Life in Berlin
Tue April 9, 2013
'Lord Mouse' Brings Calypso Revival To Berlin
Lord Mouse and the Kalypso Katz are busy rehearsing for their performance at the Bassy Club on April 19th. The Berlin band, led by American singer Keeley Brineman, plays calypso music.
"Everyone knows reggae, ska, rock steady and dub, but no one knows calypso, and Calypso is the grandfather of all these styles,” Brineman says.
Brinemam, who goes by the moniker Lord Mouse, is originally from Spokane, Washington. "It’s a very witty, charming style of music. It’s got a lot of that African culture to it where you have a lot of bravado, a lot of social issues, a lot of naughty stuff that they try to squeak through by using a lot of slang they hope the censors won’t understand," he says. Calypso originated in Trinidad and Tobago during the 1920's and 30's, but Brineman says the style has fallen to the wayside, even in Trinidad. It might have passed him by if he weren't an avid collector of vinyl records.
“When you collect strange, obscure 50 cent records, you find a lot of music that you weren’t expecting to discover.”
Brineman has been playing the harmonica and singing styles like Western Swing, Evergreens, Blues, and Jazz over the last ten years. Once he discovered Calypso though, he was so inspired he decided to start a band with his Russian friend and college Boris Kontorowski.
They describe their music as “urban calypso for the 21st century."
“We’ve got great production techniques, and we’re not from the Caribbean. We’re European more or less. There’s a lot of European influences in there as well as American popular music, but we try to stick with the main Calypso themes.”
Setting out to revive a genre is no easy task, but there’s strength in numbers; the band has 18 members from France, Russia, U.S., Poland, Italy, England, and Germany. There’s a horn section, rhythm section, two percussionists, a ukulele, and the Kalypso Katz, six girls who coyly sing and dance, keeping the shows lively and fun.
Mark Wixom from upstate New York plays plays bass in the band.
"This horn section out front and the ladies singing and dancing, just everything around the lead vocals, that’s kind of what I really enjoy about playing with them,” Wixom says.
This summer, the band will be touring in France. Touring with an 18 piece band takes two buses, patience, and a love for the music.
"Sometimes we get stuck out in nowhere in these small villages, and a bunch of hip teenagers will show up with their headphones on and roll their eyes a bit and leave, or a bunch of old people will come and decide its past their bedtime after the second song, but this happens to the best of us," singer Brineman says.
Lord Mouse and the Kalypso Katz have a new album coming out June 16th.
“The stories never change really. There’s always a bad guy. There’s always gonna be racism, sexism, war and corruption. These are good topics. One hundred years from now, people will probably still relate.”
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Life in Berlin