Veteran musician Dopson dies at 92

Peter Ray Blood
Date Published: 
Trinidad Guardian

Syl DopsonSyl Dopson

Veteran musician Syl Dopson, 92, succumbed to pneumonia on Monday night. His son Wayne, known in calypso circles as Doppy, said his father developed pneumonia around Christmas and died at St Clair Medical Centre. Wayne, the third of Dopson’s children, is now the eldest surviving child, as his two older siblings have died.

Wayne said: “Syl came to Port-of-Spain from San Fernando quite young, at the age of 16. He lived in a house that was opposite to what is now known as Irvine Park, on Irvine Street. He began playing football as a child with a tennis ball. He began playing with Sporting Club, then with Notre Dame. He eventually played with Shamrock, until 1959, when the team won every major trophy to be contested for. Syl decided to retire on a high note.”

Trinidad Football TeamTrinidad Football Team

Dopson represented Trinidad while playing for Shamrock and toured England with the team in 1953. Just as Dopson was popular in the sporting circuit he was also popular in music, especially calypso music. Wayne recalled: “Even while he was into football, he was into music. He began with Pat Castagne’s jazz band named Crazy Cats, playing clarinet.”

Dopson subsequently formed his own band, Kaiso All Stars, during the ’60s. “The band remained active until about ten years ago, when all its members died, leaving only Syl,” said Wayne. Kaiso All Stars recorded two albums during the ’70s named Kaiso 1 and Kaiso 2, comprising mainly vintage calypsoes. For many years, it was the resident band for extempo calypso competitions.

Veteran media practitioner and a friend of Dopson, Mervyn Telfer, said: “Syl was very easygoing but didn’t tolerate nonsense. He was a dedicated family man and was a serious perfectionist about his music. “He was an expert cuatrista and clarinetist and was outstanding as a musician of calypso and parang. He was one of the key musicians who provided music for a television show I hosted back in 1963, named The Lime, on TTT. He played the first time parang music was aired on any electronic media in this country.

Singin' In The Rain!Singin' In The Rain!: Four of the Trinidad Soccer tourists sing a calypso under an umbrella when the weather gave them a wet welcome on arrival at Southampton. Left to right: SYL DOPSON, MATTHEW NUNES, HORACE LOVELACE and ALAN JOSEPH.

“When we restarted the extempore competition, with the late Amin Mohammed as NCC chairman, Syl and the Kaiso All Stars provided music for the first three years of the competition, which was a part of Viey la Cou, staged at Queen’s Hall.” One of Dopson’s quirks was that he very rarely played his specially made purpleheart and mahogany cuatro, using instead a Venezuelan cuatro to play in public, keeping his special instrument safely at home.

Speaking fondly of his father, Wayne, a former Queen’s Park Cricket Club calypso monarch and a member of TUCO’s Kaiso House, said: “Syl wasn’t big on food. He used to say he wished that his stomach had a zip that he could unfasten to put food in. “His loves were music and the little piece of lawn in front his home on O’Connor Street, Woodbrook. He was extremely proud of his work on that lawn and would take an entire morning to groom it.”

Dopson is survived by his wife, Ophelia, 90, two daughters and Wayne. Funeral arrangements will be published this week.