The “Roaring Lion” born Raphael de Leon was a Trinidadian singer/songwriter, musician, composer, also once known in the calypso/entertainment world back in the 20th century as Lion. He officially began performing in 1927 spanning 65 years in the entertainment business, and is noted for his linguistic prowess, said his bio.

Lion sang in quite a few calypso tents including the Original Old Brigade and Calypso Revenue, and was one of the first two calypsonians to have recorded abroad, and the only calypsonian vocalist in his time who could have read and written musical notation. He also played the clarinet and was noted as having been a master at extemporizing lyrics on any subject.


His popularity climbed by way of his “controversial” masterpieces Ugly Woman (1933), Netty Netty (1937), and Mary Ann (1945), these, among his colorful playlist. In 1963, the song "If You Wanna Be Happy" claimed the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 then (on May 18), as well as the R&B singles chart and was based on Lion’s song "Ugly Woman".

For his stellar contribution to culture, Lion, also author of the book Calypso from France to Trinidad: 800 Years of History, and weekly columnist for a Trinidad newspaper, Evening News, received two T&T national awards: Hummingbird Silver (1981) and Chaconia Gold (1994). The late popular American singer, Harry Belafonte, sang five of Lion’s calypsos.


Lion died in 1999 at the age of 91.


While on a recording assignment in the USA in 1933, in response to the question: “Where are you from?”, that was posed to him by President Franklin D Roosevelt, he said, he’s from Trinidad, the land of calypso.

Today, almost 80 years down, for Carnival 2024, the calypso, Trinidad is the Land of Calypso as written by Lion in the 1940s; released in the 1950s (published by ICE Music), has been resuscitated by US-based Trini artiste Nigel Lewis and world-acclaimed US-based Trini saxophonist Etienne Charles.

The cover version was released on December 26 on YouTube and according to Lewis, will be soon on sale on all platforms.

Trinidad is the Land of Calypso’s executive producer is Lewis (TBA Productions). Instrumentation: Lewis, Brian Newton and Charles; background vocals: Lewis and Kelda “Timeless” Sweeting; mixed/mastered: Orville Clayton Williams; artwork: Cecil Wilson (Cays Films).

Lewis said the tune is a masterpiece that requires the respect it deserves, and because of its high calibre and educational lyrics, he attracted some of the best talent, hence the team that worked with him. Lewis enjoyed success on the soca waves with "Take That and Cool It", and in 1996, "Moving", in collaboration with his brother Marvin when he won the Road March title. Over the years, he diversified his genre, and among other singles, produced "Lord Have Mercy", "Praise Line", "God is Good", "Celebrate", "Call Meh", with some covers included.


Etienne Charles’ wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise sees him currently serving as Associate Professor of Studio Music and Jazz at the University of Miami, Patricia L. Frost School of Music. "Trinidad is the Land of Calypso" offers knowledge about where calypso originated and varying concepts viewed as inaccurate. The tune maintains its original vintage flavour. Lewis is set to arrive in Trinidad for the Carnival season.

The Roaring Lion performing at a calypso tent in the 1950s.