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David Rudder: Man with a Message

11 Apr 2006

Musician David Rudder

An interview with musician David Rudder

Calypso fans were recently blessed with a performance by one of the most visionary, talented prolific singer/songwriters in the history of Calypso music, David Rudder. He has been labeled the, ‘Man with the Message,’ as his songs have been described as prophetic, in-depth, charismatic, electric and immortal. He has been credited with being one of the main successes behind the growing popularity of Calypso in Europe and the United States.

Rudder is known for breaking traditional barriers and defying the odds, so it was no surprise when he agreed to appear as a guest performer for Jazz by Genre – Caribbean Jazz, at the Mod Club on April 2nd in Toronto.

He graced the stage with Steel-pan legend Andy Narell, and his band. The event opened with Toronto''s hottest new Calypso-Reggae-Jazz ensemble Kobo Town, along with the Spoken Word & Caribbean-based Beat-box stylings of - Al St. Louis, Anne-Marie Woods (a.k.a. Amani); Subliminal and Eddy Da Original One.

The focus of the event was to showcase jazz from a Caribbean perspective. Jazz by Genre has sparked conversation within the jazz community as jazz purists believe the integrity of the music is compromised when it is fused with other genres of music. Rudder believes, “what is happening here should be encouraged across the city…different forms of jazz expression. In Trinidad we have the, ‘Jam It,’ culture – people that move across the grains of society. ‘Jam It,’ culture is like jazz. It’s never what people expect, not mainstream, but off the cuff. It’s like planting a seed…it gives the city a young vibrancy.”

Rudder has developed an international following for being, ‘off the cuff.’ He has managed to eschew doomsday predictions of failure by established critics and chart a course to international stardom for others to follow. Rudder’s unprecedented rise to fame in 1986 made him the subject of music critics around the world – from New York to London to Tokyo.

“Everybody needs each other…this city is one of the most multicultural cities in the world,” says Rudder. “You can’t have so many people living together and not bouncing vibes off each other.”

Rudder also believes that with the recent youth violence in Toronto events like Jazz by Genre are important because, “Shows like this can’t falter. Lots of youth are looking for something and this may be what they’re looking for. They may get something out of it.”

In addition to music, David Rudder also has a passion for helping troubled youth and was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations 15 years ago in their Development Program. His focus is on, ‘Boys Industrial,’ a young man’s prison in Trinidad. He presented them with a steel orchestra and is in the process of building a theatre for them. Rudder hopes that, “Whatever they have inside, they may be able to release through the instrument.

“Even though there is a breakdown of social and political structure, it has to be expressed. It has to be introduced to the sweetness of life. Those who understand the sweetness of life are represented by the art of their time. The music tonight grew up in another time and space. There was a quest to find the song of songs- melodies of melodies. What we’re hearing right now will always be there as a constant, even as the world makes its change.”

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