The New York Times
Calypso, Past and Present, As Two Veterans See It
By Vincent Canby
Kavery Dutta's One Hand Don't Clap, opening today at the Village East Cinema is a sweet, lilting documentary on the history and present state of calypso and its more recent spinoff, soca, defined as calypso with soul.
Ms. Dutta concentrates on two key figures: Lord Kitchener, born 70-some years ago in Trinidad as Aldwyn Roberts, who introduced calypso to London in 1948, becoming an internationally known performing artist and composer, and Calypso Rose, born in Tobago in 1940 as McCarta Sandy, who is said to be the first woman to become calypso star.
They are a most engaging pair, whether seen on screen separately or together. Lord Kitchener, a big man with a wide, toothy smile, talks easily about the Afro-Caribbean origins of calypso, what he thinks of soca and Harry Belafonte's influence on making calypso popular in the 1950s.
Calypso Rose, who looks a little like a Caribbean version of Roseanne Barr, has something of Ms. Barr's humor and, when interviewed, her self-conscious gravity.
Both performers, though, only really come to life when they are performing. The film carries snatches of the two singers on the soundtrack throughout the film, and some complete numbers done for the camera.
Sitting at a Trinidad racetrack, Lord Kitchener and an old pal, Lord Pretender, talk about their early days. Both express reservations about today's calypso style. Lord Pretender has no time for lyrics that don't rhyme and what he sees as the laziness of the singers, A man sing a line, the music play five minutes.
Calypso Rose, who now lives in New York, feels strongly about the social importance of her songs, which, as she says, carry on the calypso tradition of domestical, spiritual, economical and political commentary. Her show-stopping moment onstage is strictly domestical. Wearing a gold lamé pants suit, she sings and shakes her way through Solomon, a bawdy number about a man who is thoroughly no good.
Lord Kitchener's great moment arrives near the end of the film when he appears on the stage of the Calypso Revue, his club in Port of Spain, to sing and dance Pillow Fight, which uproariously recalls another battle between the sexes.
One Hand Don't Clap uses the carnival in Trinidad as its climactic sequence, crosscutting among the various calypso events, featuring new performers, and the great Mardi Gras parade in Port of Spain.
The film's title is taken from a remark made by Calypso Rose when she acknowledges that without the help and advice of Lord Kitchener, she would never have reached the top. As she tells her mentor, One hand don't clap.