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David Rudder receives Order of Caricom

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Paula Lindo Calypso legend David Rudder in concert at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village at the Queen’s Park Savannah on July 30. Photo by Sureash Cholai
Calypso legend David Rudder in concert at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village at the Queen’s Park Savannah on July 30. Photo by Sureash Cholai

Legendary calypsonian David Michael Rudder can now add the title "The Honourable" to his list of accolades, having been awarded the Order of the Caribbean Community. Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne presented Rudder with the award at a ceremony on Wednesday at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Port of Spain.

In a release, the ministry said the decision had been taken to confer the award on Rudder at the 43rd Caricom Heads of Government Conferenc in Paramaribo, Suriname in July.

It said Rudder had been unavailable for that event and so the TT government and the Caricom Secretariat conferred the award at a special function.

In accepting the award, Rudder sincerely thanked Caricom and the TT government for the honour and admonished young people to continue to learn and never to give up.

In a WhatsApp response to Newsday on Thursday, Rudder said It was a great day with lots of friends and family.

“I feel humbled to be appreciated by my own community in such a way. That’s the ultimate correcting of my papers. I hope that the young people of this region can draw inspiration from my journey and take our Caribbean spirit way beyond our shores. A whole world is waiting.”

Caricom assistant secretary general of Human and Social Development Allison Drayton praised Rudder for raising the spirits of the region. She noted that everyone felt "Trini to the bone" as a result of his music.

Caricom chair Suriname president Chandrikapersad Santokhi thanked Rudder for his sterling contribution to calypso and to the region.

Browne praised Rudder’s stellar contribution as a cultural icon to the social fabric of TT and the Caribbean as a whole. He said from the very first note, a Rudder song grabs the soul, and never lets it go.

“He gave us the anthem that still rallies West Indians near and far. He beseeched us to appreciate our neighbours, and to empathise with them in their times of struggle. He used calypso music to define calypso music. With his unique and timeless lyrics and melodies, he calls attention to the plight of the common man and conveys the power we wield when we stand up and send a message. He continuously strives to elevate our Caribbean consciousness, and he gave us the key to living harmoniously in a multi-ethnic society: ‘Let you be you, and I’ll be me’.”

Browne described Rudder’s upbringing in Belmont and the contribution his birthplace made to Rudder’s distinctive sound. He noted the singer’s evolution and his history beginning with the bands The Solutions and Charlie’s Roots, as a backup singer in Lord Kitchener’s calypso tent, and behind the scenes in calypso tents and studios.

“In 1986, his album The Hammer smashed its way into the consciousness of our people, giving us timeless hits such as The Hammer and Bahia Girl, and enabled him to be the very first artiste to capture all the major competition titles in the same year: Young King, Calypso Monarch, and Road March King. Amazingly, he also had the winning Panorama tune of that year. You couldn’t hide from him, you couldn’t escape him. And you didn’t want to… because very good had become great.”

Browne said in 1992, David Rudder was awarded the Hummingbird Silver Medal in recognition of his unfailing contributions to uplift the roots of calypsonian culture, and he was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN Development Programme in 1996. He said in 2015, Rudder was made a doctor of letters
honoris causa by UWI, for his outstanding works and contributions to society.

“Through his music, David Rudder has played a most significant role in exporting TT and the Caribbean to the wider world. He was also one of the pioneers of soca music, which is a prominent feature of carnivals within our region and far beyond. David Michael Rudder is not just a genius performer but also a master collaborator with others in his field.”

Browne said Rudder continues to inspire the people of the Caribbean community to see themselves for who they are, and to reach for what they must become.

“Joy, despair, hope, love. He gave us the songs of who we are. He gave us the songs of what we could be. He has given us the songs of our lives.

“King David, your contribution has marked us all. Your life’s work is enduring. A living legend who, in one lyrical flow, captures what makes us good, bad, and great. A chemist of the meaningful who with seeming ease is able to distill and bottle our great Caribbean aspiration, and then gift it to us, feed it to us, pour it upon us, immerse us in it, like a baptism, every time he hits the stage, and every time we press play.”

State media company TTT were the only media present at the event. Video of the ceremony can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Agpabbhz0g.

The Order of the Caribbean Community represents the highest award in the region. It can only be held by 15 living awardees at any time. Before 2022, the award had not been conferred in ten years.

Awardees can move freely among Caricom member states and are issued with a travel document which is assigned similar status to a diplomatic passport. They also gain the right to live, work, and acquire and dispose of property in any Caricom member state.