10 Important Lessons from the Business of Calypso Featuring Calypso Rose

On Friday 17th February 2017 MusicTT, in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, TUCO and official media partner, Guardian Media Limited, hosted a Business of Calypso workshop. This workshop was a little different from the rest as it not only was a platform to openly share information on the essentials in composing, Calypso music production and music business, finance and marketing, but to pay great homage to one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most successful entertainers, Calypso Rose.

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Photo by:  Ronald Mendoza Photography

Calypso Rose shared some of her stories and gave advice on what it takes to be successful in the music industry. Joining her to share their own experiences and advice were other popular music industry professionals; John Arnold, Jeanelle Frontin, Carl Henderson, Darryl Braxton, Fabien Alfonso, Jean Michel Gibert, Mario Whiteman, Gary Cordner, Robert Amar, Sekon Sta, Ann Marie Omed Joseph and Richard Ahong. Here are 10 important lessons that you may have missed at the Business of Calypso Worksop:


  1. “Artists need to come together and speak the same language” Robert Amar.

 In order to move forward as an industry, it is important that all artists come together to determine what is the direction and how are they going to get there. They must agree to the standards in which their music can be put forward in a marketable, money generating way. Carl Henderson also saw its importance, “We have to come together as a movement, on every level”


  1. “We Must Be Realistic” Richard Ahong.

Richard Ahong stated that if we are to break into the international market we have to stop being self-proclaimed and start making music that can go beyond a specific season. We cannot declare we are the best in the world when we have not compared ourselves to the rest of the world. We must be realistic in our words and our actions.


  1. “Anything you want in life you can get it. As long as you build your faith and hope and you say “I will”, you are going to succeed” Calypso Rose.

Calypso Rose spoke about having the confidence in yourself in order to achieve your success. She wanted her music to spread internationally and had faith and hope that she could achieve it and now she is the recipient of a French Grammy.

Calypso Rose addresses the audience. Photo by: Ronald Mendoza Photography


  1. “What is important is to start by the vibes and start by the poetry” Jean Michel Gibert.

That was the advice given by Gibert to artists who would like to make their music more internationally marketable. The way music is constructed is essential in determining how marketable it will be. The poetry was described as the way in which the artist chooses to portray his commentary or his truth and the vibe is the beat that accompanies the poetry. He also spoke about the importance of knowing your market so you can tailor your music to meet your scope.


  1. “Don’t let the festival dictate the music, let the music dictate the festival” Darryl Braxton.

The status quo and narrative needs to change, Braxton stated. The status quo, according to Braxton, is artists making music particularly for the carnival season. He believes that we need to move away from that and make music for the world.


  1. “I am here for a reason and a purpose and the reason and the purpose is to breathe life into our culture” Calypso Rose

Calypso Rose spoke about purpose and not giving up. She got intimate with the audience and discussed her battle with breast cancer and brush with death. Knowing that she had a purpose pushed her to go out and achieve her goals of taking calypso international.


  1. “Branding is very important if Trinidad and Tobago’s product is to move forward” Robert Amar.

The possibility of a single brand can help propel the music industry. Building a brand takes time and when an opportunity arises to showcase a brand one should maximize it. Amar used Calypso Rose as an example, stating that the country needs to use every opportunity that it can maximize the traction and exposure gained by Calypso Rose’s international success in order to propel the local music industry forward.


  1. “It is very important that you seek protection for your brand, your mark” Mario Whiteman.

This was Whiteman’s response to the question what is one of the key details that artists, especially the younger ones coming up, need to pay attention to in order to make sure that their brand is marketed properly. Your brand is your identity; it is what you will be known for so therefore it is important to protect your identity.

Mario Whiteman speaks about protecting your brand. Photo by Ronald Mendoza Photography


  1. “Your manager is someone who generates your career, generates income and generates opportunities” Carl Henderson.

Henderson pointed out that some of the local artists can be difficult to manage because they do not rely on the expertise and experience of their manager. They instead pick and choose what they want to do when they want to do it. It should not be so. In order to advance in the music industry artists should try to follow the lead of the manager. The manager must, however, be active in his role.


  1. “The focus must be on the business aspect of music so that the talented individuals, in particular the youth, would be encouraged to choose the music industry as a career path” Senator The Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon.

Calypso Rose implored that ministries need to ensure that our culture is taught in schools. Calypso has come a long way, says Rose, and it is still here but in order for calypso to stay we must teach the importance of it, and our culture as a whole, to the youth.  Senator The Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Investment, also spoke of the importance of culture in the form of music, “this art form needs to be acknowledged for its economic viability, including the creation of jobs and the generation of revenue. The focus must be on the business aspect of music so that the talented individuals, in particular the youth, would be encouraged to choose the music industry as a career path just as Calypso Rose bravely did”. Her sentiments were echoed by The Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minster of Community Development, Culture and the Arts who stated “this is a time where we have to look at our creativity as a way for diversification, as a way for brining economic reserves into the country”.

Senator The Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon delivers her welcoming address.

Photo by Ronald Mendoza Photography