He rang his bell, for justice, for freedom, and tirelessly for the culture of Trinidad and Tobago.
Sadly, just before midnight on Tuesday, Rapso pioneer Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba, rang his last bell as he entered the arms of his ancestors when the cultural stalwart passed away at the age of 67.
His passing has rocked the fraternity, as many were not expecting the man with the bright smile, raspy voice, and trademark-covered dreadlocks to be its latest casualty.
It was just on June 22; the fraternity suffered the loss of esteemed calypso writer Winston “Joker” Devine. Even Masimba at that time in his last telephone interview with Guardian Media, said of his friend, “Certainly, we have lost a big one…just a big one. A true champion in the world of calypso and a literary giant.”
Today the giant of Rapso is no more and not only are his colleagues in the artform shocked by his death, but his family too did not expect the musical griot and author of the author of Rapso Explosion, to say goodbye.
“He was still very active and in the office up to last week and doing what he was doing. He was actually writing for his PHD at UWI, after getting his masters from UTT so, he was still very active,” his brother Neil Lewis told Guardian Media in an interview.
Highlighting all of his older brother’s accomplishments and service to the culture of T&T, including his Network Riddim Band having toured Europe and Asia extensively and even requested to perform at the national fan fest in Germany for the world cup in 2006, Lewis said he was still expecting his brother to be around.
Brother Resistance real name Lutalo Masimba, also served as TUCO president.
“He wasn’t ailing. He had some health issues like most of us do from time to time, before being managed. He just fell ill on the weekend and we took him to Westshore last night and he didn’t come back out,” he lamented.
While Lewis could not say when the funeral of Masimba would take place, he said the family was in the process of making arrangements.
Fraternity remembers Masimba
Words escaped long-time friend and band member Karega Mandela, who when contacted, told Guardian Media, the death of a man with whom he shared a brotherhood for more than 46 years, was not easy to process. “We only looked at football on Sunday,” he recalled in a voice thick with tears.
Blasting Masimba’s music in the background, he said “I just listening to his music. It’s very surreal this time. That’s what I mean nah. I’m so sorry…I doh know…is a real shocker then.”
In a previous documentary Masimba, born Roy Lewis, explained the Rapso genre originated by T&T Rapso artist Lancelot Layne.
Speaking of its history with passion, the national awardee, related then: “We say Rapso music is like the poetry of calypso. Rapso is the power of the word in the riddim of the word. We does talk with a certain kind of twang and we express we poetic emotion in that twang, and then when we blend the rhythms of the voice with the rhythms of the drums of skin—the first natural instrument created by man on earth and the rhythms with the drums of steel, the last natural instrument created by man, right here in Trinidad and Tobago, that is what we call ‘Rapso riddim—a music for the people of struggle.”
But the Queen’s Royal College (QRC) alumnus and 1970, Black Power Movement activist, who hailed from East Drive River in Port-of-Spain, style of music was not often accepted as the voice of the people of struggle, rather the music of rebels. This was evident in 1983 when his band room and office were ransacked and destroyed by police. But determined to continue his mission, Masimba pressed on with the torch passed to him by Layne.
A flyer with Brother Resistance featuring Rapso songs.
With Rapso hits like the famous Ring De Bell, Ah Can’t Take That, Advantage and his continuous championing for the growth of the genre, via workshops and radio programmes, the younger, for which he paved the way, had this to say about Masimba.
“Resistance is a loss on several levels. Is a loss for me personally because we had a very close personal relationship and he really pushed Kindred into the lime light. You know he created opportunities for us,” said producer and Rapso singer Omari Ashby.
Stating that there were just too many veterans with a wealth of knowledge passing on, Gospel singer and producer Isaac Blackman credited Masimba for his singing break during the staging of the Rapso Festival in the early 1990s
For Wendell Manwarren, lead vocalist of the Rapso band 3 Canal, he too noted it was because of Masimba the band was formed.
“If it were not for him, I don’t think we would have actually been recording music per se. It was he who pointed out certain things from very early, even before we had touched a studio. One of the first times we actually got into a studio to sing was to sing backgrounds on one of his tracks, “he recalled.
NCC chairman and friend of Masimba, Winston “Gypsy” Peters, who often shared administrative duties on various cultural boards said T&T has lost an artisan of the culture. He said he would miss his friend dearly, particularly for his “intellectual and sound advice he was always prepared to give as a culturist.”