Music, Dance, and Banter from Calypso King Still Delights Audiences
BRIGHT red, green, yellow, and orange lights burst into a calypso of color around the stage. Harry Belafonte was ready to take his audience on a journey of international rhythms and sweet melodies. At a recent concert, longtime Belafonte admirers filled a Worcester, Mass., auditorium for a night of entertainment in the grand tradition. Surrounded by band members dressed in exotic ethnic costumes, Belafonte sang, laughed, and joked. He teased the audience into singing along on a couple favorites: ``Day-O!'' (properly, ``The ``Banana Boat Song''), and ``Mathilda.''
His signature is his voice: gravel mixed with fine sand, sounding almost as good as the earlier years. His dance is a sideways shuffle, knees in, elbows out.
He told stories about his grandchildren, drawing laughs from the audience, most of whom appeared to be grandparents. The room was charged with life, energy, and smiles.
``He's wonderful because he makes people feel good about themselves,'' said fan Mary Benoit of Millbury, Mass. ``He is a very warm man - the kind of person I'd like to invite into my living room to just sit down and talk with.''
Belafonte has been a legend since the he hit the American music scene with a splash in 1956 with his album ``Calypso,'' which was the first in the world to sell more than a million copies. He has been breaking barriers since. He was the first performer to take his ancestral Caribbean sound into the American mainstream. He was the first black to win an Emmy. His TV special, ``A Time for Laughter,'' launched the zany comedy series ``Laugh In.''
These days his life is dedicated to humanitarian causes - notably hunger relief for Africa and aiding the world's children as a goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund. In concert, Belafonte's love of humanity showed through in his array of band members and songs from around the globe. Most of his music had African roots: spirituals from America's Deep South, folk songs from African villages, swingy calypso from the Caribbean. At the end of the show, Belafonte wished the audience well: ``Take good care of yourselves,'' he said. ``More importantly, take good care of each other.''