Aldwyn Roberts (18 April 1922 – 11 February 2000), better known by the stage name Lord Kitchener (or “Kitch”), was one of the most internationally famous calypsonians.
Roberts was born in Arima, Trinidad, the son of a blacksmith, Stephen, and housewife, Albertha. He was educated at Arima boys’ government school until he was 14, when his father died. His father had encouraged him to sing and learn to play the guitar, and he became a full-time musician. He won the Arima borough council’s calypso competition four times between 1938 and 1942
He moved to Port of Spain and had his first commercial success in 1942 with the calypso song “Green Fig” (also known as “Mary, I am Tired and Disgusted”). By 1945, he was known as Lord Kitchener. He toured Jamaica for six months in 1947-8 with Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore) and Lord Woodbine (Harold Philips) before they took passage on the Empire Windrush to England in 1948.
He found further success in the UK in the 1950s, building a large following in the expatriate communities of the West Indian islands. His fame continued throughout the 1950s, when calypso achieved international success. Kitchener became a very important figure to those first 5,000 West Indian migrants to the UK. His music spoke of home and a life that they all longed for but in many cases couldn’t or wouldn’t return to. He immortalised the defining moment for many of the migrants in writing the Victory Calypso with its lyrics “Cricket, Lovely Cricket” to celebrate West Indies cricket team’s first victory over England in England, in the 2nd Test at Lord’s in June 1950. This was one of the first widely known West Indian songs, and epitomised an event that historian and cricket enthusiast C. L. R. James defined as crucial to West Indian post-colonial societies. The song, later recorded by Lord Beginner, is rarely credited to Lord Kitchener although Tony Cozier and many who attended the Test at The Oval can attest that it was a Kitch composition. In England, Kitchener started out working in London pubs. At first there were difficulties with English audiences who did not understand all the words, but that did not deter Kitch, and after the BBC gave him a chance to broadcast, he moved on to club bookings, and was soon performing in three clubs every night.
Kitchener returned to Trinidad in 1962. He and the Mighty Sparrow proceeded to dominate the calypso competitions of the sixties and seventies. Lord Kitchener won the road march competition ten times between 1965 and 1976, more times than any other calypsonian. For 30 years, Kitchener ran his own calypso tent, Calypso Revue, within which he nurtured the talent of many calypsonians. Calypso Rose, David Rudder, Black Stalin and Denyse Plummer are among the many artists who got their start under Kitchener’s tutelage. Later he moved towards soca, a related style, and continued recording until his death. Kitchener’s compositions were enormously popular as the chosen selections for steel bands to perform at the annual National Panorama competition during Trinidad Carnival. He recorded his most commercially successful song, “Sugar Bum Bum” in 1978. He retired in 1999.
It was always important to Kitchener throughout his career to gain new experiences that could be woven into his material. This led him to performances in Curaçao, Aruba and Jamaica in the early days, and finally to London, when he was already flying high in Trinidad. Kitchener once said: “I have reached the height of my popularity in Trinidad. What am I doing here? I should make a move.”
Kitchener, who created highly popular and sweet melodies, is honoured with a statue in Port of Spain. A bust is also on display on Hollis Avenue, Arima, not far from the Arima Stadium.