‘Dis Place Nice’ – Music and Poetry of Brother Valentino – DJ IJJ

DJ IJJ together with Musica Macondo proudly present a rare glimpse of the music, poetry and art of a man often overlooked when talking about Caribbean music legends, Brother Valentino.

Master lyricist, spokesman for the working man and the voice of African people all over the world he is and has been one of the most versatile artists to come out of Trinidad.

In this original vinyl mix you can hear the powerful early conscious calypsos of ‘Dis Place Nice’ and ‘Third World’, the deep roots reggae of ‘Dread Music’, the disco-calypso of ‘Big Apple’, the funky island afrobeat of ‘Ah Wo’, the dubbed out anti-apartheid soukous of ‘Free Up South Africa’ and the spiritual soul-jazz of ‘Seven Ancient Wonders’.

Vinyl records by Valentino are very hard to find and his full discography is still hazily known at best, so its been a great  journey digging to gather these tracks presented here. Luckily there was some help recently with Analog Africa repressing Valentino’s ‘Stay up Zimbabwe/Ah Wo’ in the original 12” form.

As a welcomed bonus we are thrilled to have Trinidadian calypso researcher, lecturer, playwright and a friend of Valentino’s Zeno Obi Constance to provide some words of knowledge about Valentino below.

“Emrold Phillip, Bro. Valentino,  was a minor player in the Calypso world until the advent of the Black Power revolution of Trinidad and Tobago in 1970.  From then he emerged, on a journey of new found consciousness, he began to write and sing on behalf of the struggles of the common people. For this brave act he was dubbed ‘The People’s Calypsonian’, acclaimed as a singer who expressed the thoughts of the proletariat.  He was a poet and prophet.

‘Ethiopia go rise again And in the Third World the African shall reign’

His songs of the 1970’s were characterised by a passion and pain for the revolution and as education for the African identity (popular since 1970). Songs like ‘No Revolution’, ‘The Third World’, ‘Barking Dogs, ‘Dis Place Nice’, ‘Liberation’ and ‘Victim of Society’ all were used to fuel the path of the Freedom fighters and keep the faithful conscious. His commitment:

‘Now just because I represent my People Who really didn’t come out for war
You know I got caught up in a struggle I might have to go to jail or even die for [Liberation]’

And his concern:

‘Cause I am what I man really suppose to be
As free as a bird or a fish in the sea
My worth, my wealth is not material
But my values are real spiritual
And them my motto reads very clearly“Liberty or the cemetery” [Victim of Society]’

Yet it was his immortal and philosophical ‘Life is a Stage’, considered one of the greatest calypsos of all time, that made him a calypso icon.

‘Life is a stage and we are the actors
And everybody have a part to play’

Taking a page from the celebrated bard Will Shakespeare, he proclaimed:

”Like a never ending movie with all different charactersWe all have a role to portray”

At the end of the decade he would release his biggest seller ‘Stay up Zimbabwe’ about the apartheid struggles taking place in South Africa, along with ‘Awo’, a cry for revolution in the West Indies. He was called the Bob Marley of the calypso world for his incisive and thought provoking lyrics.

”Another pillar crumblesDown comes the prison wall
Another leader tumblesAnd another tyrant will fall” [Awo]

In the 1980’s and 1990’s his calypso star dimmed a bit but with his 2004 hit ‘Where Calypso gone’, a treatise in song retracing the history of the calypso art form, he was back on track and a whole new generation found and claimed the name and the man Valentino. Both ‘Stay up Zimbabwe’ and ‘Awo’ have been sampled and the latter has garnered over half of a million views on YouTube.

A veteran and legend, a Rastafarian by religion and belief, he was voted among the top 50 calypsonians of all time and four of his songs were selected o the top 200 calypsoes of the 20th century.  The holder of a national award from the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, he still performs at the annual calypso tent, the pre-Lenten carnival shows and has had two successful concerts in 2014 an 2016 cementing his place among the pantheon of bards who have made calypso their ever lasting legacy.” – Zeno Obi Constance

Dis Place Nice – 1975
Third World  –   1972
Dread Music –   1976
Invitation –   1972
Liberation –  1976
Zion March –  1980
Big Apple –  1980
Recession –  1983
Free Up South Africa parts 1 & 2- 1986
Ah Wo –  1980
Seven Ancient Wonders – 1976

Cover illustration by Hugo Quan-Vie. 1980.  From the Ah Wo 12”

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