Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 2nd 2015 Contents A27
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Rihanna says she's thrilled to have
had a decade-long career in music and
she plans on celebrating the feat at
some point this year.
"Definitely a very big deal for me.
You know, I can't believe it's ten years
already, but we definitely have to
celebrate this year," the singer said
during an interview Monday.
"There are a few things I have in
mind, so you'll have wait on that, but
don't think I'm forgetting because this
Rihanna released her debut album,
Music of the Sun, in 2005.
The 27-year-old has released seven
albums, launched multiple Top 10 hits
and won eight Grammy Awards.
This year she's dropped three
singles, including the Top five hit
FourFiveSeconds, and says she's busy
working on her eighth album.
"New album is going really, really
great. We have recorded a lot of
songs and I can't wait to finish and
put it out. That's my next step," she
RAY FUNK AND RAY ALLEN
Long before there was a Labour
Day Carnival in Brooklyn, and
even before Carnival revellers took
to the streets of Harlem in the late
1940s and 1950s, Trinidad band-
leader Gerald Clark was organising
annual Dame Lorraine Dances.
These masquerade balls began
in the winter of 1935, and rather
amazingly, continued for over 20
years. They were one of the first
major efforts to bring Trinidad-
style Carnival to New York.
By the time he started promoting
these Carnival dances, Gerald Clark
was an established presence in the
Harlem community. He led the
backing band for the historic visit
of the calypso masters Roaring Lion
and Attila the Hun to New York
shortly after the 1934 Trinidad Car-
For the next several years, Clark
provided the primary backing band
for calypso artists who came to
New York to record and perform.
But in addition to his recording
career and his regular nightclub
appearances, Clark played an essen-
tial role in organising annual Car-
nival dance celebrations.
There are only a few details that
survive of the first dances. A brief
note in the New York Amsterdam
News gave a short summary of a
dance in 1935:
"The Lido Ballroom, 160 West
146th Street, was transformed into
a masquerade day in Trinidad when
Mrs Rhoda Weeks presented her
carnival ball there last Saturday
night. Gerald Clark and his
Caribbean Serenaders added to the
tropical atmosphere by supplying
appropriate music for the danc-
By 1937, the event was being
described as Clark s attempt to
"Out-carnival even the traditional
Trinidad Carnival itself" with "a
colorful Carnival Day scene" and
"a Calypso [Chantwells] competi-
tion." In 1938 and 1939, the dances
featured Wilmouth Houdini, the
best known calypsonian based in
Interestingly, in 1940, the band
was listed not as Clark s own group,
but rather as "Victor Pacheco and
his Royal Trinidadians and Gregory
Felix," popularly called the "Benny
Goodman of the West Indies." Both
pianist Pacheco and clarinetist Felix
for many years were members of
Clark s band.
In the early years, the normal
site for the Dame Lorraine Dance
was the Renaissance Casino at
138th Street and Seventh Avenue
in Harlem. Built in the early 20s,
it was a popular night-spot in
Harlem. "From the start it was a
setting for all of "Harlem s most
important parties," recalled 97 year
old, Isabelle Washington Powell,
who reminisced, "all the best
dances were at the Renaissance."
By 1942, an ad for the Carnival
dance noted that Clark was forced
by the number of patrons to move
it out of Harlem to "the more spa-
cious Royal Windsor Ballroom on
66th Street east of Broadway."
There were prizes for costumes and
"the best dressed bands", and the
music was by Clark s own band,
the Caribbean Serenaders, featuring
a calypso battle between Houdini
and MacBeth the Great. The event
was billed as an "authentic dupli-
cation of what transpires that Sun-
day in Trinidad" and was in a "big
time space" so that more support-
ers could see it. The New York Age
trumpeted its success, "Harlemite
and Broadway celebrities found joy
in socialising with one another."
Bill Chase, one of the regular
columnists for the Amsterdam
News, attended the 1943 affair:
"After all these years we finally
attended the famed Dame Lor-
raine " the brilliant West Indian
and Calypso Carnival which Gerald
Clarke [sic] throws yearly at the
Renaissance. The place was filled
to capacity---all that without the
benefit of advertising so imagine
what it would have been like if the
affair had been widely publicised.
It was a colorful event and one
which the guests seemed to enjoy
more than the usual crowd enjoys
the more exclusive formals. The
costumes worn by the prize winners
including the Clowns (Darling Club
SC), The Indians, Red Riding Hood,
the Coolie Woman, half man and
bride, the donkey lady, the Mar-
tinique etc. were costly and colorful
---but the prize money was good
By 1944, the dance was back at
the Renaissance Casino featuring
MacBeth the Great. Ads for the
affair urged folks to "see the stu-
pendous spectacle of Carnival
Bands in competition. This is
Harlem s indoor Mardi Gras." The
event appeared to have generated
other competing Carnival dances,
since by 1946, the ad for the event
declared: "Gerald Clark presents
The One, The Only, The Original
Gala Dame Lorraine and Twelfth
Annual Carnival Dance." Intrigu-
ingly, in the fine print the ad prom-
ised that the "Dame Lorraine will
be presented at 12.30." By 1948, the
featured vocalists were Duke of Iron
and Lord Invader.
A large photo spread in the Ams-
terdam News showed that wire or
screen masks were featured at the
festivities in 1949. A group of Pier-
rot Grenades won the individual
competition while the "Barbados
Gals" took first place in the group
category. A similar photo spread
the next year revealed the winning
Carnival band was Balinese Bal-
lerinas, followed by the Martinique
Portese with bats in attendance.
1951 found the event in full form
with Coty Dancing Girls, Bajan
Gals, Neptune and his Mermaids,
and the crew of the SS Calvary,
presumably a sailor band. The
individuals included bats, jamet-
men, and an African Chief. The
music was by two bands, MacBeth
and Clark s groups, and both Duke
of Iron and MacBeth sang calypsos.
The next year the event was briefly
noted as having "Pirates, Coty Girls,
Quacker Clowns, Juju Warriors,
Harem Queens, Bat Men and Creole
Belles." But the regular newspaper
coverage dropped off after that.
The dances continued until at least
1956, but after that they appeared
to cease in Harlem.
In a 1977 interview with anthro-
pologist Don Hill, bandleader
Daphne Weeks, speculated that it
was failing health that finally forced
Clark to stop organising the dances.
But by the 1970s, Weeks herself
was leading "Dame Lorraine"
dances in Brooklyn. Though now
forgotten, these dances were an
important part of the history of
carnival in New York at the time.
• Ray Funk is a retired Alaskan
judge who is passionately devoted
to calypso, pan and mas. He is the
co-producer of The Calypso Craze,
a book/CD compilation released
on Bear Family Records. Ray Allen
is Professor of Music at Brooklyn
College, CUNY. He is editor of
Island Sounds in the Global City:
Caribbean Popular Music in New
York, and is currently working on
a book on the history of Carnival
music in Brooklyn.
Rihanna excited to celebrate ten years in music industry
Gerald Clark's Dame Lorraine dances
Gerald Clark, who hosted the Dame Lorraine Dances in NY. It was said at the
time his dances "out-Carnivaled Carnival".
The dances were an important part of NY Carnival history.
"In the early years, the normal
site for the Dame Lorraine
Dance was the Renaissance
Casino at 138th Street and
Seventh Avenue in Harlem.
Built in the early 20s, it was a
popular night-spot in Harlem."
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