at Casino San Pablo, San Pablo, CA
November 18, 2000
Woof-woof! H.A. Productions let the dogs out in the Bay Area at the “Soca In a Rage” concert on November 18, 2000 at the Casino San Pablo, in San Pablo, CA. Headlining the show was Trinidad soca star Anslem Douglas, who originally wrote and produced the huge hit “Who Let the Dogs Out?” The concert’s co-star was Drupatee-the Queen of Chutney music-who scored a big soca hit this year with the song “Real Unity,” a duet with Machel Montano.
The Casino’s ballroom dance floor was jumping as Bay Area soca fans enjoyed an all-too-rare opportunity to party to the music of Trinidad. Musical backing was provided by the Extasy Band (just back from touring Thailand) while singer Russell Cadogan provided vocals throughout the evening. DJ Omar kept the beats pumping between the artists’ sets, and Fred Dixon was Master of Ceremonies.
Drupatee took the stage at 11 p.m. Elegantly dressed in a tropical bright-blue and gold-trimmed Indian-style ensemble, she opened with her first hit “Mr. Bissessar (Roll Up the Tassa)” that helped to create the new Indian-soca sound in the late 1980s. She was a joy to watch and she put forth her playful and suggestive songs like “Sweet Tassa Man” with a strong, sinewy, sensual vocal style. Dancing across the stage, she performed her crowd-pleasing trademark “Drupatee Wine” dance move. She closed with her hit “Real Unity” with Russell Cadogan standing in for the Montano vocal parts.
As one of the breakthrough East Indian artists and as a woman, Drupatee crossed the barriers of racial and gender stereotypes. She performs Indian-soca or “chutney” (the word means “spicy mix” and it describes the blend of soca rhythms and East Indian lyrics and melodies). She received harsh criticism from Hindi and Indian conservatives for being a popular music artist. Even today, her sexy lyrics provoke controversy and “Real Unity” was banned from some radio stations. In the Bay Area, however, she was received with enthusiasm.
Awards were presented between the artists’ sets to Bay Area treasured artists and personalities Val Serrant, David McBurney, and Cyril Bolden for their efforts toward the promotion of calypso in the Bay Area. Each of these well-known figures has traveled around the world and worked especially hard in the Bay Area to grow and support the audience for the music of Trinidad.
“Who Let the Dogs Out?” was the smash hit of the summer of 2000. The Baha Men’s hip-hop version of the song could be heard on the airwaves, on TV, and in sports stadiums throughout the U.S. It was so popular than even two-year-olds were singing it!
But the song was first written and recorded by Trinidadian singer-songwriter Anslem Douglas. It was a number one hit in Trinidad in the weeks leading up to Carnival 1998 and it was given new life by the Baha Men through Douglas’ publishing company, Deston Sounds. The unspecified royalties he will receive for the song will no-doubt be substantial, but this “overnight” success does not seem to have altered the path of this 36-year-old veteran soca star, who continues to write, perform and record his music.
Anslem Douglas took the stage just after midnight and sang a rousing set of his hits. He burst forth with “I Love the Carnival” including a call and response with the audience and followed with his hit “Ragga Poom Poom.” His powerful voice with its surprising range (from a falsetto to a growl), along with his handsome presence and relaxed stage manner, had women jumping onstage to “Mash Up De Party” with him. He coached the audience to move across the dance floor to the left and right en masse and to put their “Palms On De Ground” and “jook back” on command to the music. His soulful R&B-style a capella vocal introduction burst into the long-awaited “Who Let the Dogs Out” that evolved into an audience member barking contest.
After Anslem’s set, Trinidadian calypso artist Crazy took to the stage to close out the evening by serenading the crowd with his “Lover’s Song” that segued into “I Can’t Stop Loving You” then “Good Night Irene.”
A CONVERSATION WITH ANSLEM DOUGLAS & DRUPATEE
I spoke with Anslem and Drupatee together after their performances. They were a pleasure to chat with, as both of them were down-to-earth and charming, playfully teasing each other throughout the conversation.
Corinne Mah: Where are you from?
Anslem Douglas: From south Trinidad, San Fernando, second largest town in Trinidad. Born and raised there and spent all my life there until I migrated to Toronto, Canada about 7 or 8 years ago. Canada is my new, adopted home, but I’ll always be a Trini. You can take the man out of Trinidad, but you can’t take the Trini out of the man.
CM: Are you touring together?
AD: No, we are only doing two shows together, here and in Los Angeles.
Drupatee: But we should be touring together, we make a good pair.
CM: Anslem, I understand you’re in the studio?
AD: Normally, I record in Toronto, but I’ve decided to record something in Trinidad this year with my old, long-time friend (who’s responsible for me being in this business right now). His name is Carl Beaver Henderson. The first recording I ever did was with him, and now I’m back recording with him after 10 years, so it’s a reunion. We’re doing two tracks for Carnival 2001, “Knocking the Girl” and “We’re Going in Town.”
CM: Drupatee, your song with Machel Montano is called “Real Unity.”
Drupatee: It came out this year and was an instant hit. (Anslem: It’s huge…)
CM: When I first heard it, I said, “What is that song, it’s so great.” It’s so captivating. And you have hits dating back more than 12 years.
Drupatee: From 1987. “Mr. Bissessar” was my biggest hit in ’88 – that’s known as “Roll Up the Tassa” and then it went along to [the development of] Indian soca, and then it came to “Careless Driver”–that’s “Lick Up Me Nanny” [laughter at the obvious double-entendre in the lyric about “hitting my grandmother”]. That was released in the 90s and I’ve been doing more “chutney” work until Machel came up with “Real Unity.”
CM: Do you both record and live in Trinidad?
AD: Drupatee is the official “Queen of Chutney” in Trinidad.
Drupatee: You couldn’t put it better than that! I have a CD out right now, “Drupatee 2000 in Style,” and it’s a chutney CD that was recorded in New York. I hope to record more chutney, but I’m also working right now on a collaboration with Tall Pree [a Granadan who scored a big hit this year with “Old Woman We Taking Home”].
CM: People love your music and you have a beautiful voice.
AD: And she had a ball onstage, didn’t she?
Drupatee: Oh, yeah, well, if my waist can do that … I do it!
AD: I wish I could do that but I’m too old now… [laughter]
CM: Your outfit is … ?
Drupatee: It resembles a garara — the Indian skirt and top. Usually the top is longer, but I like the top short.
AD: Ah, to show off your navel. Oh my gosh!
CM: Are you both self-taught singers?
AD: I’m self-taught, but I sang in school and church choirs.
Drupatee: Well, that’s how all of us start out — in school.
AD: Then you get yourself a little group and sort of branch out from there.
CM: All of Trinidad runs on music: everyone can dance, everyone sings, everyone plays mass.
AD: And that makes it kind of difficult, too, for an artist to actually excel and reach that point where you are recognized as being an “artiste.” Because the average person on the street, you ask them to sing and they can sing. And I’m not saying this just because I’m Trinidadian, these people are really, really talented. So when you excel and you establish yourself and you are looked upon as an artiste, that in itself is an accomplishment in Trinidad, because there is so much talent there. Everywhere you go, somebody can do something or show you something or dance to a beat, or this and that.
CM: We have a Carnaval parade here [in San Francisco] where half a million people will come out to watch. But in Trinidad, everyone is IN Carnival, no one is watching. Everybody was playing mas.
Drupatee: That’s Trinidad!
Laura Gardner: What music do you listen to?
AD: I listen to everything from hip-hop, rock, reggae, jazz, blues, samba and Latin.
Drupatee: I love that Latin dance … mmmm!
AD: There’s that Cuban influence. I like different influences in my music, and to get that you have to keep your ears to the ground and listen to different styles. You might jump in my truck one day, and driving down the highway, I’m listening to all classical music. That’s what I’m into on that day. Then the next day I’m listening to gospel, because gospel singers have this way of singing with their soul and heart, you know?
CM: I could hear that influence in the introduction you did tonight to “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
LG: Is there any singer or musician in the past year or two who has impressed you?
AD: I like Bebe Wynans. I listen to so many, but right now, I’m in a Bebe frame of mind. It’s gospel, soul, R&B, and it’s rich and he has a nice, deep, manly voice. A lot of singers these days sound kind of like kids [he sings a nasal, high-pitched note], but he sings songs like a MAN. In the calypso arena, I’m a lyricist and I love lyrics, so I like people like Black Stallion, David Rudder, I love to listen to what they do. In terms of melodies, I listen to people like Sparrow and Baron who sing. For energy, give me people like Super Blue and Machel.
CM: You both have family?
AD: I’m married and have two kids, 15 and 12. My daughter is in New York, my son is in Trinidad and I’m in Toronto. You go figure.
Drupatee: Like him, I’m married and have two kids, 16 and 12, and they both go to school in Trinidad. And I’m on tour here and with Machel … but I’m leaving Monday to go play Machel’s monster anniversary/birthday show on the 25th of November in Trinidad.
Drupatee: We now go to play Los Angeles and I hope we can come back to the Bay Area and I’ll be seeing all my fans again …
AD: It will be good to come back.
UPCOMING Thanks to H.A. Productions for access. H.A. Productions’ next soca event will be a concert featuring Byron Lee & the Dragonnaires to take place during Afribbean, July 2001, at a location to be announced.