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Brooklyn Public Library and Tropicalfete Inc. Resume the Soca 50 Conversation Series: A Conversation with Rawlston Charles, Founder Charlie’s Records

Legendary Caribbean Music Entrepreneur Will Receive Tropicalfete’s Award of Excellence

 Brooklyn, N.Y. is home to many successful immigrant stories, none more inspiring than the narrative of Rawlston Charles. The Trinidad and Tobago born entrepreneur, known affectionately as Charlie, has played an essential role in furthering the popularity of calypso, and its contemporary, danceable descendant soca, through his Bed-Stuy based record store Charlie’s Calypso City, his record label Charlie’s Records and his recording facility, Rawlston Recording Studio.

On March 28 at 6:30 PM, Brooklyn Public Library and Caribbean cultural organization Tropicalfete Inc. will present A Conversation with Rawlston Charles. The program will also present snippets of the documentary Charlie’s Records, produced and directed by Charlie’s daughter, Tina Charles, WNBA MVP, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and eight-time WNBA All Star for the Atlanta Dream. Charlie’s Records premiered to rave reviews at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and won the Spirit of the Caribbean People’s Choice Award at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.

A Conversation with Rawlston Charles marks the return of the Soca 50 Conversation Series, inaugurated in 2023, which presented conversations with Nailah Blackman, (granddaughter of soca’s founder Ras Shorty I) recently signed to Big Money Records/Republic Records, and Kees Dieffenthaller, lead singer/songwriter of Kes The Band, who headlines Central Park Summerstage with a sold-out show on June 8.

Tropicalfete board members Keran Deterville and Patricia Meschino will moderate the conversation with Rawlston Charles, who will also be honored with the Tropicalfete Award of Excellence, annually bestowed on an individual whose consistent efforts have advanced Caribbean culture.

Born in Tobago, Charlie moved to Trinidad seeking greater opportunities; there he learned his trade as an auto mechanic. In 1965, the passing of the US Immigration and Nationality Act eased up the entry requirements for Non-European immigrants, giving priority to individuals with specialized skills. Charlie arrived in New York City on December 17, 1967, with a small suitcase and a copy of Lord Kitchener’s Kitch67 tucked under his arm. Charlie found work as a mechanic and on weekends he attended basement parties; because he rarely heard calypso at those gatherings, Charlie became a DJ, playing the calypso music of his homeland.

Calypso records were difficult to obtain in Brooklyn at the time, so in 1972 Charlie opened Charlie’s Calypso City, which specialized in selling and distributing calypso. Seeking to broaden the music’s appeal by elevating its recording standards, Charlie started his record label, Charlie’s Records; he went on to produce, executive produce and release of some of the biggest hits within the burgeoning soca style, including Calypso Rose’s “Tempo,” which broke down barriers for women in genre, and Explainer’s “Lorraine,” which became a top 40 hit in the UK. In 1984 Charlie opened Rawlston Recording Studio above his record shop, which was utilized by Caribbean superstars such as reggae icon Jimmy Cliff as well as pioneering hip hop artists, including Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Run DMC and Doug E Fresh.

Charlie was also the benefactor of the celebrated soca band initially named Sensational Roots. In the late 1970s, Charlie gifted them $18,000 to upgrade their equipment; in appreciation, they took the name Charlie’s Roots and with frontline singers David Rudder, and Chris “Tambu” Herbert, went on to dominate soca for the next two decades.

“We welcome learning more about the inimitable Rawlston Charles and his contributions to Brooklyn, New York City, and the world.  Not only did Mr. Charles help to spread Caribbean music and culture, but he also epitomizes the triumphant immigrant experience in America and we’re proud to collaborate with Tropicalfete to recognize his inspiring success,” says Kerwin Pilgrim, Director, Adult Learning, Brooklyn Public Library.

Tickets to A Conversation with Rawlston Charles are free but you must RSVP at EventBrite.

For further information contact Tropicalfete at 646-504-3383 or info@tropicalfete.com.

About Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.6 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 65,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And we give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.

About Tropicalfete Inc.

Tropicalfete Inc. was established as a not-for-profit organization in 2011. Our diverse activities highlight Caribbean traditions and artistic expressions while providing culturally enriching events for the youth, the elderly and the entire community. Tropicalfete offers numerous programs in music, voice, dance, masquerade and other artistic disciplines. We’ve curated pop-up carnival events at the Brooklyn Public Library and in Manhattan’s Times Square and have partnered with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Each June, designated as Caribbean Heritage Month in the US, we present a Caribbean Authors Connecting reading program. Our work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including the New York Daily News, Billboard, New York Times, PBS and NY1.


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