Harry Belafonte

Calypso Hits

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It is interesting to note that the pop-calypso (as opposed to real calypso) boom of the mid-'50s was engineered largely by a charismatic singer born in Harlem and a Juilliard-trained composer from Brooklyn. Both Harry Belafonte, whose mother was from Jamaica, and Irving Burgie, who spent his childhood in a West Indies neighborhood in New York, had musical roots in the Caribbean, certainly, but their version of the islands was largely an imagined one, although imagined so well that their collaborations have actually filtered back into the folk music of the region. Intelligent, confident, and with a firm grasp of artful arrangement, Belafonte almost single-handedly brought world music into the commercial pop arena with the Burgie-composed "Day-O" song, and in Burgie he had found the perfect songwriter, a man whose compositions had the lilt and flow of ocean sunlight itself. Several of Burgie's songs (and Belafonte's versions of them) have become stone-cold classics, including "Banana Boat (Day-O)," the lovely "Jamaica Farewell," and "Kingston Market," all of which are collected here.

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