Is Wot? David Rudder releases tribute to Brother Resistance

File photo/Gary Cardinez
File photo/Gary Cardinez

IS what? Legendary calypsonian David Rudder has released a new song called Is Wot, which is a tribute to another legend – the late rapso pioneer Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba.

The energetic, brass-filled track was released on October 28 and was produced by Gideon Bishop, and arranged by Bishop and Kyle Peters.

Its description on YouTube says it is a "thank you note from one iconic artiste to another.

"In honour of the late Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation's (TUCO) ongoing Calypso History Month of October themed De Bell Reigns, it is dedicated to the memory of the late Network Rapso Riddim Band and lead singer."

In many of the band's songs, someone would chant "Is what?" For instance, at the beginning of Masimba's song Bring Yuh Love, he says, "Is what? Rapso time." And in the intro of Karega Mandela's Free Up Africa, the phrase is also said.

The lyrics to Rudder's song include lines like, "The first thing they blessed me with was a gift of persistence before I walk the hard, hard road – the road of resistance," and "All I had was a voice and a little bell."

He also sings, "Chantuelle, put on your dancing shoes," which is a reference to Masimba's song Dancin' Shoes.

The chorus of Rudder's song is the rapso pioneer's iconic refrain: "Ring the bell, ring it all over."

Bishop told Newsday the lively tune's journey began about a year ago, when he was actually winding down.

Veteran calypsonian David Rudder (left) and producer/arranger of Is Wot, Gideon Bishop. Photo courtesy Bishop.

"Late one night, just seconds before falling asleep, I got this melody and I recorded it on my cellphone.

"When I got up the next day, I went straight to the studio, put down all the instrumentations, then, if I had piano, I sent it out to someone who plays keys professionally, same thing with guitars, drums, etc."

The track also features Allstars Brass band.

"When all that was completed, I sent it to Mr Rudder and he said, "Ah love it!'"

It was not originally meant to be a tribute to Masimba, though everyone involved in the song's creation is glad it turned out that way.

It was simply meant to be "feel-good music," Bishop recalled. "We were in a time where there was a lot of negativity and thing going around and we were just looking back at some of the legendary calypso and songs we so love.

"You know how, before the words actually start for, let's say, (Black Stalin's) Black Man Feeling To the time you hear the first bars you already starting to dance. It was something like where the music had that feeling and we wanted to create that vibe where when the words reach, people would already be dancing."

Peters said Bishop sent him a "skeleton of the bass line" which had some piano chords and he immediately began vibing to it.

"The energy from it was like a refreshing old-time song, if that makes sense. There's strong calypso, strong kaiso, but the newness of it was the tones used and the energy behind it."

Guitarist Kyle Peters. Photo courtesy Peters.

In addition to co-arranging the song, Peters also played guitar.

He said, "It was really interesting, so it made it easy for me to put down the guitars, and then we started discussing the arrangement of it. When we considered Rudder, who is a legend in his own rights, all the energy sort of aligned from then."

He said all of them have worked together before, so they all "understood each other's vibe and energy."

He added, "I like that lavway, folk vibe so I was really ecstatic."

Rudder told Newsday to him, the music always sounded like it was made for a theatre performance.

"I said, 'Look, I'm hearing more like a theatrical thing to this song.' But sometimes you have a feeling for a song and then something (else) hits you and you go, 'Oh! That's the song!' And when Brother Resistance passed away, I said, 'But wait, that's the story right there. Brother Resistance's journey.'

"'Cause I could write anything, it's very easy to put lyrics to music...but to write something that you're feeling like this is the reason the song was created. It takes you to a different dimension."

Masimba died on July 13. He was 67.

Rudder said the words came to him in no time.

"So the song took a year and five minutes," he said, laughing.

He said Masimba was "a man of the people" who understood the struggles of people "all over the society.

"The heart and soul of Trinidad and Tobago – he represented that.

"(Rapso) started with Lancelot Layne putting rap feelings to music, then Resistance came and took the baton."

Portrait of Brother Resistance done backstage at the Kaiso House calypso tent in 2020. Photo by Mark Lyndersay

Rudder said he tried to "create a journey through the jam," when writing the song.

"(Masimba) did a lot of work over the years. He had a heaven and hell of a journey here. So it was kind of (like), 'How do we say thank you for the music you gave us?'"

Peters said Masimba was a pioneer and a legend, adding, "The contribution he brought to the art form and trying to defend it in so many ways...

"It is important for him to be remembered and for his legacy to live on. So I felt really good to be a part of something like that."


"Is Wot? David Rudder releases tribute to Brother Resistance"

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