Smithsonian Folkways hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways

"Lord Invader will never surrender / Me one alone," the calypso singer boasts on 1960's Calypso Travels.

Courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways

It's not too late to make a musical resolution for 2020, right?

No, I'm not planning to spend any diaper money on rare 7-inches, or develop an unhealthy effects pedal habit. But I do need to get outside my musical comfort zone — and I want to get into calypso music.

Calypso's swaying, Afro-Caribbean rhythms could very well soundtrack a rum-soaked night, but listen closer and you'll find there is a sociopolitical and often anti-colonial message, sung sweetly. That kind of syrupy subversion is found throughout Lord Invader's Calypso Travels, a record produced in New York in 1960 by Moses Asch, and which just received a vinyl reissue via Smithsonian Folkways.

"If you ever stop to think that we are all human / You will be a humanitarian," Lord Invader starts on "Crisis in Arkansas," a song about the Little Rock Nine in 1957 who desegregated public schools, only to push the point further: "One day you will be made to realize / Six feet of earth makes us all one size." My American roots are showing, but that's punk as hell.

Or the way Lord Invader introduces the album, listing off all of the calypsonians that Folkways could have recorded, but that instead chose him: "Just tell them I'm a Master Calypsonian / Me one alone / And in a America will give satisfaction / Me one alone / Tell them that I am the controller of Long Island / Me one alone." That's some serious swagger.

Now, this is where I ask y'all for album, book and podcast recommendations for calypso music. Hit me up on Twitter while you check out this week's picks below, plus my updated playlist on Spotify and Apple Music. (Note: Some of these tracks can only be found on Bandcamp.)

African Head Charge, "Peace and Happiness"

A wish dubbed out into the universe, from the outernational duo of Jamaican percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah and English producer Adrian Sherwood. This is an unreleased cut from the wonderful Drumming is a Language (1990-2011) box set, which collects some of the most mind-bending albums from the African Head Charge catalog.

Initiate, "What You Sow"

Not that it needs reviving, but this is exactly the kind of energy hardcore needs in 2020. The SoCal band kicks it youth-crew style, with thrashy riffs that rocket the motion forward as Crystal Pak screams a litany of spit.

Richard Skelton, 'I'

For over a decade, Richard Skelton has composed music inspired by the contours of land, sky and sea. LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM acts as an ambient history of the British-Irish Ice Sheet, as biting tones hum and shift with sublime, geologic violence.

Sadness, "How Bright You Shine"

"Is there emo with actual crying on it?" was — believe it or not — a common message board question in the late '90s. (To which someone would inevitably answer, "I can just tape myself crying over emo.") Jokes aside, the oh-so-appropriately named Sadness makes our cries a reality with blustery, blackened screamo.

Lewsberg, "From Never to Once"

Simultaneously detached and swaggering, like that third Velvet Underground album or that tall drink of water thumbing their way through a worn copy of Bukowski poems. This Rotterdam band puts a lot of work into its hip-shaking, no-care twang, right down to the anti-guitar solo, but its too-cool 'tude is still a little sweet.

Chicago Underground Quartet, "Orgasm"

Nearly two decades after an album that bridged the gap between Chicago's free jazz and post-rock scenes, the gang's back together. The connective tissues wobble and shake on this Alan Shorter tune, both picking up where cornetist Rob Mazurek, guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer Chad Taylor and bassist Noel Kupersmith left off and blasting into the next hemisphere.

Coriky, "Clean Kill"

Well, here's a promising, young punk band from Washington, D.C.

All Songs Considered

Jun 08, 2021

Roséwave: Back 2 Basic

Enlarge this image It's not a genre; it's a lifestyle. Kara Frame/NPR hide captiontoggle caption Kara
Dec 29, 2020

Roséwave: Lost Summer

Enlarge this image We danced in kitchens, took long drives, caught up in backyards or on video chat, watched weddings from our
Jun 29, 2020

Heat Check: Underrated And Elevating

Enlarge this image cupcakKe switches her flow up so many times that "Discounts" is a raunchy and hilarious three-minute shopper bargain.
Jun 22, 2020

Heat Check: Can't Get It For Free

Enlarge this image Miami duo City Girls returns with their second full-length album, City on Lock. Prince Williams/WireImage/Getty Images hide…
Jun 15, 2020

Heat Check: Bigger Picture

Enlarge this image Lil Baby's "The Bigger Picture" is a conscious trap anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. Matthew Geovany
Jun 08, 2020

Meet The 2020 Tiny Desk Contest Community

YouTube Each year, we receive thousands of entries to the Tiny Desk Contest, and the Contest team watches every single one. We get to hear songs from…
May 31, 2020

Heat Check: 'Black Joy Is Radical'

Enlarge this image Nubya Garcia's latest single "Pace" is all about diving into the many layers of joy. Adama Jalloh/Courtesy of
May 25, 2020

Heat Check: Got A Big Ego

Enlarge this image Amaarae cuts it up better than a moon-walking Samurai on "Body Count." Philip Boakye/Courtesy of the artist hide
May 03, 2020

Heat Check: Hippocampus Two-Steps

Enlarge this image Dreya Mac spits bars at a level far beyond a novice on her debut track "Skippin." Clara Setian/Courtesy
Apr 26, 2020

Heat Check: Shake Your Senses

Enlarge this image Rooted in languid rhythm, Octavian's "Poison" featuring Santi with OBONGJAYAR sounds like nothing else out. Crowns & Owls/Courtesy…
Apr 19, 2020

Heat Check: Double My W's

Enlarge this image Kenny Mason unveils his debut project Angelic Hoodrat with a cool-under-pressure, low-lid resolve. Nasser Boulaich/Courtesy of the…
Apr 12, 2020

Heat Check: Money In My Hand

Enlarge this image Don't play with Kari Faux. Play with your kids. Quil Lemons /Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption Quil
Apr 05, 2020

Heat Check: I Feel Void

Enlarge this image Empress Of's "Void" feels like a euphoric cross-genre culture clash, a dance party in a summer storm. Dorian Lopez/Courtesy
Mar 29, 2020

Heat Check: Teleport And Transform

Enlarge this image Bongeziwe Mabandla's "masiziyekelele" sends you racing through the streets of Johannesburg. Justice Mukheli/Courtesy of the artist…
Mar 22, 2020

Heat Check: Make It Make Sense

Enlarge this image Alex Isley's "Gone" perfects the art of subtle, fear-inducing seduction. Lauren Desberg /Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle…
Mar 08, 2020

Heat Check: Homecoming

Enlarge this image The laboriously-delayed Eternal Atake finally delivered big time for Lil Uzi Vert fans. Erika Goldring/FilmMagic/Getty Images hide…
Feb 23, 2020

Heat Check: Caught Up And Curious

Enlarge this image Linda Diaz's "Magic" swirls in the watercolor pools of a quirky, young love. Jonah Zorn Koplin/Courtesy of the artist
Feb 17, 2020

Heat Check: Répéter, Répéter

Enlarge this image Arlo Parks' "Eugene" spins a stinging reminder of getting left for convention. Charlie Cummings/Courtesy of the artist hide…
Feb 09, 2020

Heat Check: Going All Out

Enlarge this image Victoria Monét melds fantasy with reality for her latest, "Moment." Dana Trippe/Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption…
Feb 03, 2020

The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back For 2020

YouTube In the past year, we've had some pretty big names come perform at the Tiny Desk: Lizzo, Jimmy Eat World and Taylor Swift, to name a few.
Default Image
Dec 17, 2019

Bob Boilen's Top 20 Albums For 2019

Big Thief released two of Bob Boilen's favorite albums in 2019: U.F.O.F. and Two Hands. Michael Buishas hide captiontoggle caption Michael Buishas
Dec 16, 2019

Heat Check: Favorite Discoveries Of 2019

Enlarge this image Kirby, Odunsi (The Engine) and Hope Tala Courtney Loo & David Karp/Folarin Omolayole/Freddie Stisted/Courtesy of the artists hide…
Dec 01, 2019

Heat Check: Ode To The Cap

Enlarge this image Kilo Kish's glitchy, pithy "SPARK" sets fire to procrastination, pushing you to keep creating. Kish Robinson/Courtesy of the artist
Nov 17, 2019

Poll: Your Favorite Songs Of The 2010s

Oivind Hovland/Getty Images/Ikon Images What are your favorite songs of the past decade? These are tracks released between 2010 and 2019. We know
Nov 17, 2019

Heat Check: Charge The Haters Interest

Enlarge this image Denzel Curry's Super Saiyan energy offsets Glass Animals' eerie, horn-submerged production on "Tokyo Drifting." Elliot Arndt…
Nov 10, 2019

Heat Check: Lived-In R&B, Rap And Ragga

Enlarge this image With rich, cascading runs, Ayoni's "September" is a stand-out on this week's Heat Check. Caleb Griffin/Courtesy of the artist
Nov 10, 2019

Heat Check: Lived-In R&B, Rap And Ragga

Enlarge this image With rich, cascading runs, Ayoni's "September" is a stand-out on this week's Heat Check. Caleb Griffin/Courtesy of the artist
Oct 20, 2019

Heat Check: Getting Lost, Giving In

Enlarge this image TeaMarrr's mesmerizing new single "Kinda Love" is the type of daydream to put into action. Tyren Redd/Courtesy of the
Oct 06, 2019

Heat Check: Songs That Let It All Out

Enlarge this image The Pendletons provide a jazzy, dancing-in-your-living-room soundtrack to self-care. Ivan Noble/Courtesy of the artist hide…
Sep 29, 2019

Heat Check: Euphoric Shuffle Play

Enlarge this image Daniela Andrade's "Ayayai" (single artwork pictured here) shows off the artist's linguistic versatility. Yi-Shuan Lee/Courtesy of…
Sep 15, 2019

Heat Check: Future Nostalgia

Enlarge this image KIRBY's "Kool Aid" injects just the right doses of doo-wop and soul. Courtney Loo & David Karp/Courtesy of the
Sep 02, 2019

Heat Check: Friends Of Friends Of Friends

Enlarge this image Sudan Archives' "Confessions" is included in this week's Heat Check. Alex Black/Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption…

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.