The funeral Mass for Cleve Calderon, who died December 7, was held December 12, Santa Rosa RC Church, Arima. The following is a tribute from his family which has been edited for length.
Cleve Calderon was the only child born to Phyllis Calderon and Urban Wong at their home on De Gannes Street, Arima. He then moved to San Juan where he spent his adolescent years.
At the tender age of eleven he began working at Rhyner’s Record Shop with his uncle Hilton who was his father figure and mentor. This initial experience motivated him to pursue an Electronics, Circuits and System programme for which he travelled to New York.
According to him, it was a very challenging period of his life where he survived the cold winter in a one-roomed basement without heating, practically eating the same meagre meal for months. Despite these hardships, he graduated and made his way back to Trinidad to continue working at Rhyner’s and to follow his music dreams. During this time, he also became a popular DJ in the east known as DJ Nutcracker.
After years of working with Rhyner’s, he eventually turned his dream into a reality in 1994 when he established his own music shop known as Cleve’s One Stop! This was one of his greatest accomplishments as he was now able to blend his love for music with his ambition to become a self-sufficient provider for his family.
His many years in the music industry saw travels throughout the UK, US, Canada and the Caribbean. It was on one of his many trips to Jamaica while working with Byron Lee, he was invited to visit Bob Marley at his home, a memory he always cherished. He was subsequently introduced to various record labels and became a pioneer for bringing popular reggae records to over 200 local DJs during the 90s and early 2000s.
As time progressed the music as he knew it also evolved and CDs became the new best thing. Even this medium further evolved with technological advancements. But one thing remained the same—his passion and belief in the business. Even as sickness came knocking at his door he was unwilling to give it up.
His career brought him national recognition as he was given a special appreciation award from TUCO for his contribution to the artform. He also had the honour of doing musical arrangement and production for the likes of Eddie Lovette, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and Cynthia Slosh just to name a few.
For a period, he managed the calypsonian Crazy and the parang band Los Amigos En Musica in which his son Kerry is an active member.
Many described him as a legend. In his quiet unassuming way he played an essential role in facilitating the development of local music as a guardian of our cultural heritage. The irony however, is that he was too humble to care about things of grandeur. He made a great impact and thought nothing much of it.
He was a man who made making other people happy his priority. Customers described him as a genuine, kind-hearted, pleasant, patient, willing, helpful, generous man for whom nothing was ever too much to do. Others described him as a music encyclopaedia: hum the song and he could recall its name, the artist, and the year it was released.
It must be noted as well that he was as much a family man, as he was a music man. In fact, it was during one of his DJ-ing expeditions that he met his wife Ruby to whom he was married for 44 years. He always said that the decision to marry her was an easy one, swayed by her sweetbread and pone which he called “first catch”. Together, they created a life for themselves and their three children Lisa, Kerry and Krisann.
Cleve was the type of husband who, even after a hard day’s work, was always willing to assist his wife with household chores (excluding cooking of course- because he couldn’t even fry an egg!). It is this same selflessness and unconditional love he showed his children and grandchildren. He took his daughter Krisann under his wings whilst she was still enrolled in high school and taught her the ins and outs of the business. She is left with a big shoe to fill.
Cleve and his mother shared a very close bond as well. She worked alongside her son for several years at the store and their bond was evident up until his last breath.
When he was not at the store or helping out at home, he would be gardening at Sangre Grande with the assistance of close relatives and friends. He was a father to many. He openly shared his home with several of his relatives whether it was for a vacation period or as a temporary living arrangement.
Cleve was so consumed with work and family that unfortunately he neglected himself when it came to his own personal health. By the time he was confronted by his ailment, it was far gone and it seemed his selflessness had played a trick on him. Even in his last days when he accepted his fate, he worried only about his family and how they would make it without him.
We his family were comforted by the fact that he died peacefully in the presence of family members and close friends who were praying for him as his soul departed his body to the rhythm of sweet steelpan music. In the end, he was still surrounded by what he loved most…family and music!
We will miss him dearly. The bear hugs, the warm kisses, the embracing smile…
We will miss him especially during this festive season which was his favourite time of the year. However, we plan to draw strength from the words of his favourite song of all time ‘We Can Make It’, by Black Stalin … RIP Cleve Calderon.