Ray Funk’s Calypso Memorabilia

Wild natives prancing at African beats

Dust off those old 78s, 33s, 45s and take a closer look at the graphic design on the jacket or sleeve photographs of the Artist. From your grandmother’s attic or father’s Calypso oldies there are treasures to uncover, and at the Clico walkway Art Gallery in Port of Spain, a touring exhibition of memorabilia focusing on Calypso Music, Photographs and Illustrations in Postwar America from 1945 to 1960 would enrich the mark in our music, regardless of the nave and kitsch way is was portrayed.

A retrospective of worth forgoing the space – see a older Sparrow cast in concrete

This retrospective is worth seeing as it gives an insight of how music indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago finds a place in the World and the ways it was marketed. There is a rare record of Japanese Queen of Calypso, Michiko Hamumura to three complete Miranda’s songs for Children mounted with enscription of each item encased in smaller matted boxes. This is no quick walk through exhibition, the joy of each piece is in the details and the humour of the kitschness in how “Trinidad an island of Fun” was viewed from America.

A hanger from the Second World War American base in Trinidad, West Indies and where the music craze began

Co-curated by Mr. Ray Funk and Mr.Steve Stuempfle, the chief curator of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Ms. Sonja Dumas, the curator of the Clico Gallery, and Ms. Joan Osborne have brought, “Calypso Music, Photographs and Illustrations in Postwar America from 1945 to 1960” to the public an exhibition of caliber, noting in the pass exhibitions shown in this awkward walkway have been tricky to curate, lacking consideration to the viewer and Artist at hand. See Norton exhibition

The art of graphic design, simple shapes with pastel colours and making a come back in contemporary advertising

Proclaiming with his knock of his gavel, Mr. Funk is actually an American judge and adopted Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. He is the benefactor of loaning what he says is a small part of a larger collection of Calypso memorabilia and quotes;

Harry Belafonte’s Calypso repertoire; big Bannana Boat and the Carmen Miranda craze

“There was no event that had more impact on the global spread of calypso as the million selling album by Harry Belafonte. For about 6 months, the American entertainment industry was convinced that calypso would kill Rock and roll. Records were rushed out, dances were created, films released, and nightclubs changed their décor but then it seemed to be over before it began.”

Words only conceptualized by the result of capitalism, commercialism and general trends in American popular culture. – thebookmann

Far right Japanese Queen of Calypso, Michiko Hamumura

The Graphic Design of the age is the first thing that makes an impact when looking at the memorabilia from Ray Funk’s collection. The mimicry of the art of the times is clear, yet the fact that the subject is calypso, makes the viewing that more exciting. Advertising was not exactly in its infancy, but it was still a relatively young profession in the 40’s and 50’s. What strikes me with the record albums, magazine advertisings and posters is the use of typography. Quite clearly the designer had to convey a sense of the music and tried to do so with hand drawn typography in some cases. The testament to the power of calypso may not be clear to the younger viewer gazing on Harry Belafonte’s face as he grins skywards with the strong brush script text stating, calypso with an exclamation point. Yet even today many people, particularly in America associate Trinidad and Tobago with Harry Belafonte’s Rum and Coconut water.

Harry Belafonte’s wick burns out

If you can, you must run down to see this show, as it is part of our graphic design history. Clico Art Gallery, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Adele Todd

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