Call him a griot, a storyteller, a sweet calypsonian. David Michael Rudder’s music is a unique blend of calypso, pop, jazz, and blues heavily influenced by the Shango rhythms of his childhood. It transcends boundaries of genre, culture, ethnicity, language and geography. His lyrics have so captured the essence of what it means to be Trinidadian, Tobagonian, Caribbean, human, that his songs resonate near and far.
Rudder grew up in Belmont and began singing professionally at the age of 11. His group The Solutions did covers of American soul music while travelling around the island and the Caribbean. When the group disbanded in the early 70’s Rudder went solo, performing his own songs. He also began working as an understudy of the great Trinidadian copper artist and carnival bandleader Ken Morris. Rudder then moved on to a job at the PTSC, working in the accounting department, while moonlighting as a background vocalist in Trinidad’s bubbling recording studios and at the Lord Kitchener’s calypso tent, the Revue.
In 1981, aged 28, Rudder joined the popular soca band Charlie’s Roots. It was in this period that he teamed up with the Roots bandleader Pelham Goddard and an amazing journey began. They wrote songs for the presentations of the international artist and carnival bandleader, Peter Minshall.
In late 1985, they released the iconic album ‘The Hammer’ which contained what are now considered calypso classics, The Hammer and Bahia Girl. David’s career took off with the release of this album. He signed with London Records in the UK and Sire/Warner in the United States.
The 1986 season, saw Rudder winning every available title in T&T’s ultra competitive carnival. A feat that has never been equaled. Since then, the awards and accolades locally and abroad have continued to flow.
A mighty poet of a shallow people, in a savage time.
In 1992, Professor Gordon Rohlehr heralded David as “A mighty poet of a shallow people, in a savage time.” In songs such as Hoosay, Madman’s Rant, and High Mas’, to name a few, Rudder has used his music to hold up a mirror to Trinidad and Tobago’s society, to plumb the depths of the region’s collective soul and to call attention to the plight of the oppressed in places such as Haiti and South Africa.
In 1996, he was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and in 2015, Rudder was honoured with an Honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) by the University of the West Indies (UWI) for his body of work and contribution to Caribbean culture.
Over the course of his career David Rudder has released over twenty albums and performed in major venues across the Caribbean, North and South America, Europe, Africa, Japan and India.
An evening with David Rudder is one of social commentary, a history lesson, a reflection, a conversation, a party and a time of liberation.
His music has gone beyond its roots in the carnival circuit of Trinidad, to movie and television soundtracks, music festivals around the world including Midem and Glastonbury, performing arts centres and university lecture halls. His call to “Rally Round the West Indies became a unifying anthem for not only the West Indies cricket team, but the region as a whole.
An evening with David Rudder is one of social commentary, a history lesson, a reflection, a conversation, a party and a time of liberation. In writing about David Rudder, the late Deborah John of the Trinidad Express said, “Some people go back through the mists of time to find legends, but more often than we care to acknowledge it or indeed, recognise it, the legend is now.”
Rudder 6.5 which is a celebration of David’s 65th birthday, takes place on Saturday May 5, at the Grand Stand Queen’s Park Savannah. Tickets are available at Lotto booths nationwide.