Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago – A video and audio commercial done by alcohol brand, White Oak during Carnival 2023 has triggered an avalanche of sorts, as New York city based, Charlie’s Records is now taking Angostura Trinidad Limited, to task over it.
‘Taxi, Taxi. Airport Kennedy,’ a familiar sample created as an impactful and easily remembered line to introduce Calypsonian Explainer’s ‘Lorraine,’ is owned by Charlie’s Records’ Rawlston Charles. He owns the synchronization rights for that simple sample, and was never approached by Angostura or anyone acting on the company’s behalf, for permission to use his work.
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Efforts to deal with the matter privately, have proven ineffective as according to Charles, after more than five calls to the Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago, most of which went unanswered, he was met with a lackluster response by one of the company’s employees. ““But that’s just a little part of the song,” she said to me,” said Charles. Since that time, Charles and his team in Trinidad and Tobago, have submitted a letter to the advertising agency tasked with creating the advertisement. Charles, a music producer who has been responsible for most of the calypso hits known and loved from the mid 60’s onward, has made clear his terms, informing of his right to compensation.
The advertisement, used primarily as a Carnival 2023 product campaign, was aired on radio, television and certainly multiple digital platforms. As such, a global reach in the millions, is estimated. “Many times, what we put into the song, as music creators, is done to attract people so that when they hear the beginning of certain songs, they then drop what they’re doing and react,” explained Charles. That simple line at the top of ‘Lorraine’ has always had such an impact. It was used in the Angostura White Oak commercial, to undoubtedly trigger such reaction.
Relentless in his pursuit, Rawlston Charles who still operates a thriving Charlie’s Records, home to a state-of-the-art recording studio in New York, is prepared for the long haul. “They never sought the rights, never cared to do it, never did their research. In the US, if something like this happened, those who committed the illegal act, would try to iron out the situation out of court, before it had to reach the court,” he highlighted, lamenting that since this situation surfaced, no one at Angostura has contacted him.
A veteran and certainly a pioneer in the Caribbean music business, Rawlston Charles and his business namesake, Charlie’s Records is deserving of the respect of even major companies like Angostura Trinidad Limited. Major Calypsonians like Sparrow, The Black Stalin, Christopher Tambu Herbert, Calypso Rose, Lord Kitchener, Maestro, Ras Shorty I, Explainer, Super Blue, David Rudder and Charlie’s
Roots, which was formed by Charles, among countless others, have all been produced under the Charlie’s Records Label. “The Soca genre started under my umbrella with Ras Shorty I, and Machel Montano still records at my studio. He recorded last year and the year before that,” said Charles.
His hope is that those responsible for this act of theft, will acknowledge their misdemeanor and in turn contact him to avoid litigation proceedings. “Many times these issues must have attorneys involved and I am cognizant of that. I am seeking redress via compensation because Angostura used my sample to sell their product. I will not stop until the matter is fairly addressed and compensation is received,” said the record executive.