The first recording of the National Anthem of Trinidad and Tobago
Castagne led an amazing life and was a prolific composer though not one whose other work is appreciated as much these days.
Born in Guyana, he spent his formative years in Trinidad and at times he spent substantial parts of his career in England, Canada, Barbados, even the United States. He was a prolific composer of a number of different styles of music.
He grew up in Woodbrook and joined the government Customs office in September of 1939, but with World War II joined the Army and stayed for eight years. He started as a private and by the time he left was a captain, married with three children. For a time, he moved the family to Canada but his wife disliked the long and cold winters so they moved back after a couple of years.
Castagne worked for Radio Trinidad from 1949 to 1952. He was first a script writer, then a programme administrator and finally the station manager. He was very proud that while there he pushed through a provision that calypsonians got paid for the live broadcasts.
He later worked for Angostura until 1960 when he went to England. During this time, he was very involved with music. He had a combo called the Crazy Kats with Syl Dopson and played guitar for La Petite Musicale.
He was also very involved with Carnival, Carnival Queen shows and the scripting and staging of Dimanche Gras.
Castagne’s first song, Kiss Me for Christmas, which was written in 1949 and recorded by Dot Evans, was dedicated to his wife. It has a long history of being covered and is still a popular choice on the radio during the Christmas season.
During the height of the calypso craze he wrote Dance the Calypso which boldly stated, “No mo Rock and Roll/Now de Calypso got control.” Castagne was a noted critic of “pseudo-calypso” in the US and warned against it being performed in a plodding 4/4 beat rather than in the original rhythm.
With the plan for the West Indian Federation, he found another topic for a song. He recounted to Errol Sitahal in a Banyan Archive interview, “As soon as they started to talk about the Federation site, I knew I wanted to get involved in writing a national song. I didn’t think in terms of the anthem… The words took me a long time, two years. I knew what I wanted to say, the sentiment I wanted to get across.”
It was submitted as a Song for Federation and his song was picked as one of two from Trinidad.
When the Federation collapsed, he shelved the song.
When things were moving toward T&T’s Independence, Castagne was based in London working for the High Commission. When he learned about a competition for the anthem, he took his song off the shelf and revamped the lyrics to focus on the country’s independence rather than as part of a number of federated states. The most notable change was “forged from the depth of slavery” becoming “forged from the love of liberty.”
One of his greatest successes was writing a calypso many hold up as a classic and it happened quite by chance. He recalled in the same Banyan interview how he came to write The Iceman for Lord Melody. “There was a guy in Port-of-Spain selling ice shouting, ‘Ice Ice’.” Castagne liked the phrase and singing it when he came home that night.
His wife told him he had a good start of a calypso so he would start to notice the calls from other street vendors. He took it to Lord Melody and the tune turned out to be one of Melody’s biggest hits. He also wrote calypsoes for Lord Cristo, a Christmas calypso for the March of Dimes Quartet and the Dixieland Steel Orchestra recorded his piece Treasure Island on their first album. He and Freddie Kissoon worked on King Kobo, an unfinished musical.
While working as the Public Relations Officer for the High Commission in London, Castagne wrote a number of cricket calypsoes during this time and also worked with BBC radio. After several years in London, Castagne moved to Barbados and for 16 years ran an advertising business.
He personally wrote a lot of jingles that proved quite successful. He did a couple Carib Beer commercials including one sung by Relator. Finding recording studios to be better in Trinidad, he was known to fly over on the weekend for his jingle sessions. When he was there, he also wrote Barbados, I Love You and Let’s Join Hands when Rotary had an event to have a human chain holding hands around Barbados.
In all, he is reported to have written over 150 songs besides numerous jingles but only a handful were recorded. He never pretended he could sing but had a good hand at composing he thinks in part because he had a very vivid mind. Castagne had a penchant for love ballads, holiday and special events songs—he said he thought he was the only one to write a song about a mother’s birthday!
Patrick Castagne was well celebrated in his lifetime first receiving on MBE in 1962 from the Queen and the Chaconia Gold by Trinidad’s government in 1994 which cited both his contribution in music and in social volunteer work.
We celebrate him today noting that whatever troubles the country may face may we aspire to his credo, “Here every creed and race, Find an equal place, And may God bless our nation”
YOUTUBE ON CASTAGNE
Kelwyn Hutcheon - Kiss Me For Christmas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuYJJOoEx20
Valerie Sheppard - Kiss Me For Christmas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pImpRpWcYeY
First Recording of The National Anthem of Trinidad And Tobago as rendered by Mr. Garth Gibbs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL1XAKUtp5o
B-A-R-B-A-D-O-S I Love You - Lord Sivers & The Fantasies with The Tropical Islanders and Phil Britto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XnmehHAmEs
The Woodpeckers - “Woodpeckers Xmas Party” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRIFuMyWo-k
Jolly Boys, “Nimble Like Kimble” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVyEJahx1-8
Juliet Eckel,The Spirit of Christmas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpnagIUc8OM
Play Trinidad’s Sensational Calypso Dance: Basic Steps of the Intriguing “calypso” Illustrated and Fully Explained in a Manner that Makes it Easy for Dancers from Nine to Ninety to Do this Colorful Dance, B. W. I. Guardian Commercial Printery, 10 pages, 1957
Patrick Castagne, This is Calypso, Music Journal XV (January 1958), 32-33ff. and Chronicle of the West India Committee, London. Vol. 77, No. 1377, Oct. 1962. p. 518-519. illus
INDEX of COMPOSITIONS
An Orchid for You
Barbados I Love You
Breakfast In Bed
Dance the Calypso
Happy Birthday, Mom
Happy New Year
I Want a Hula Hula Girl
I Want To Love You
Kiss Me For Christmas
Little Shepherd Boy
Millie the Macaw From Guyana
Nimble Like Kimble
Oh Loving God
Rejoice It is Christmas
The Sky-Jackers (Calling Habana)
The Trinidad & Tobago National Anthem
Woodpeckers Xmas Party
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