New York Newsday
Celebrating the Culture of Calypso
By John Anderson

Quite often, the best films are the ones that leave you with more questions than answers. Take "One Hand Don't Clap", for instance.

You might ask yourself halfway through the film why calypso music hasn't become a bigger part of the American musical culture. When it's over, you might ask yourself how your concept of the American musical culture could have been so narrow.

Kavery Dutta's celebration of calypso and soca music turns out to be not just a documentary about music and musicians, but an examination of cultures co-existing as if in parallel universes. One of the opening shots shows the streets of Brooklyn, full of people of color, a variegated crowd of pedestrians going about its business as a voice-over from a calypso club queries an unseen audience. "How many of you are here from Barbados?", the voice asks, to applause. "How about Jamaica? Grenada? Trinidad and Tobago?" The applause mounts and with it a sense of both the cultural diversity that exists around us and the exclusionary attitudes that keep much of it separate. How much do non-Caribbeans know about Caribbean culture? Not enough, one admits after "One Hand Don't Clap" which is a credit to the film and its creators.

Most of "One Hand Don't Clap", a Trinidadian phrase akin in spirit to "No man is an island" takes place in Trinidad, and much of its focus is on Lord Kitchener, the grandfather of calypso who remains an athletic performer and an avid ambassador of his music.

At home, away from the stage show and full band with whom he normally performs, Kitchener uses just a guitar and his voice to try to dissect his music for the camera. It's an elusive quality. "It's kind of a Latin rhythm," he says. "The foreigner might like it, but he can't get into it because when he was born, he was born in four-four time." Kitchener then shifts into 4/4 time, effectively deflating the song he'd been singing.

No, many of us perhaps won't get it, but we can certainly enjoy it: that the movie makes abundantly clear.