” where everybody that I would have won the crown. Then after – The following year I came out with “I won’t stop singing Calypso” – I still consider(footnote to clarify meaning in St. Lucian context) they had rob me. The following year came back with “Wave your rag to the queen of hearts, wave your rag to the king of hearts”. And I love entertainment. I love music and I love to do it and this is why I am still into music.

IandIyanola: …So after “Queen( King) of hearts” you took a break after that?

Robbie: No. I took a break in 1999.

IandIyanola: For how long?

Robbie: just two years. I came back in 2001. I came back with my hit song “I’m gonna make it”.  I took two years break, I went to the States. I took a break and I came back with that mash up song “I’m gonna make it” 2001.

 IandIyanola: If you could give me some of the names of the guys you played with both in Big Six and Reasons Orchestra

Robbie: Well in Big Six I played with.. Mr. Pan Andrew(deceased)

IandIyanola: He played piano?

Robbie: He played Piano. I worked with Lambert. He was the drummer. Kelly was blowing the trumpet. Also Girard –he died a couple days ago –he was in the police band blowing….Mathurin used to blow the trombone. Julian was the bassman. And from that when I moved to reasons we had Difé on trumpet, Corny on Trumpet, WE had Difé on Trombone, we had Dylan on Sax, Piper used to blow the Alto-Sax, We had Angus Payne on the keyboards, we had Coco on the drums, myself and Davis was the two lead singers of the band, and then we had Allton playing the bass. And then we had Pat the engineer …they was actually the owners of reasons. Pat and Piper.

IandIyanola: Before we go back into your calypso.. if you could tell me about some of the other bands that you were aware of in St. Lucia ‘cause I think that is another area that is under documented.  From the time of Big Six or even when you were growing up.

Robbie: When I (was) growing up. I knew of “Indies” …”Purple Haze”“Songs(Sounds??) Together”, “Merry Makers”, “Rebirth Seven”“Quavers” was also there, …. –“Lakansyèl” was “Purple Haze”. Big Six was no longer around that time after I left. Because by the time I left, Reasons (sic Big Six) had break out(broken up)….Because Buffalo(Andrew Odlum) and myself we had a band “Songsplash” (Soundsplash??). Buffalo, myself…we had little Alfred playing (with) “Songsplash”. So “Big Six” never arise again after that.

IandIyanola: And then those that were contemporary with Reasons….What bands you had around?

Robbie: At the time of Reasons, they had Songs Together….Quavers. Tru Tones was around when Reasons still was there. Lakansyèl and them was not around. It was basically Reasons, Quavers, Tru TonesMerry Makers were still around. These were the leading bands when Reasons was around.

IandIyanola: But continuing in the time of Reasons there were some younger bands coming up like Rhythm Krazy

Robbie: You are right. During the time of Reasons you had Rhythm Krazy Band, that was a very popular band. It was a young school children’s band. Rhythm Krazy. Apex was another band, another people’s band. There’s another one also….

IandIyanola: So your entire career in terms of how you earn your livelihood is through music?

Robbie: Through music. And trust me buddy, practically everything I have is (through) music. Very thing I have acquired is (through) music. And up to a day like today, I’m still in music.

“Right now they have a system in St. Lucia where, they put one rhythm and people singing on that. That’s not helping the music, that’s bringing the music back”

IandIyanola: What do you think about the development of Calypso in St. Lucia? Are you satisfied with it? What do you think can be done to improve it?

Robbie: Honestly I think a lot of things could be done to improve the Calypso…Right now they have a system in St. Lucia where, they put one rhythm and people singing on that. That’s not helping the music, that’s bringing the music backward. I mean its better everybody come out with their own melody and their own music. But I think the Calypso it has grown through the years. But I think a lot more could develop by government giving the musicians more concessions to bring in equipment so we will have better studios. You will have more bands too if you have free concessions on equipment.

IandIyanola: What has been your recording history? ..in terms of recording your music. Earlier on your mentioned recording with Rhythm Krazy(sic) Reasons. What other things have you recorded?

Robbie: Well after Reasons, after I left reasons, I have released four CDs of my own. Up to this year I’m releasing to songs of my own “I cry with you” and “Blood on their hands”. SO, from the time I left Reasons I have produced four CDs of my own: “Back on Track”, “Heroes: Best of Robbie”, “I’m gonna make it” and “Bèl Nou Bèl”.

IandIyanola: And you sing both in the Kwéyòl and English

Robbie: Kwéyòl and English.

IandIyanola: And I remember you did, on your album with your various hits, you had a Country and Western version of one of your songs

Robbie: Heroes: Best of Robbie. I had “I’m Gonna make it” in Country and Western.

IandIyanola: As a final question, I want to ask you. In terms of the calypso scene here- ‘cause we know its largely a competitive thing – who are some of the calypsonians you admire…that you think are important voices in calypso.

Robbie: Good Question. Off the hook, I love Educator. Through the years he has always been there every year and the other guy that bring a new breath into calypso is Invader. I love Invader. Pep is another good Calypsonian. Morgie. You know Morgie is very controversial. But these four guys stand out to me. Ashanti was my King. I mean. He and I was in together in the revival of Calypso. He is still a guy I admire. But these five guys I really admire.

IandIyanola: What do you think is the role of Calypso in the society? .. For you personally and also generally.

Robbie: For me the role of calypso in the society supposed to be bringing out the lie to the people. What people want to say you say it for them. The thing that happening through the years, the suffering,  the slavery of black people. I think that is  (what) the art form calypso carries and covers. That letting the people know –you saying what the people cannot say.

IandIyanola: And in your music now, what are the things that you try to bring out. What are the kinds of themes that you generally like to approach.

Robbie: I love social commentary. A lot of people know me for that. Social Commentary. I think in 2003, I asked “Who is the Prime Minister?”… I had “Barking Dogs”, “Sorry Sir John”, “I taking them out”, “Inquiring Minds want to know”, “ I Want to be like Jesus”,  “Dead Heroes Society”, “I won’t stop singing Calypso”, “Blood on their hand”, “I Cry with you”. I love social commentary. I love it. I have a passion for social commentary. And the other thing about St. Lucians…from the time they know me, they always know Robbie for social commentary. And always singing serious songs.

IandIyanola: And anything you would like to say finally about Calypso here?

Robbie: Well Calypso in St. Lucia is, like I said, growing and as a matter of fact I think St. Lucia is giving all the other Caribbean islands licks in social commentary, from my heart. For social commentary, I think we on top of the Caribbean. Whereas before Trinidad was the main stage for calypso, right now I think St. Lucia is in the top in social commentary.

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~ by iandiyanola on April 4, 2013.

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