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Music

At 78, Calypso Rose throws a dance party at Coachella

2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 1
Calypso Rose performs at the Gobi tent Friday during the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
(Emma McIntyre / Getty Images)

One common assumption about the demographics of Coachella is that it’s a youth festival, dense with a superficiality that no grown-up, even singer Calypso Rose, could possibly enjoy. While it’s true that olds are the minority (and can also be superficial), it’s also true that many parents and grandparents can be found wandering around and enjoying the sets.

In fact, a very unscientific survey of Friday’s late afternoon crowd found it to be a much more diverse mix of ages than in previous years. Maybe they all came for Kacey Musgraves?

Or maybe they were drawn to Calypso Rose, the 78-year-old Caribbean calypso and soca singer whose set just before sundown was a testament to the power of music to bridge decades and divides. Playing to a cramped Gobi tent, her set prompted a multigenerational, multinational dance party.

“Now I am the queen of Coachella,” she declared after one particularly righteous song, with a tone that suggested she might be snatching the crown from Beyoncé herself. Rose opened a song about domestic abuse with a command aimed directly at the men: “Never raise your hand against a woman,” she said, adding with a pointed finger that every man in the crowd owes his life to a woman.

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The only artist performing at the festival to tour with reggae icon Bob Marley, the boundary-busting singer rose in Trinidad and Tobago at a time when female artists weren’t accepted on the radio or on many stages.

More than six decades later, she showed us how to extend the party well beyond the so-called party years — and did it amid a roster dominated by women. Not a bad way for a queen to spend her day.

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: randall.roberts@latimes.com.


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